If we assess the genuineness of others by their words and deeds, shouldn't we apply the same test to ourselves? Do you find yourself acting in ways contrary to what you suggest to others or envision for yourself? Our words are important as a road map for our intentions, but they are not effective if we don't execute the intended behavior. Like an unfulfilled New Year's resolution, the best of intentions won't result in self-improvement without action. Reflect on how you want to act, then test yourself in situations in you may be challenged to act as you wish. If you fail, try it again. Forget your ego. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Practice what you preach.
Essential prerequisites to improvement are awareness and acceptance. If you desire to make yourself a better person in any way (calmer, less distracted, more present, more accountable, more giving, etc.), you need to first make a thorough and honest assessment of yourself. Studies consistently show that this is very difficult to do - people generally have a more favorable opinion of themselves than others. If you feel comfortable, ask a close friend or loved one to speak candidly with you about the area that concerns you. Embrace this vulnerability. Don't get defensive. Gladly receive the advice as constructive, accept your weaknesses, pledge to improve them, and make a plan of how to do so with daily reminders and habits. You are already on your way!!!
Life can present us with a roller coaster of events and emotions - taking us high or twisting us around and upside down. Moreover, our minds may react to an event that hurt us by speculating about related "facts" that are entirely untrue, exacerbating the emotional pain. While our reactions and emotions are real, it is essential to our well being to realize that they are entirely within our control. You can get off the roller coaster by objectively viewing the facts of an event and recognizing that the moment has passed. In the following moments, your job is to recall your inner self - the good, genuine and caring you that cannot be derailed by fleeting events and emotions. You always have the choice as to how you act and react - step back, recognize the negative thoughts and choose not to continue them. Move forward by choosing to think and act in ways that confirm the real you. It will be hard at times, but you have this unshakable power to maintain your emotional tranquility and move on as you wish.
On this Labor Day, it's worth recalling that self-improvement requires hard work, sacrifice and even pain. The initial step of recognizing your weaknesses can hurt even before your start the work to build the habits that will make you stronger. This vulnerability is not only essential to your desire to improve, but it will also give you a feeling of freedom as you open the way to be the person that you want to be. You are getting out of your "comfort zone" because you want to and need to. Your relationships, old "safe" habits, and daily activities will change - for the better. As you struggle through these changes, remember that you have planned for them and want to succeed. The hard work of the process will help you develop resilience and the will to persevere no matter what you encounter. You can do it.
A follow up to last week's post about resources to help you plan for and create your own happiness (the only way to get it!). As you see others accomplish challenging tasks, don't be envious or make excuses as to why you haven't conquered such a challenge, use the success of others as inspiration to conquer a challenge of your own. Envy and jealousy make you a "loser" (they did it; I didn't). Inspiration aids everyone; it (1) feeds your compassion for and appreciation of others, (2) serves to focus you on a goal that you want to reach and give you the opportunity to search within and test yourself, plan to succeed and enjoy/learn from the experience, (3) allows you to prove to yourself that you are stronger than you think, and (4) reminds you that every day is a new chance to live differently. Look and admire the remarkable achievements of others and GET INSPIRED!
"Redefine Impossible" is the title of a new book by James Lawrence, the Iron Cowboy, who not only smashed the annual record for most Ironman triathlons (he did 30), but then finished 50 Ironmans in 50 days in 50 states. His story is one of triumph over extreme physical and mental exhaustion, unimaginable to most of us, but his message is universal - if you want to live a life of meaning, you have to push your personal limits, to get out of your comfort zone. When I heard James speak, he asked "when was the last time that you did something for the first time?" A great prompt to keep your life varied and interesting, but to which I would add "for which you feared of failure." You can't grow without challenge, and you can't have challenge without fear of failure. Push your limits with practice of a new skill, a test of physical or mental endurance, or facing a fear that has hindered you (like speaking to strangers). Every time that you try, your desired result becomes more possible, perhaps even likely. If you don't try, the result is impossible. Get uncomfortable and grow.