The current pandemic has led many people to wonder about changing careers; an not surprisingly so. Here are a few simple principles to consider when deciding on career reinvention, that can guide aspiring career-changers through the process during these hard times.
This has certainly been a year of paradoxes. During those initial stages of hearing about the emergence of this virus, along with the other natural disasters that had occurred e.g. the Australian bush fires , the Indonesian flash floods, the volcano in the Philippians, the locusts in Asia-East-Africa-India-Middle East and the earthquakes that rocked China-India-Iran-Russia-Turkey-the Caribbean, left me feeling a little like a reprimanded child being sent to her room for an extended time out. Except, it felt like we were all being sent to our rooms by a really angry mother who was just done talking, when the virus hit.
I really likened the various levels of lockdown around the world to that.
I remember when raising my own children, I would talk and shout and yell and eventually my patience and sense of humour would fail and they would be sent to their rooms. Like all parents who has raised more than one child will attest; there is always one child who is more defiant and more stubborn and less compliant that the others. This is kind of how I have viewed what the world has experienced this 2020.
As with all families, big and small we have seen the varying levels of compliance and petulance [globally]. We have seen some come out of their rooms to resume life, only to fall back into miscreant behaviour and sent right back. We have seen the school yard bullies grab and refocus our attention for their own purposes, and we have headed the call for help from those less fortunate among us.
Frustration levels have inched up as fatigue sets in [doesn’t that sound a bit like the holiday season at your house]. We love our family but sometimes they leave us wondering if the same blood runs through their veins as does ours. Sometimes their thinking and attitude and behaviour gives us pause to wonder who these people are and how they can think the way they do?
So here we are! 2020 has rattled us all in ways we could never have imagined could happen. The foundation of our lives has been called into question and many of us have found ourselves reflecting on the things that are important to us and digging deep to find levels of resilience we were not sure existed.
For some of us this year has been filled with opportunity for others adversity. I think and really want to believe that either way we have all learnt lessons about ourselves and others that we would otherwise not have learnt. So, I would invite you to reflect on those lessons and not let them be in vain – we owe it to ourselves and to those who have gone before us.
As we prepare to bid farewell to this year I invite you to reflect with me on some of the lessons I have learnt and perhaps you had similar lessons.
We are not in charge: probably a lesson we all learn at some point in our life, and probably know intuitively, yet somehow we live our lives contrary to this. When mother nature loses her sense of humour and snarls and father time stands back and lets her – we the children of the universe need to take a minute to heed these parents.
None of our orientations matter when we face ourselves: Our money or lack thereof, sexuality, religion, political affiliations or any other differentiator we have come to believe separates us, means nothing when we face our own mortality. Death is the ultimate leveller, and it is a solo journey we must all travel.
Everything is about the perspective we have: If you were asked five years ago “where you thought you would be today” – I can guarantee you got it wrong; we all did. All our plans, hopes, dreams & aspirations for what this year would be like have all been upended. Reprioritization was the order of the day, and for some this was viewed through the lens of opportunity for a do-over and for others it was viewed through the lens of catastrophe and loss. Whichever lens you used to view the world, ultimately, some things will have changed for you and now the view you have is very different from what it was in January.
Gratitude keeps a positive attitude: Trials and tribulations we know are part of life. However, when our lives are thrown into disarray and we have no-one to lash out to or blame for the circumstances we find ourselves in. When those meaningless rants about whose fault it is, falls on deaf ears and we realise that no matter how many times we wag our finger at “those people” who brought this to our shores, we eventually stop and recognise that “we are were we are” and no about of ranting is going to change that. In these moments we learn that there are those who have lost so much more than we have, and still they smile and face their days with grace and gratitude – so what is our problem anyway?
Reflection keeps us real: For many of us, reflection is very difficult because through the humdrum of our busy lives we just never learnt how to do this in any meaningful way. No matter how you take time to reflect ,whether it is in the shower, on a run/walk, through journaling or any other space, take some undisturbed time to just think about you and your day that is either ahead of you or behind you. Reflect on the good moments and the moments of frustration. Reflect on what brought a smile to face or the contribution you made to someone less fortunate than yourself and remember how that felt. Then go and repeat that – for it is in those moments of service to humanity that we feel most alive and most valued.
Remember who you are: Being true to who we are and what we believe is often our greatest struggle. We get caught up in the priorities of life, work, raising a family, launching a career. Our lives hurtle by and we look at our children and wonder when they grew up. You know you were there but somehow the passing years have faded into a blur of activities. One day you stop and realise that those cuddly, sweet smelling little bundles are all grown up; and you are that many years older; and for the life of you, you cannot remember when or how it all happened. Take time to ask those tough questions – Did I use my time wisely? What is stopping me from achieving my goals? What went well today? What did I learn today ? What did I teach today? Do I have negative emotions today – what are those and Why?
Truly think about these before you answer.
Learn and grow: I used to tell my students “We are always a student and sometimes a teacher” especially when they were feeling either despondent at not being able to grasp a skill I was teaching or when they were helping someone else practice a new skill. You see I have found that we should strive to learn 1 new thing everyday, no matter how random or arbitrary it may seem. Learning helps us to stretch our thinking and expand our curiosity and when we are curious we learn best. Wisdom is not reserved for the select few but rather is something we can all give ourselves by reflecting on doing things better, giving ourselves insight and learning how to be better and live more fulfilling lives.
Become who you needed: This was a tough one for me but incredibly valuable when I finally got it. We often spend many years agonising about relationships that did not go quite as we had hoped for. We lash out at parents or siblings or any other family members for what they did or did not do for us. We resent teachers who told us what we would or would not achieve. Then one day we realise that we are not that person anymore. We have achieved, we have the relationships we want, and the anger we harboured towards family members has dissolved, often into some form of tolerance or perhaps indifference. ON reflection we realise that we became the person we needed when we were growing up and we find we make very different decisions, which are often contrary to the ones we were raised on. Be proud of those changes because you are consciously making different decisions which serve you better. Self-awareness is a thing.
Leaking pipe or irrigation system: This was another incredibly illuminating moment for me. I always considered myself a fixer and proudly so. Always working from the premise that things are broken and therefore in need of fixing. Peoples’ thinking , their decision making, their capacity for progression. This was, for many years my job – to help people make informed decisions about their career and their future. I likened this to a water pipe and consistently felt as though I was fixing leaks along this pipe and I felt exhausted. I could no longer rally the emotional capacity to continue doing this. Then, one day, I was invited to consider an alternative view – I was invited to consider that perhaps this life was in fact not a water pipe that needed fixing but rather an irrigation pipe that needed to have the holes in it, to allow the water to drip/spray out. It took a minute to consider this and after a short time of consideration and recalibration I felt the relief. In that moment I realised that not all things need to be fixed and more importantly not all things that appear broken are broken.
2020 is rapidly coming to an end and as I reflect on the year that has past and share my lessons with you I wonder as I am sure you do too what 2021 holds in store for us.
I foresee a year of opportunity ahead for those who chose to see the opportunities, which for now may lie hidden. We have been given a chance to reflect and recalibrate and evaluate the things that are most important to us – our loved ones, the time we have to live, learn and serve humanity, the opportunity to be kind and generous to those who are in need of it. We have an opportunity to heal our world and repair the damage we (humans) have done to oceans, rivers, lakes, forests, air and all other areas of our environment. We have the chance to look into the mirror and realise that this world will flourish without us here, so maybe it’s time to dial back our arrogance and realise we are guests on this earth and start behaving as such.
Mother nature and Father time remain our loving universal parents BUT we have not been reprieved of our wrong doings.
What have you learnt from this year and what do you foresee the year ahead being for you?
When facing a challenge, do you feel like you can rise up and accomplish your goal or do you give up in defeat? Are you like the famous little train engine from the classic children’s book (“I think I can, I think I can!), or do you doubt your own abilities to rise up and overcome the difficulties that life throws your way?
Part of becoming Resilient is learning to Believe in Yourself
What Is Self-Efficacy?
Self-efficacy is a person’s belief in their ability to succeed in a particular situation. Psychologist Albert Bandura described these beliefs as determinants of how people think, behave, and feel.1
Self-efficacy plays a role in both how you feel about yourself, as well as whether or not you successfully achieve your goals in life. Self-efficacy is part of the self-system comprised of a person’s attitudes, abilities, and cognitive skills. This system plays a major role in how we perceive situations and how we behave in response to different situations.
Albert Bandura, suggests that self-efficacy is “the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations and belief in his or her ability to succeed in a particular situation.
Self-efficacy can have an impact on everything from psychological states to behaviour to motivation.
Why has self-efficacy become such an important topic of discussion. As Bandura and other researchers have demonstrated, our belief in our own ability to succeed plays a role in how we think, how we act, and how we feel about our place in the world.
Self-efficacy also determines what goals we choose to pursue, how we go about accomplishing those goals, and how we reflect upon our own performance.
Virtually all people can identify goals they want to accomplish, things they would like to change, and things they would like to achieve. However, most people also realize that putting these plans into action is not quite so simple.
An individual’s self-efficacy plays a major role in how goals, tasks, and challenges are approached.
People with a strong sense of self-efficacy:
- Develop deeper interest in the activities in which they participate
- Form a stronger sense of commitment to their interests and activities
- Recover quickly from setbacks and disappointments
- View challenging problems as tasks to be mastered
People with a weak sense of self-efficacy:
- Avoid challenging tasks
- Believe that difficult tasks and situations are beyond their capabilities
- Focus on personal failings and negative outcomes
- Quickly lose confidence in personal abilities
How Does Self-Efficacy Develop?
We begin to form our sense of self-efficacy in early childhood through dealing with a wide variety of experiences, tasks, and situations. However, the growth of self-efficacy does not end during youth but continues to evolve throughout life as we acquire new skills, experiences, and understanding.
There are four major sources of self-efficacy:
“The most effective way of developing a strong sense of efficacy is through mastery experiences,” Bandura explained. Performing a task successfully strengthens our sense of self-efficacy. However, failing to adequately deal with a task or challenge can undermine and weaken self-efficacy.
Witnessing other people successfully completing a task is another important source of self-efficacy. According to Bandura, “Seeing people similar to oneself succeed by sustained effort raises observers’ beliefs that they too possess the capabilities to master comparable activities to succeed.”
Bandura also asserted that people could be persuaded to believe that they have the skills and capabilities to succeed. Consider a time when someone said something positive and encouraging that helped you achieve a goal. Getting verbal encouragement from others helps people overcome self-doubt and instead focus on giving their best effort to the task at hand.1
Our own responses and emotional reactions to situations also play an important role in self-efficacy. Moods, emotional states, physical reactions, and stress levels can all impact how a person feels about their personal abilities in a particular situation. A person who becomes extremely nervous before speaking in public may develop a weak sense of self-efficacy in these situations.
By learning how to minimize stress and elevate mood when facing difficult or challenging tasks, we can improve our sense of self-efficacy.
Examples of High Self-Efficacy
So what exactly does high self-efficacy look like? You can probably think of some examples from your own life including areas where you feel a great deal of efficacy.
Some examples of strong self-efficacy include:
- A man who is struggling to manage his chronic illness but feels confident that he can get back on track and improve his health by working hard and following his doctor’s recommendations.
- A student who feels confident that she will be able to learn the information and do well on a test.
- A woman who has just accepted a job position in a role she has never performed before but feels that she has the ability to learn and perform her job well.
Self-efficacy can play an important role in how people manage their health, nutrition, and illness. For example, having a strong sense of self-efficacy can help people who are trying to quit smoking stick to their goals.
Maintaining a weight loss plan, managing chronic pain, giving up alcohol, sticking to an exercise schedule, and following an eating plan can all be influenced by a person’s levels of self-efficacy.
Self-efficacy can benefit a person’s sense of well-being in a number of ways. For instance, remaining optimistic and confident in your abilities, even when things become difficult.
Individuals with high self-efficacy tend to look at difficulties as challenges rather than threats. They tend to be more intrinsically interested in the tasks they pursue. Difficulty and failure don’t mean defeat; instead, these individuals double their efforts and look for creative and innovative new ways to overcome.
Issues with Low Self-Efficacy
People who are low in self-efficacy tend to see difficult tasks as threats they should avoid. They also tend to avoid setting goals and have low levels of commitment to the ones they do make.
When setbacks happen, they tend to give up quickly. They don’t have much confidence in their ability to achieve and they are more likely to experience feelings of failure and depression. Stressful situations can also be very hard to deal with and those with low self-efficacy are less resilient and less likely to bounce back.
Evaluating your Self-Efficacy Strength
There are a number of different scales that are used to evaluate levels of self-efficacy.
For a quick, informal assessment of your own self-efficacy levels, consider the following questions:
- Do you feel like you can handle problems if you are willing to work hard?
- Are you confident in your ability to achieve your goals?
- Do you feel like you can manage unexpected events that come up?
- Are you able to bounce back fairly quickly after stressful events?
- Do you feel like you can come up with solutions when you are facing a problem?
- Do you keep trying even when things seem difficult?
- Are you good at staying calm even in the face of chaos?
- Do you perform well even under pressure?
- Do you tend to focus on your progress rather than getting overwhelmed by all you still have to do?
- Do you believe that hard work will eventually pay off?
If you can answer yes to many or most of these questions, then chances are good that you have a fairly strong sense of self-efficacy. If you feel like your self-efficacy could use a boost, consider some of the following strategies for improving your sense of efficacy.
Fortunately, self-efficacy is a psychological skill that you can foster and strengthen. Start by looking for ways that you can incorporate these sources of self-efficacy into your own life.
Celebrate Your Success
Mastery experiences play a critical role in the establishment of self-efficacy. This is the single most effective way to create a strong sense of self-belief.
When you succeed at something, you are able to build a powerful belief in your ability. Failure, on the other hand, can undermine these feelings, particularly if you are still in the early phases of building a sense of personal efficacy. The ideal sorts of successes, however, are not necessarily those that come easily. If you experience a lot of easy success, you may find yourself giving up more readily when you finally do encounter failure. So work on setting goals that are achievable, but not necessarily easy. They will take work and perseverance, but you will emerge with a stronger belief in your own abilities once you achieve them.
Vicarious experiences obtained through peer modeling is another important means of establishing and strengthening self-efficacy. Seeing others putting in effort and succeeding, as a result, can increase your belief in your own ability to succeed. One factor that plays a key role in the effectiveness of this approach is how similar the model is to yourself. The more alike you feel you are, the more likely it is that your observations will increase your sense of self-efficacy.
Seek Positive Affirmations
Hearing positive feedback from others can also help improve your sense of self-efficacy. By that same token, try to avoid asking for feedback from people who you know are more likely to have a negative or critical view of your performance.
For example, your doctor telling you that you are doing a good job sticking to your diet plan can be encouraging. Feedback from friends, mentors, health practitioners, and people who you respect can help you feel greater confidence in your own abilities.
Positive social feedback can be helpful for strengthening your already existing sense of efficacy, but negative comments can often have a powerful undermining effect. Social feedback alone is not enough to build your self-belief, but it can be a useful tool when you need a little extra encouragement.
Pay Attention to Your Thoughts and Emotions
If you find yourself getting stressed out or nervous before a challenging event, you might feel less sure of your ability to cope with the task at hand.
Another way to boost your self-efficacy is to look for ways to manage your thoughts and emotions about what you are trying to accomplish.
Do you feel anxious? Looking for ways to ease your stress levels can help you feel more confident in your capabilities. Do you find yourself dwelling on negative thoughts? Look for ways to replace negativity with positive self-talk that promotes self-belief.
Developing a strong sense of self-efficacy can play an important role in almost every aspect of your life. Life is full of challenges and high levels of self-efficacy can help you better deal with these difficulties more effectively. Your belief in your abilities can predict how motivated you feel, how you feel about yourself, and the amount of effort you put into achieving your goals.
If you want to know about how to build your own Self Efficacy pop over to the contact page here and book a free chat with me.
You get times like that don’t you? My current blame du jour are the retrogrades, that those in the know predicted would throw all unfinished business and all that has been emotionally papered over, into deep fractures.
Change is one of life’s inevitabilities and as much as we are digging the vintage vibe or doing the ostrich thing to the stuff we can’t bear; change is the only constant. We are all having to dig deep these days. Not just profoundly into our pockets but into our psyches too, to help mend and make do and get through in these volatile and uncertain times.
Redundancy, relationship crises, health issues and financial worries are becoming an increasing life burden for all of us. When the future is foggy, we struggle to find an anchor to keep us from feeling like we are drifting aimlessly and uncontrollably. We want black and white answers when those 50 rainbow shades offer an overwhelming and altogether unsexy prospect.
So, the buzzword to hold on to is Resilience.
Simply put, it is the ability to dig deep within ourselves to find that reserve of energy and resolve we need to help us through the tough times. Resilience is a skill and it can be practiced just like practicing to play a musical instrument or a sport.
Easier said than done for many, especially when you feel like jelly and you find yourself on shaky ground. Where is that strength you need to draw upon?
It is right there at the core of your being. You must have faith in your own instincts and abilities which will help guide you along the way. Digging deep into hitherto unknown reserves of self is what Japanese author Haruki Murakami writes about in his book on spirituality, philosophy and marathons What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.
Keeping the goal in mind and consistently reminding yourself that things will get better; as you take baby steps each day towards it. Coaching is great for this. Ordinarily we seldom, if ever, need to dig that deep for our everyday lives. It is however, worth creating systems which you can turn to when you feel the ground shaking and your nerve is heading for the Exit with someone else’s coat.
Here are a few coaching tips to help consolidate Resilience.
- Maintain good relationships with your family and friends. Accept their help in times of stress. Offer help to those who are less fortunate than you are – and YES there are always others in a worse situation than you are. Give generously and earnestly, especially when you feel you have little to give. We feel at our best when we are able to help those less able than ourselves. The smallest act of kindness done in earnest will open the door of abundance.
- Try to look at the big picture of life and avoid viewing difficult times as insurmountable. Take small steps toward your goals and take one day at a time. Avoid the pitfall of trying to solve tomorrow’s problems today. Deal with what you can deal with today, do it well – tomorrow is not guaranteed. Stay focused on what you can manage today, right here, right now. Remember there are things you can control and there are things you cannot. So do what you can do, manage what you can manage and keep moving forward.
- Accept that change is a part of life and acceptance of what is – is key. Keep working toward your goals every day, and keep asking yourself “What can I do today to move in the direction I need to go in? Small consistent acts in the right directly get results.
- Maintain a positive view of life and visualize what you want. When we feel like our resolve is fading, often times our energy levels tend to wax and wane as well. It is critical at these points to take care of yourself. Eat well, sleep and exercise to keep yourself healthy – even if you only do a quarter of what you would normally do. This is especially important during times of stress. There will always be an obstacle or hurdle that we will need to navigate in our lives. Learn to navigate these hurdles with confidence in your own abilities is key. Fear and anxiety will always rear their heads – it’s perfectly okay to recognise that you are fearful or anxious. The trick however is to not allow it to paralyse you into inaction.
- Make the Decision to Prevail. This too shall pass. As the Good times come and go so too, do the Bad times. Nothing is permanent – as sure as day follows night these periods of volatility and uncertainty will pass.
Being resilient does not mean that we do not experience difficulty or distress, emotional pain or sadness. Resilience involves the behaviours, thoughts and actions that we can learn and develop to navigate the emotional distress. Learn and practice self-compassion and recognize that everyone suffers. Being gentle and kind to yourself is a much more effective road to healing. If your best friend were going through a rough time you would be kind and gentle with them; NOW go and do the same thing for yourself.
Another sure-fire way of developing some psyche superglue is to hire a coach. Book your 30-minute trial telephone session today by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org
So I am not saying that goals are bad things and you should avoid them. If goals work for you then go for it
For a lot of us, a goal can be the tool that sets our direction and inspires us to keep going.
But when I look back at the way my career change actually unfolded, it didn’t happen in a series of big tick-boxes.
It happened in micro-moments of consistent actions.
You could call them systems, or you could call them habits.
Here’s why they worked so well:
Habits have a ‘how’
“Habit is the intersection of knowledge (what to do), skill (how to do), and desire (want to do).” – Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Have you ever thought to yourself: “I could make a career change in no time, if only I knew what steps to take”?
It’s the classic career change conundrum – you know the high-level result you want, but you do not know what each specific little step is or looks like, nor do you know the actions you need that is going to get you there.
So you end up with these gloriously intangible goals, much like the ones I listed out in my book, and then you sit and stare at them, and feel bad that you haven’t got there yet, and beat yourself up for not knowing how.
But you can get your hands on a Habit.
Because if it’s a habit, you know what it is and how to do it.
So we tend to get into the Habit of doing things, rather than just setting a goal.
If there’s only so much you can do, you can at least do a lot of that.
We have already established that you are not the boss of everything.
You can not control results, but you can control your actions.
So shifting your attention away from the lofty, the far-off and the at-least-50%-out-of-your-hands and toward the tangible, the manageable, the consistent and the completely-under-your-control is probably a smart move.
7 Habits of Highly Effective People author Steven Covey has a great way of explaining this.
Picture a circle.
Inside it, cram everything you care about: your declining eyesight, the refugee crisis, climate change, the housing market, whether your kid is having a good day at school, what the recruitment agent is going to say in your meeting tomorrow, how good your hair looks today, the location of your car keys, whether or not you’re happy in your future career… there’s a LOT in this circle.
Covey calls it your Circle of Concern.
Inside your Circle of Concern is another circle.
This one is called your Circle of Influence.
And inside your Circle of Influence are only the concerns you can directly impact or control.
Goals tend to live inside your Circle of Concern and outside your Circle of Influence. They rely on factors that are only partly in your control. And they are focused on outputs (what happens next) rather than inputs (what you actually do).
But your hairstyle? The house you choose to buy? The skills you develop or what you spend your Thursday evenings doing? Whether or not you try that new recipe that’s been rolling around in the back of your head for months?
In these matters, you are the boss.
When you operate within your Circle of Influence, you will make the biggest impact.
And the more time you spend working and playing inside of this circle, the larger it grows.
It’s hard to pick a fight with a mouse
Goals can tend to feel high-stakes and paralysing, habits can be as small as you need them to be. A Stanford psychologist BJ Fogg recommends starting with ‘tiny habits’, actions so small that they are almost laughable. Instead of trying to start a habit of flossing twice a day, for example, he suggests just starting by flossing one tooth.
You can find a lot of good reasons why the goal of quitting your job in 3 months’ time, regardless of what happens between now and then, might not be the best idea. You can argue your way in and out of that for hours.
It is much harder to argue with a habit of putting whatever coins you have in your pockets into a savings jar every day when you get home.
Insignificant though actions like this might sound, they are actually incredibly powerful. The hardest part of anything is just getting started, and once you have started getting into action with a habit, they have the capacity to snowball.
Maybe you want to write a novel. You decide to set up a tiny habit of writing just 300 words a day. You figure, to complete a book at that rate, it will take about 300 days. Except… it turns out that writing 300 words is really easy, and even on your busiest days, you are getting it done. In fact, on a lot of days, you find yourself overshooting the 300 word mark and just continuing to tap away, writing 800, 1,000, 2,000 words in a day.
You can’t argue with small.
Slow consistent progress is permanent Progress
Goals can set you up for a jerky journey with little traction.
You create a goal, circle it for a while, make a big leap forward, and then, once you have achieved it, you have to come up with the next one. If you don’t achieve it, you then have to deal with the emotional fallout. Mapped onto a piece of paper, your forward movement looks like a game of leapfrog with a very nervous teammate.
Habits on the other hand are by their very nature ongoing and consistent. They tell you what to do and when, and are active regardless of output. Small steps, taken consistently, move you forward faster.
“The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game. True long-term thinking is goal-less thinking. It’s not about any single accomplishment. It is about the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement. Ultimately, it is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress.” – James Clear, author of Atomic Habits
And good news for your achy willpower muscle: once you have formed them, habits pretty much operate automatically.
In fact, once we have got going with a habit, our brains actually adapt to make it easier to complete. After about 30 days of practice, carrying out a habit becomes easier than not doing so.
As Charles Duhigg wrote in The Power Of Habit:
“Habits are powerful, but delicate. They can emerge outside our consciousness or can be deliberately designed. They often occur without our permission but can be reshaped by fiddling with their parts. They shape our lives far more than we realise – they are so strong, in fact, that they cause our brains to cling to them at the exclusion of all else, including common sense.”
The nature of your life is dependent on the nature of your habits
Philosopher William James described habits in this way:
“All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits – practical, emotional, and intellectual – systematically organised for our weal or woe, and bearing us irresistibly toward our destiny, whatever the latter may be.”
Habits, not goals, shape your daily experience of the world.
The time of day you wake up. The way you brush your teeth. How you get to work, the turns of phrase you use, the way you automatically respond to certain events.
Goals are interruptions to your status quo.
Habits, on the other hand, build, shape and create the form and direction of your life.
And if that is true, then whether or not you shift into fulfilling work is entirely dependent on the habits and consistent behaviours you choose to cultivate.
On other words, choosing and building a powerful set of habits can help you move into fulfilling work inevitable.
Now that sounds pretty good, no?
How to build helpful habits in career change
Create opportunities to be gloriously surprised
All you can control is what you do, not what happens next.
So, as you start designing some new habits and behaviours, let go of any thought of whether or not it will ‘work’ or be ‘worth it’.
Perhaps you consider starting a new habit of going to one new, interesting event per week.
But then the doubts come in: By the way these are also know as Limiting Beliefs
“There probably won’t be anyone interesting there.”
“You don’t WANT to work at the circus – why go to a workshop?”
“You’ve had a tiring week – no point going if it’s just going to be a waste of time.”
Your job is not to make it worth it.
Your job is not to know the outcome.
Your job is just to keep opening the door to the possibility of something fantastic that you didn’t see coming.
You can’t control whether it happens or not.
But one thing is for sure: without an open door, it ain’t coming in.
Choose pleasure, not pride
Intrinsic motivation is far more effective than extrinsic rewards.
In her book Better Than Before, author Gretchen Rubin uses this example:
“If I tell [my daughter] that she can watch an hour of TV if she reads for an hour, I don’t build her habit of reading. I teach her that watching TV is more fun than reading.”
So where possible, set up habits that will feel good to do and give you a sense of accomplishment when completed.
This does not mean it won’t take any effort to get started with them. Setting up a new habit involves some change, and it will take willpower to get the ball rolling.
Perhaps you know that talking to new people often feels a bit awkward to start with.
But once you’ve opened a dialogue, you always enjoy the conversation, and you are thrilled to have made a new friend you can learn from.
It will take some effort to push past the initial hump of always reaching out to people you encounter who do interesting work. But the more you do it, the smoother that initial hump will become, and the more enjoyment (and great conversations, and new insights) will follow.
Following a pleasurable feeling and setting up a system to do more of it, is always going to reap greater rewards than fighting against an unpleasant one. Besides, if you want to find fulfilling work, doing a lot of things that feel unfulfilling is unlikely to get you there.
Follow the hints and the feelings that tell you what you love, what comes naturally, what elicits a sense of flow.
Do more of what works
Often times, habits are pitched as things to be changed, to quit, or to fix.
You are giving up your smoking habit.
You start running every morning (to fix your low fitness levels).
You stop drinking coffee in the mornings.
However, when you are trying to create a habit in order to fix or stop something, it takes more effort, and reminds you of the negative element you are trying to get away from.
Stopping something gives you the sense of having less of something in your life, but it does not necessarily replace it with anything else. You want the good stuff, and more of it.
The most effective habits start with the questions:
“What do I know works well for me?” and then: “How can I do more of it?”
So take a look at the things you have done in the past that have given you more clarity or more progress when it comes to your career change.
When have you found new insights to explore, and how did you find them?
What was different about that conversation that led to a new opportunity, from the other conversations that fizzled out?
Sure, you know that for extroverts, going to networking events works brilliantly. But you are way better in 1-1 environments. So how do you have more 1-1 interactions with people in your day-to-day?
Look for what works, and then focus on building a habit that has you do more of it.
If in doubt, change your environment
Stanford behaviour scientist BJ Fogg says he has learnt that only three things will change your life in the long term.
Option A. Have an epiphany
Option B. Change your environment (what surrounds you)
Option C. Take baby steps
Epiphanies are hard to come by, and they are out of your control.
Baby steps are the mouse-sized micro-habits you can build with very little effort over time.
And if you are not sure what baby steps to take, create the habit of taking them into new environments. If you are struggling for ideas on your future career, or struggling to find the right steps to take, remember one of the simplest principles of systems theory:
New inputs = new outputs.
If you want new ideas, new insights, new possibilities, build the habit of filling your environment with new experiences.
Widen your social circle by adding new people with new perspectives into your social circle.
Take yourself into new places and surroundings.
Giving yourself new experiences.
Build habits that change what surrounds you, and you will watch your perspective on the world, and the opportunities you can see, change along with it.
One thing at a time, and one thing only
Set yourself up for success.
Overcommitting to a whole bunch of new habits has the same impact as setting yourself a scary goal. It feels overwhelming, paralysing, and invites fear of failure and procrastination.
Get into the habit of just one small, consistent new behaviour.
Get curious about it.
A tiny drip of water, over time, can crack open a whole boulder.
Do not underestimate the power of one thing done consistently over time.
“The best thing I ever did was to commit to one small action each day (less than five minutes). Sometimes this lead to further leaps, other times that was all I did. This might have been making a list, sending an email, commenting on a post, a bit of research, etc. When I combined that with trying to make the small action something that was slightly out of my comfort zone as well, good things started to happen.” – Amy G.
New habits are often difficult to get going because they require Two things #1 that you change your behaviours, #2. that you remember to do them.
According to Zen Habits writer Leo Babauta, the often-overlooked key to building a new habit is to tie it to a trigger – an event that will remind you (eventually automatically) to carry out your habit:
“Habits become automatic after we have created a bond between the trigger and the habit. The stronger the bond, the more ingrained the habit.”
Babauta recommends finding an action or event that is already ingrained into your routines in life.
For example, if you need to remember to take a daily medication, keeping the box on top of your toothbrush will help you tie the action of taking your pill to your already-automatic (we would hope) routine of brushing your teeth.
If you want to build a habit of staying in touch with old friends, use an already-ingrained habit (opening your email client for the first time in the morning, checking social media on your commute) to act as a trigger to send one checking-in message to someone you haven’t been in touch with for a while.
Need to start injecting your weekly routine with something fresh and new, to inspire new ideas and broaden your experience of the world? Every time you see a vaguely interesting event coming up in your local area, put it into your calendar.
Consistent triggers make new habits feel natural, faster.
Work with the way you work
A habit is an expectation you have set for yourself (or, sometimes, that someone else / society expects of you).
Gretchen Rubin suggests there are four primary ways, or ‘tendencies’ with which people respond to those expectations.
Knowing your ‘tendency’ (Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel), you can pre-empt the ways in which you might get stuck building or maintaining your habits, and set up systems and approaches that help you get things done.
You might, for example, need to rely on accountability more than others, and tell multiple people about the habits you are trying to build.
Reminding yourself of the greater good you are trying to achieve might be the primary kick you need.
Or perhaps deadlines are the only thing that will get you out of analysis paralysis and moving forward.
Take the Four Tendencies Test here, and use the results to craft your approach to habits in the way that works for you.
Finding fulfilling work is a revelatory process
It is what makes it magical. It is what makes it nerve-wracking, too.
If only a career you love was the output of a nice, neat algebraic formula, setting goals and project-managing, the whole thing would be smart and simple.
But it’s not.
It’s messy, and full of surprises, and it requires you to be in a space of not-knowing for far longer than most human beings are comfortable with.
What will anchor you, keep you grounded and making forward progress, are habits and systems.
Consistent, forward nudges that you actually do, that keep you feeling proud and motivated, and that opens the door, over and over again, to the possibility of being gloriously surprised, to the unexpected and the new.
What habit could you start cultivating in your own career change? Let me know in the comments below.
What is Resilience?
We all demonstrate resilience in some form or the other at some point in our life. This is a very ordinary and normal process we all go through when we need to rebuild our life.
Being resilient does not mean that we do not experience difficulty or distress, emotional pain or sadness. Quite the opposite the road to resilience is often paved with considerable emotional distress.
Resilience involves the behaviours, thoughts and actions that we can learn and develop to navigate the emotional distress.
We have all dealt with the death of a loved one, loss of a job, serious illness or some other traumatic event that has left an indelible mark on our life. These are all very challenging life experiences and many people react to these circumstance with a flood of strong emotions and a sense of uncertainty. Eventually though they adapt well over time to these life-changing situations and stressful conditions. What enable s them to do so? It is resilience – the ongoing process that requires time and effort and taking a number of steps to enhance and build their resilience.
Here are Six Strategies that can help you Build resilience
Change the narrative
When something bad happens, we tend to relive the event over and over in our heads. We step onto this merry-go-round and we rehash the pain the event has caused. This process is called rumination; it is the proverbial cognitive spinning of the wheels, and it doesn’t move us forward toward healing and growth.
The practice of Expressive Writing can move us forward by helping us gain new insights into the challenges in our lives. It involves free writing continuously for 20 minutes about an issue exploring your deepest thoughts and feelings around it. The goal is to get something down on paper. You do not necessarily want to create a memoir-like masterpiece.
Research conducted back in a 1988 study found that participants who did Expressive Writing for four days were healthier six weeks later and happier up to three months later compared t those who did not write or those who wrote about superficial things. The act of writing allows us to slow down our thinking and forces us to confront ideas one by one and give them structure, which may lead to new perspectives.
By doing this we are actually crafting our own life narrative and gaining a sense of control. We are also able to find the Finding Silver Linings which requires us to list at least three positive things about the experience or the lessons we learnt through this process. This helps us to become more engaged in our life post the event and increases our optimism over time. This in turn reduces our depression levels suggesting that looking on the bright side is something we have to practice regularly.
Face your fears
The practices above are helpful for past struggles, ones that we have gained enough distance from to be able to get some perspective pn. What about those knee-shaking fears that we are experiencing in the here and now?
The Overcoming a Fear practice is designed to help with everyday fears that get in the way of life, such as the fear of public speaking, heights, or flying. We can’t talk ourselves out of such fears; instead, we have to tackle the emotions directly.
The first step is to slowly, and repeatedly, expose yourself to the thing that scares you—in small doses.
For example, people with a fear of public speaking might try talking more in meetings, then perhaps giving a toast at a small wedding. Over time, you can incrementally increase the challenge until you’re ready to nail that big speech.
This kind of “exposure therapy” helps us change the associations we have with a particular stimulus. If we have flown 100 times and the plane has never crashed, for example, our brain (and body) start to learn that it’s safe. Though the fear may never be fully extinguished, we will likely have greater courage to confront it.
Fears and adversity can make us feel alone; we wonder why we are the only ones feeling this way, and what exactly is wrong with us. In these situations, learning to practice self-compassion and recognizing that everyone suffers, can be a much gentler and more effective road to healing.
Self-compassion involves offering compassion to ourselves: confronting our own suffering with an attitude of warmth and kindness, without judgment. The Self-Compassion Break, is something you can do any time you start to feel overwhelmed by pain or stress. It has three steps, which correspond to the three aspects of self-compassion:
- Be mindful: Without judgment or analysis, notice what you are feeling. Name it and acknowledge it. Say, “This is a moment of suffering” or “This hurts” or “This is stress.”
- Remember that you are not alone: Everyone experiences these deep and painful human emotions, although the causes might be different. Say to yourself, “Suffering is a part of life” or “We have all felt this way at some point in our life” or “We all deal with some kind of struggle in our lives.”
- Be kind to yourself: Put your hands on your heart and say something like “I give myself compassion” or “I accept myself as I am” or “I will be patient with myself during this time.”
If being kind to yourself is a challenge which it can sometimes be. Consider how you would respond if your best friend were going through what you are going through. How would you respond and support your best friend; what would you say or do for your bestie? Now go and do that for yourself.
Once we start to develop a kinder attitude toward ourselves, we can crystallize that gentle voice into a Self-Compassionate Letter. Just as yo would write words of understanding, acceptance, and compassion towards your best friend write those same words to yourself in a letter.
In the letter, you might remind yourself that everyone struggles, and that you are not alone; if possible, you could also consider constructive ways to improve in the future.
As mindfulness gurus like to remind us, our most painful thoughts are usually about the past or the future: We regret and ruminate on things that went wrong, or we get anxious about things that will. When we pause and bring our attention to the present, we often find that things are…okay.
Practicing mindfulness brings us more and more into the present, and it offers techniques for dealing with negative emotions when they arise. That way, instead of getting carried away into fear, anger, or despair, we can work through them more deliberately.
Strong feelings tend to manifest physically, as tight chests or knotted stomachs, and relaxing the body is one way to begin dislodging them. There are thousands of meditations techniques and practices available.The Body Scan is one of the many you can use to focus on each body part in turn—head to toe—and can choose to let go of any areas of tension you discover. Being more aware of our bodies and the emotions we are feeling might also help us make healthier choices, trusting our gut when something feels wrong or avoiding commitments that will lead to exhaustion.
If holding a grudge is holding you back, research suggests that cultivating forgiveness could be beneficial to your mental and physical health. If you feel ready to begin, it can be a powerful practice.
Both Nine Steps to Forgiveness and Eight Essentials When Forgiving offer a list of guidelines to follow. In both cases, you begin by clearly acknowledging what happened, including how it feels and how it’s affecting your life right now. Then, you make a commitment to forgive, which means letting go of resentment and ill will for your own sake; forgiveness doesn’t mean letting the offender off the hook or even reconciling with them. Ultimately, you can try to find a positive opportunity for growth in the experience: Perhaps it alerted you to something you need, which you may have to look for elsewhere, or perhaps you can now understand other people’s suffering better.
If you are having trouble forgiving, Letting Go of Anger through Compassion is a five-minute forgiveness exercise that could help you get unstuck. Here, you spend a few minutes generating feelings of compassion toward your offender; s/he, too, is a human being who makes mistakes; s/he, too, has room for growth and healing. Be mindful and aware of your thoughts and feelings during this process, and notice any areas of resistance. Research suggests that letting go and forgiveness rather than ruminating on negative feelings or repressing them cultivates compassion, more empathy, positive emotions, and feelings of control.
That is an outcome that victims of wrongdoing deserve, no matter how we feel about the offenders.
Develop mental agility
It is possible, without too much effort , to literally switch the neural networks with which we process the experience of stress in order to respond to rather than react to any difficult situation or person. This quality of mental agility hinges on the ability to mentally “decenter” stressors in order to effectively manage them. “Decentering” stress is not denying or suppressing the fact that we feel stressed, rather, it is the process of being able to pause, to observe the experience from a neutral standpoint, and then to try to solve the problem. When we are able to cognitively take a step back from our experience and label our thoughts and emotions, we are effectively pivoting attention from the narrative network in our brains to the more observational parts of our brains. Being mentally agile, and decentering stress when it occurs, enables the core resilience skill of “response flexibility,” which renowned psychologist Linda Graham describes as “the ability to pause, step back, reflect, shift perspectives, create options and choose wisely.” We often tell our children who are upset to “use your words,” for example, and it turns out that stopping and labeling emotions has the effect of activating the thinking center of our brains, rather than the emotional center a valuable skill in demanding, high-performance workplaces everywhere.
‘Who is your hero? ‘I thought about it and answered…”it’s me in ten years time”. Ten years late I was asked the same question by the same person Who is your hero? ‘Again I thought about it and answered…”it’s me in ten years time” – Mathew McConaughey
What Exactly is an Ideal Self?
An ideal self is an ideal future version of “you” that encompasses your personality, beliefs, values, and behaviour under various conditions. It can be summarized in the following way:
My ideal self is who I want to become… the best version of myself in every situation.
The “ideal you” is, therefore “you”. However it is not the person you are today, but rather the person you are striving to become tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, and so on.
This ideal self is not a state of perfection; it is not a fixed destination or a finished product. In fact, it is far from it. This ideal self is constantly evolving and changing, and as such is somewhat elusive in nature.
Your ideal self should always be several steps ahead of who you are today. When you do become that ideal version of yourself at some point in the future, the ideal version of “you” at that point should have changed. Therefore you should still be in pursuit of this ideal self.
This is, an important progression because it leads to healthy growth and development. It is also the process of continuous improvement.
If one day you were to catch up to your ideal self, that is possibly the day when life would lose all meaning. When there is nothing greater to strive for, and with no new challenge on the horizon you would end up in a state of stagnation from that point onwards. There would be no motivation to grow or to improve yourself and as a result, life would become perfect for you. That, of course, does not sound so bad, right? Well…It is not so good either. It is not good because reaching a state of perfection leads to boredom, restlessness, and a less than satisfying life.
All this, sounds quite counter-intuitive. Becoming everything you have ever wanted to be sounds like bliss. And yes you would be right. It would be as if all your dreams had come true. You are however, not that person today. It is the journey towards becoming that future person that will bring you fulfilment. It is, therefore, not the destination but rather the steps you take to get to that destination that makes life incredibly fulfilling, enjoyable and fun. Moreover, it is the process of learning, growth, and development along that journey that makes life truly worth living.
Given all this, it is quite clear to see why our ideal-self must be elusive in nature. It must change over time because you are recreating yourself daily through your choices, decisions, and actions. Every thought you indulge in leads to a decision, which leads to an action. These actions form the habits and rules you live by and that shape your future life and behaviour. In fact, every experience you have changes you in some way. These changes might be slight, however, these always impact the kind of person you are striving to become (your ideal-self).Many small changes over a period of time will lead to big changes towards the vision you have for your future self.
Your ideal-self, of course, encompasses the many roles you fulfil. You might be a parent, a sibling, a teacher, a sports coach, a leader, an employee or employer. Within every one of these roles there exists an “ideal you”. You might, be striving to become better at any one of these. As a result, you are working towards this ideal version of who you would like to one day become, and this helps keep you growing and developing yourself in that role. This is true for any role you fulfil.
Our growth and development in each role is the fuel that keeps pushing us forward through every decision we make and action we take. As long as these ideal versions of ourselves are somewhat out of reach, we will keep striving and pushing forward. This ideal version of you is what fuels your motivation.
This is all good-and-well , however, at times we end up walking along the wrong path because we succumb to other people’s expectations. These people shape how they would like us to be within the specific roles we fulfil. This, of course, might not be such a bad thing. Sometimes we just don’t have enough clarity to understand how we can grow and develop ourselves within a specific role. However, at times giving into other people’s expectations can lead us down a less than optimal path.
The key is to take on board what is helpful and allow that to shape your ideal self. Everything we take on board we must make our own. In this way will we fully accept what we need to do to bridge the gap between where we are and where we desire to be.
Take a moment to decide if…
You know exactly who You are…
You accept who you are right now…
You seek to become a better version of yourself…
You commit yourself to growth and development…
When you know who you are today (your self-image), and when you fully accept this person, that is when you can commit yourself to becoming a better version of yourself, which of course comes through the process of growth and development.
That, in a nutshell, is what the ideal-self is all about. It is about striving to become the very best version of yourself within every role you fulfil.
So what if you are not sure? What if you don’t quite have the clarity you need to bring that ideal- self to life?
Well, that is what the following four-step process to help you consciously begin shaping your ideal-self is for.
Often we desire to be better at certain roles and/or areas of our lives, however, we never quite take the time to clarify what “being better” actually means to us.
We tend to be vague about the things we would like to improve upon. Therefore, we never truly build enough momentum to carry us forward to this desired destination.
Avoid falling into this trap by going through a four-step process that will help you shape your self-ideal the same it helped me – with purposeful intention. These steps are designed to help you lay down a path from where you are [your current self] to where you desire to be [your ideal self], thereby bridging the gap between the two.
Step 1: Analysis of Your Current and Ideal Self
Your first task is to get to know yourself at a deep level. Yes, this means warts and all. It means acknowledging parts of yourself that you are pleased with and being honest about parts of yourself that tend not to live up to your personal standards and/or expectations. Ask yourself the following questions:
What do I value most about myself?
What would I like to leave unchanged moving forward?
What don’t I like about my current behaviour?
What aspects of myself would I like to alter?
There will naturally be parts of yourself that you are quite happy with and would not want to change, however, there will be other parts where you see room for growth and improvement.
Think about situations where you face adversity, conflict, making mistakes and dealing with difficult emotions. These are challenging situations that may or may not bring out the best in you. Consider these situations and ask yourself:
How do I typically handle adversity?
How do I respond when I make mistakes?
How do I tend to handle conflict?
How do I deal with difficult emotions?
Reflect on “how you are” in these situations and consider how you might be able to improve in these areas. Your answers to these questions will lay down the foundations for your ideal-self.
Now, let’s take a look at that ideal-self by exploring the kind of person that you would like to become. Consider your answers to the previous questions, then take a moment to step out of who you are and project yourself into the future.
See and Feel the Ideal You then ask yourself:
What kind of person am I?
What standards do I like to uphold?
What do I believe about myself?
Here you are building a picture of “you”. This is not who you are now, but rather someone who you would Ideally like to become in the future.
Now consider breaking this down even further by completing the following statements:
I want to be a person who is…
I want to be a person who keeps…
I want to be a person who lives…
I want to be a person who doesn’t…
I want to be a person who solves…
Going through each of these statements will provide you with a much clearer picture of the kind of person you envision yourself becoming in the future. Now your task is to simply follow through with making these positive changes.
The only thing mission now is WHY?
Why is it important to make these changes?
In order to make change stick, you must have a “good reason” to make this change in the first place. There must be enough motivation for you to change, or otherwise, your efforts will be fleeting. What is Your WHY?
Was this helpful ? Please leave a comment I would love to hear from you.
Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough. – Julia Cameron
Perfectionism… “To be, or not to be?” That is, the ultimate question! There are certainly arguments for and against it. Those who support perfectionism may tell you that it is a measure of attention to detail and thoroughness when getting tasks done. It’s all about achieving those higher standards that give them the edge in a competitive environment.
This view implies that perfectionism is a form of excellence where you strive to perform at the highest possible level.
Is it really about striving for excellence?
You will discover, that perfectionism is certainly not all it is cracked up to be. In fact, it can be as debilitating as it can be helpful; and when it is mismanaged it can potentially sabotage all your good intentions. Why? Because [as I discovered] perfectionism is something that is built upon fear, inflexible rules, and unreasonable standards that have absolutely no basis in reality.
Before breaking down these details, let us look at what perfectionism actually means.
To be a perfectionist means being overly concerned with personal achievement. Everything needs to be done perfectly or otherwise you simply can not move forward. This often stems from the notion of all-or-nothing thinking, where things are either perfect or things are just not good enough.
When we step into this all-or-nothing space our life stagnates and we are unable to move forward as we need to because we have created in our mind a set of unreasonable and often lofty expectations.
Perfectionists persistently pressure themselves to reach these unachievable objectives, often to their own personal detriment, without ever realizing that perfectionism is in constant flux. It is based purely on interpretation. The reality is that what is perfect for one person is far from perfect for another person. Additionally, what is perfect today will often be far from perfect tomorrow. The more we learn about something, the more we realize how much we actually don’t know.
Therefore the question becomes does perfectionism actually exist? I have come to realise that it does not. It is a misnomer that we fool ourselves into believing more often than we may care to acknowledge. 🙂
You might be thinking that perfectionism is all about going out there and doing your best in every situation. This is a valid argument – Doing our very best and trying to live up to the highest of standards can certainly be of tremendous value, however, there is a healthy and an unhealthy way to go about this.
Those who do their very best and strive for excellence do so from a place of empowerment. These people have a high level of self-worth, self-esteem, and self-confidence in their own ability to get things done at the highest of levels. This behaviour is healthy because these people come from a place of yearning for growth and development. It is this behaviour that helps them perform at the highest level.
The flip side of this coin however, is the unhealthy form of perfectionism. People who succumb to this do so from a place of fear that often translates into procrastination. They engage in the act of perfectionism as a means of avoiding something they fear, and as a result, they succumb to bouts of anxiety or/ and procrastination.
This often manifests in inflexible thinking, self-criticism, performance anxiety, and guilt. The underlying factor here is, these people have very low levels of self-esteem. They just don’t believe they are good enough and therefore operate from a sense of failure, which impairs their personal growth, productivity, and performance.
In an attempt to make up for all these shortcomings, they set the highest possible standards for themselves thinking that striving for perfection will help ease their fears. This strategy almost never works because the underlying problem still exists.
A lack of self-esteem means that you are constantly comparing Yourself and your performance to others. From the outside this can seem competitive, but this competitive spirit often comes from a place of weakness and vulnerability. There is a consistent need for reassurance and as a result, they are quite vulnerable to criticism and rejection.
They become so engrossed in the act of doing things perfectly that “making progress” and “forward thinking” take a back-seat to the idea that “things are just not good enough”. As a result they don’t take any meaningful action towards the attainment of their goals and objectives, and they remain stuck. Unable to move forward and unable to break free, they engross themselves even further into a world of unrealistic expectations and unreasonable standards that can never be met. All this is a direct result of their inability to handle fear.
The Evolution of Perfectionism
Now that we understand how perfectionism manifests in our lives, let us take a look at how it evolves over a lifetime. There are numerous influential forces that can make a person prone to falling victim to bouts of perfectionism. For starters, there is our temperament we are born which becomes less of a factor as we age and undergo social conditioning.
Growing up you might have received unusually high levels of praise from your parents, guardians and/or peers. As a result, you now have very high expectations of yourself and rather inflexible beliefs in certain areas of your life, which can manifest in perfectionistic behaviour. On the flip-side, there might have been an absence of praise while you were growing up in which case you would gravitate towards perfectionistic types of behaviour in an attempt to make-up for your perceived shortcomings. This is a way of proving to other people that you are deserving of higher praise.
Being overly punished for making mistakes while growing up can also trigger perfectionistic behaviour. As a result of these mistakes, you feel you are just not good enough, smart enough, strong enough, etc. Today, you strive to avoid experiencing this pain by doing things perfectly to avoid punishment/pain that you still believe will result.
Being overly dependent upon receiving rewards from other people can also lead to perfectionistic behaviour. While growing up you might have consistently been rewarded for completing certain tasks and activities to a set of standards that your parents or others set for you. As a result, you have been conditioned to receive rewards when completing a task to the highest possible level. You now, indulge in perfectionism in order to keep receiving those rewards. Those rewards have probably changed quite significantly since you were a child, however, the expectation of getting something in return, even if it is just praise, is enough to keep your perfectionistic indulgence alive.
The Maintenance of Perfectionism
We can relate to these examples at some level however, what these examples do not explain is WHY, throughout our adult lives, we continue to indulge in perfectionism.
The underlying reasons why perfectionism might still be prevalent in your adult life, has to do with these three core factors: fears, unhelpful thoughts, and rules which work together to satisfy your hunger for perfectionism.
Your inability to deal with fear. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of making mistakes and even the fear of success can all lead you down the path towards perfectionism.
You indulge in perfectionism because fear breeds uncertainty and when things are uncertain this creates doubt. When there is doubt you procrastinate, instead of avoiding the task altogether, as most procrastinators tend to do, you try to trick yourself into believing that you are actually making progress. You do this by completely absorbing yourself into an easy part of the task that you feel comfortable with. You convince yourself that you cannot move onto the next part of the task unless this first part is done perfectly. This is, of course, a ploy you use to distract yourself from the fact that you just can not bear dealing with the fear that is waiting for you.
For example, let’s say that you have a presentation to do which you have been putting off for weeks. You convince yourself that you are not ready and spend all your time preparing for the presentation; making sure that everything is perfect. Of course, this is a ploy you use to avoid the FEAR you experience when you think about actually delivering this presentation. You are afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone and therefore indulge in perfectionism to help ease the tension and uneasiness you feel.
Your unhelpful thoughts that lead you astray. Your fears actually stem from these unhelpful thoughts you indulge in. These thoughts hinder how you view the events and circumstances of your life. As a result, you tend to make inaccurate assumptions about how things are and about how they could end up being, if you follow-through with a specific kind of action.
You might, assume that if you make a mistake while giving the presentation that people will judge you. This, of course, triggers the fear of failure or criticism. You now believe you need to do everything in your power to try and avoid this. This means that you will continue to plan and prepare your presentation in order to delay the inevitable moment for as long as possible.
These are only two examples of the types of unhealthy thought patterns that could be letting you down. There are of course others but you get the point.
Your inflexible rules. These rules are of course interlinked with your unhelpful thoughts and fears. In fact, there is very little separation as all these components work together to lead you down the path towards perfectionism.
When it comes down to the reluctance you feel about giving your presentation, your rules could be :
I can’t move forward unless I am able to find the right graphics for this presentation.
I must conduct thorough research for the topic in order to impress my boss.
I should spend more time on preparing myself in order to avoid making mistakes.
All of these rules that you have created for yourself keep you within a perfectionist cycle. It is a “cycle” because even if you find the right graphics for this presentation, there will be yet another excuse that will keep you stuck.
The Formation of Unreasonable Standards
The above three factors come together to form your personal standards and the expectations you bring to every situation. Your personal standards are guidelines you use to measure your success. These guiding principles of behaviour help direct what you focus on and how you end up focusing on things.
These affect the choices and decisions you make when it comes to indulging in perfectionistic behaviour. Take into consideration the personal standards you have set for yourself in an area of your life where you tend to indulge in perfectionism and ask yourself:
Are my personal standards in this situation
What problems tend to result from indulging in these high standards?
How does this affect
- the situation?
- my life?
Answering these questions will hopefully begin to break down the walls that form the belief systems you have supporting this kind of behaviour.
Was this useful? Leave a comment and let me know how you have dealt with Perfectionism. Stay tuned for the next article which will cover How to Beat Perfectionism.
Self-esteem is not everything; it’s just that there’s nothing without it. – Gloria Steinem
Is your Self-Esteem Low?
Do you lack the self-confidence and self-belief you need to make your own way in this world? Is this destroying your spirit and preventing you from moving forward in the way you imagined?
Many people suffer through periods of low self-esteem, and often for many different reasons. If you are one of these people, then you probably recognize the fact that you tend to judge and/or evaluate yourself negatively. You probably have a low personal value and opinion of yourself, or maybe a low appraisal and evaluation of your self-worth. In fact, low self-esteem might be making you feel somewhat useless, inferior, inadequate, incomplete and worthless. This is no way to live.
The Symptoms and Habits of Low Self-Esteem
There are many symptoms and habits of low self-esteem. However, taken in isolation, these symptoms do not indicate that you have self-esteem issues. Red flags should only be raised when several symptoms come bundled together and begin taking over your life.
Here is a list of the symptoms of low self-esteem you should look out for:
- Constantly striving for perfection.
- Having low or biased expectations of yourself.
- A tendency to exaggerate your problems.
- The habit of accentuating the negatives.
- Underestimating your personal ability.
- Ignoring the positives and potential opportunities.
- Being riddled with self-doubt.
- Constantly blaming and criticizing yourself.
- Lack of self-confidence in your ability to get things done.
- Inability to accept compliments.
- Unable to concentrate because of a lack of energy, which often results from poor sleep patterns.
- Hesitant and tense physiological movements.
- A tendency to avoid people and social situations in an attempt to steer clear of judgment, criticism, and the evaluations that other people might make about you.
- Often experiencing the emotions of loneliness, guilt, frustration, dejection, hopelessness, anxiety, anger, shame, worry, sadness and depression.
Experiencing one or more of these emotions from time-to-time is not a clear indication that you have self-esteem issues. However, if you tend to cycle through many of these emotions throughout your week, then it is a clear sign that something is not right and that low self-esteem could be the underlying problem.
How is Low Self-Esteem Maintained?
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how individuals maintain low levels of self-esteem. There are however, certain factors that can often lead you down the self-esteem spiral.
Indulging in any of the low self-esteem habits discussed above will tend to keep you within a very poor state-of-mind that positions you on the low end of the emotional spectrum. In fact, the more of these symptoms you have, the more you will struggle with your emotions.
In addition to these symptoms and habits, low self-esteem is often maintained because you have very restrictive personal assumptions and rules. What this means is that you make assumptions about things in a very negative way that provides you limited options for moving forward.
You tend to see the worst in every situation, which gives you very little hope for the future. In addition your rules and personal standards are very restrictive. You don’t expect much of yourself, and as a result, you tend to stay constricted within the confines of your comfort zone and never take the necessary risks to break out of emotional slumps.
Your restrictive rules for living your life are often built upon poor language choices that provide you with minimal options moving forward.
For instance, you often use words such as:
- If I don’t… then…
- I should never…
- I must… or else…
- I can’t…
- I should do this… but…
The language you use provides insight into the rules that govern your life, decisions, and actions. These rules drain your self-esteem consistently. You tend to aggravate your self-esteem by making negative self-evaluations which are poor and limited. This leaves you feeling that you have no hope for the future, and no hope of improving your current circumstances. You do this because it helps “ground” you and gives you a sense of control.
The Evolution of Self-Esteem Over Time
Self-esteem encompasses your personal attitudes, beliefs, emotions, biased self-opinions and expectations, as-well-as your behaviours, decisions and actions. It also encapsulates the unhelpful assumptions you tend to make, the rules you live by, and the negative self-evaluations that tend to rob you of any hope for the future.
All of these factors go into building or destroying your self-esteem and have manifested in your life over time and are built on certain events that have influenced your emotional growth over the years. Low self-esteem often stems from negative life influences and/or experiences you have had over the course of many years, often going right back to early childhood.
Your family, friends, peers, teachers, role models and society, all played an important part in the development of your self-esteem as you were growing up. They showed and taught you, directly and indirectly, how to best handle your emotions during difficult times, how to overcome obstacles, how to interpret the events and circumstances in your life, etc.
Some of these lessons were helpful. If you are experiencing low self-esteem at the moment though, then it’s likely that other lessons you learned over this period were quite unhelpful. The net result is now you have a set of ineffective emotional coping skills that are restricting you in a variety of ways.
There might have been significant moments of your life that left profound emotional and psychological scars. For instance, prolonged illness, neglect, abuse, hardship, and punishment can leave a lasting impression on your mind. These things are currently influencing how you process and interpret the world around you. You might have found it very difficult to fit-in socially at school and/or at home while growing up. This has left a very deep emotional scar that you tend to hold onto in the present moment directly affecting your levels of self-esteem.
Other reasons why you might be suffering from low self-esteem today could be because of a lack of attention, encouragement, warmth, praise or affection you received as a child. Maybe you simply failed to live up to other people’s expectations of you. They may have had very high personal standards and limiting rules that you found very difficult to live up to. This entire experience while growing up has made you feel somewhat incapable, incompetent, worthless, inadequate, inferior and useless.
You have no self-belief and meagre expectations of yourself and your ability. Your low self-esteem can also be attributed to the observations you made as a child. You would observe adults going about their daily lives and these adults experienced hardships, setbacks, and personal problems. How they dealt with these challenges was important, because the habits, behaviours, and emotions they displayed during these moments has left a lasting impression on your mind.
These adult mentors taught you how to handle life’s difficulties and how to cope with your emotions indirectly. Today, you are doing what you know what you have been taught; for better or worse.
All this goes to show that your low levels of self-esteem are not entirely of your own making. In fact, you learnt and picked up certain ways of doing things and responding to situations from other people. Your current levels of self-esteem and the coping mechanisms you use to work through your personal challenges are a result of many years of conditioning that you went through while growing up.
However, even though you might not be responsible for this conditioning, you are responsible for your own life today. If something is not working for you, then you must take responsibility for changing things for the better and reconditioning your mind in a more positive and empowering way that will help you to live the life you desire to create for yourself.
How to Improve Self-Esteem
There are certain things you can do that will naturally help you raise your self-esteem throughout the day. Many of these suggestions are very straightforward and simple to implement. Some might take a little more time and effort. Either way, there is no miracle cure here. You will need to commit and dedicate yourself to adopting new habits, behaviours, and ways of thinking and doing things to reap the rewards in the long-run.
Take Care Emotionally
Raising your self-esteem begins with your emotional health. Your emotions are the keys to your well-being and provide you with the stability you need to get through difficult moments of your life successfully. When you are in control of your emotions, you will be more capable of handling the challenges that life throws your way. However, this requires you to focus on developing your emotional coping skills to prepare yourself for these difficult moments of your life.
It is important that you prepare yourself by learning how to manage stress, anxiety, fear, frustration, guilt, anger and worry in more effective and productive ways. These are emotions you are likely to confront throughout your day. These emotions can either control you, or you can learn to manage them in ways that will help empower and strengthen you during difficult moments of your life.
Developing these important emotional coping skills will help you to take charge of your thoughts, behaviours and the decisions you make. This will provide you with certainty and confidence moving forward, and as a result, it will help raise your levels of self-esteem.
Take Credit for Your Successes
This is a straightforward idea. However, it can have a profoundly positive impact on raising your levels of self-esteem.
When you deflect credit for your successes, you deny yourself the opportunity to gain something of value from your experience. And because there is no psychological reward, there is no emotional gratification, and this will tend to keep you in a weak state-of-mind that provides you with no avenue for further emotional growth and development.
The moment you begin taking credit for your accomplishments, a whole new world of possibilities opens up for you. You begin developing higher levels of self-belief and self-confidence. This has a tendency to improve your ability to make decisions, and the better decisions you make, the more confidence and self-belief you will have. Taking credit for your accomplishments will focus your mind on what’s working and on all the positive aspects of your accomplishments.
It is not unusual to only focus on or take notice of the negatives, and this would only leave you feeling discouraged and unhappy. Therefore, taking credit for your successes, owning them, and embracing your accomplishments is a good step to building you self confidence. You have nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. Use this ongoing momentum to help you to permanently raise your levels of self-confidence and with it your self-esteem.
Focus on Solutions
Whenever things do not go as expected and you are tempted to get down, take notice of these changes and switch on your solution-focused mindset. First, recognize the positives of the situation, and then look for ways you can make things better to improve your circumstances. Solutions might not always be immediately evident, however with a curious mind, and a desire to ask the right kinds of solution-focused questions, you will eventually find the answers you are after.
If you are suffering from low self-esteem, it is easy to exaggerate the negatives and minimize the positives of your situation. It is also easy to underestimate your own ability, to doubt and criticize yourself, and to ignore the opportunities that may be present. On the other hand, it is difficult to see things in a positive light. In such instances, you might like to focus on reframing your circumstances differently or simply asking someone else for their unique point-of-view or perspective.
Other people might often see things very differently, and you can use their view of the situation to build the confidence you need to move forward.
Here are some questions you might like to ask yourself that will help you shift your perspective about the situation:
What conclusions and/or assumptions am I making about this situation?
How am I exaggerating the negatives?
How am I minimizing the positives?
How else could I view this? How else could I think about this?
How could I view this situation in a more positive and empowering way?
How would another person view this situation? What would they tell me? Who could I ask?
What are the potential opportunities here?
What is there to feel good about and grateful for?
What positive action could I take right now to help me work through this successfully?
By focusing on what you want, as-well-as on potential solutions and opportunities, you are putting yourself in a primary position to find the answers you need that will help you move forward in a positive way.
Avoid Limiting Language
Raising your self-esteem requires you to consciously take charge of your language. This includes your verbal language as well as your self-talk or the thoughts you tend to indulge in that make you feel absolutely miserable.
Focus on talking to yourself more positively and encouragingly. Yes, you might not have all the answers or the confidence you need to get your desired outcome, just yet. The answers and confidence will come over time, however, what is most important here, is that you get yourself into a positive frame-of-mind. Do this by focusing on your strengths, on your positive qualities, and on the things that you are able to control and/or influence in the moment. Once you feel that you have some form of control over your circumstances, this will give you the confidence you need to move forward in a more positive way.
Create or Join a Support Network
There are many groups and support networks out there both online and offline. Like-minded individuals who are going through the same challenges you are attempting to work through gives you a sense that you are not alone. They are there to support you, and you can be there to support them. Sometimes just by sharing your story and experience with a group of supportive individuals will help you find the confidence you need within yourself to move through difficult moments of your life.
Alternatively, you could join a sports team. Even if you are not a sporty person, just getting involved in sporting activities can do wonders for your self-esteem. Sport provides a social and very supportive environment that can help build the foundations for your growth and development on a physical and emotional level.
Update Your Knowledge and Skills
Often a lack of self-belief is a clear indication that you simply do not have the necessary skills, knowledge or experience required to excel in a certain area. For this very reason, it is important that you actually take the time to assess what kind of knowledge, skills or experience you might need moving forward that will help you improve your confidence within specific areas of your life.
Where do I want to feel a little more confident?
What kind of knowledge might I need in this area of my life?
What types of skills might I need to develop?
What kind of experience might I need to gain?
How will I acquire this knowledge, learn the skills, and gain the necessary experience?
What small steps could I take daily that will help me move forward confidently in this area of my life?
Raising your self-esteem will take time, and it will take gradual steps. It is important you commit yourself to taking a long-term view of your journey. Your short-term results might be inconsistent, however, if you remain focused on the bigger picture you will find the motivation you need to persevere through the short-term pain.
Spend Time Pampering Yourself
Take time for yourself. Take time to relax, to play, and to pamper yourself.Self care and self love is very important to ensure you reward yourself for your efforts. Maybe you could get a massage, go to a spa, relax in a steam room, or enjoy a nice warm bath. Not only will these moments give you time to relax, but they will also provide you with an opportunity to reflect and gain some perspective on your life’s choices, decisions, and actions. When you are relaxed, you will tend to think differently about circumstances, and this could potentially help you gain the perspective and confidence you need to make better decisions moving forward.
Creativity, Confidence, and Passion
It is very possible that the reason why you are suffering from low self-esteem is simply because you are focusing on the wrong things. Maybe all you need is to tune-in to your passions and your life’s purpose. Maybe you simply need to tap into your talents and strengths. Or just maybe you need to focus on activities you are good at and enjoy doing.
Take time to have a think about some of the things you are passionate about. Have a think about the activities you enjoy, and consider your talents, strengths and your core values. Within these areas, you will find the answers you need to build your life with purpose. Also, within these areas is where you will find your creative spirit.
Once you are living with purpose, you will find the confidence in yourself to do things that otherwise seemed very difficult and problematic. You will finally have the self-esteem you need to make those tough decisions and to take the chances that will help you improve your life for the better.
Set Inspiring Goals
To live with purpose, you need to set inspiring goals that keep you motivated and excited.
What’s something that inspires and motivates me to get out of bed in the morning?
How could I turn this passion into a concrete goal?
How will I go about pursuing this goal?
As you work towards your goal, keep track of your progress and thoughts within a journal. The act of putting your thoughts and problems down on paper will help you to more effectively work through any emotional challenges you might face along the way. In fact, use it as a tool for self-improvement and self-reflection.
Over time you will make progress. However, it is sometimes difficult to recognize these advances. This is where your journal comes in handy. Every week take some time to read over your thoughts and reflect upon the progress you have made and the lessons you have learned along the way. This by itself could provide you with the boost you need to raise your levels of self-esteem moving forward.
Make Better Decisions
Raising your self-esteem mainly comes down to making better choices throughout the day. Instead of choosing to accentuate the negatives, you choose instead to focus on the positives. Instead of exaggerating your problems, you choose instead to look for solutions. It all comes down to the choices you make.
To improve your choices, take the time to evaluate your behaviour, thoughts and the emotions you tend to experience on a daily basis. Keep track of these things within your journal and periodically assess how your behaviours, thoughts, and emotions are influencing the choices and decisions you make. The insights you gain from this exercise could help you make better choices in the future. And the better the choices you make, the higher the levels of self-esteem you are likely to experience.
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We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done. – Henry Longfellow
What Exactly is a Self-Concept?
A self-concept is an understanding we have of ourself that is based on our personal experiences, body image, our thoughts, and how we tend to label ourself in various situations.
A self-concept can also be defined as an all-encompassing awareness we had of ourself in the past; the awareness we have of ourself in the present, and the expectations we have of ourself at a future time.
Our self-concept is built upon how we perceive ourself based on the knowledge we have gained over a lifetime of experiences.
A self-concept is a perception we have of our image, abilities, and [in some ways] of our own individual uniqueness.
This perception we have of ourself is based on the information we have gathered about our values, life roles, goals, skills, and abilities over time.
Our self-concept is a collection of beliefs we have about our own nature, qualities, and behaviour. It is about how we think and evaluate ourself at any given moment in time.
To truly understand what a self-concept is and its impact on our life, we first need to break down the three components of a self-concept. These three components are based on the work of Humanist Psychologist Carl Rogers.
Our Self Image
Our self-image comes down to how we see ourself in the present moment. This includes the labels we give ourself about our personality and the beliefs we have about how the external world perceives we.
It is, however, important to note that our self-image is not necessarily based on reality. For example, a person with anorexia may have a self-image that makes them believe they are obese, however, in reality, that is far from the truth.
Given this, it is crucial to recognize that a self-image is only our own perception of ourself and has no real basis in reality.
Our self-ideal is how we wish we could be at a future time. This is our ideal self or the ideal person we envision of being and becoming. Often times, how people see themselves and how they would like to see themselves does not quite match up. This is precisely what causes problems and often leads to self-sabotaging behaviour patterns and emotional struggles.
Our self-esteem encompasses our current emotional experiences. It refers to the extent to which we like or approve of ourself or the extent to which we value ourself. We might, for example, have a positive or negative view of ourself. When we have a unfavourable view of ourself, we are seen as having low self-esteem. This often manifests in a lack of confidence and pessimism.
On the other hand, when we have a favourable view of ourself we are seen as having high self-esteem. This often manifests in a confident disposition, self-acceptance, and optimism.
A healthy self-concept will help us to get ahead in life. It will allow us to maximize our potential and get the most from our strengths, talents, and abilities. A weak self-concept on the other hand, will hinder our progress. In fact, a fragile self-concept will most likely lead to self-sabotaging behaviour. As a result, we will struggle to follow through with our actions. Subsequently, we will fail to achieve the goals and objectives we set for ourself.
The Value of a Healthy Self-Concept
The value of having a healthy self-concept becomes more evident when we recognize how much it influences our ability to manage our emotional experiences. However, it does not stop there. A healthy self-concept also determines how far we will step outside our comfort zone to solve a problem or achieve a goal. It also influences how we utilize our physiology while confronting challenges, obstacles, and problems.
A healthy self-concept impacts the questions we typically ask ourself each day. It also affects how we interact with people, how we think about ourself, others, and circumstances.
When we put all this together, our self-concept effectively determines what we will do or choose not to do at any given moment in time. It, therefore, influences our inherent potential to do, be, have and achieve our desired objectives.
The Forces Influencing Our Self-Concept
There are a number of forces that shape our self-concept and, therefore, impact its health and vitality over time.
Some of these forces come from internal sources, while other forces come from external sources.
Internal sources include what we think about ourself and/or others, what we pay attention to, how we interpret the events and circumstances of our life, and how we reframe both failure and success.
External sources include the environment we spend most of our time in, our interactions with others, and how other people tend to label us.
The most important thing to note here is the impact that other people have on our self-concept.
Through rejection, judgment, ridicule, and criticism, other people often influence how we feel about ourself, the labels we give ourself, and fundamentally what we believe about ourself, about our own abilities, and the world around us.
In many ways, our self-worth is tied to the people in our life. Therefore, if we are struggling with an unhealthy self-concept, then it could very well be a direct result of the interactions we have with other people.
The bad news is that all of these internal and external sources have a profound impact on our self-concept. The good news is that starting today, we can begin taking affirmative and proactive action to improve our self-concept and optimize how we live our life.
Tell-tale Signs that We Have an Unhealthy Self-Concept
An unhealthy self-concept is something that often drags us down in life. It’s something that limits our opportunities, denies we access to essential resources, and undermines our potential.
An unhealthy self-concept implies that we have a low value of ourself. When we have a low value of ourselves we typically lack the confidence needed to move boldly in the direction of our goals. Without self-confidence, we lack the resourcefulness needed to overcome uncertainty, to solve problems, and to effectively manage change.
Life rapidly gets overwhelming and difficult to bear. We struggle with our emotions and make poor decisions. Everything essentially becomes a struggle and things really should not be this way.
Our unhealthy self-concept is getting in the way of living our life to our best potential. It is filtering out the reality of how life is and creating an alternate reality that we have unfortunately accepted as the truth.
What is more is that we become so caught up in our own lives, that it is difficult to pinpoint whether or not we are actually struggling with a weak self-concept.
There are, however, specific signs to look out for that can help us identify whether or not we are struggling with a weak self-concept.
We likely have a weak self-concept when we…
- Fail to give affection.
- Always compare ourself to other people.
- Succumb to jealousy.
- Consistently reject compliments.
- Perpetually criticise ourself and others.
- Indulge in negative self-talk that manifests in pessimism.
- Persistently suffer from guilt about what we could, should, or would have done.
- Undermine our own personal needs in favour of other people’s needs.
- Suffer from poor emotional and physical health.
Taken individually these symptoms do not signify that we have a poor self-concept. However, if you have ticked 3 or 4 items off this list, then it is probably a clear indication that your self-concept has taken a hit.
If we have a low self-concept, then it is time to commit yourself to upgrading your thoughts, beliefs, decisions, and actions moving forward. Only in this way will you transform your self-concept and optimize how you live your life.
Given all this, it is important to note that all these signs are nothing more than defensive mechanisms that protect us from emotional harm.
Our body and mind are doing their best to cope with life, events, and circumstances. However, frequently these coping strategies do not quite work to our advantage.
What is worse is that we might succumb to indulging in limiting behaviours in a feeble attempt to feel better about ourself.
- Shift into “denial mode” and deny that anything is wrong despite evidence to the contrary.
- Make assumptions and/or justifications that are not based on fact but rather on our biased “rose-coloured” view of reality.
- Launch into a verbal barrage where we attack ourself and others based on false perceptions of how we see things.
- Choose to bask in negativity. Life sucks as it is, so why not just wallow in self-pity and experience the full brunt of our negative feelings?
- Try and avoid people and circumstances by distracting ourself with addictions and other unhealthy habitual behaviours.
All of these semi-coping strategies might provide us with some semblance of control. They may even provide us with some relief and temporary satisfaction. However, in the long-run, they will only hurt us. We will hurt because we struggle to face the reality of our situation.
We are incapable of facing the truth and without the truth, we won’t make the necessary changes that will transform our self-concept and help us take charge of our life.
How to Improve Our Self-Concept
Transforming our self-concept won’t be easy. In fact, it will take a great deal of patience, time, and effort.
Along this journey, we will likely need to release old habits, limiting beliefs, and unhelpful thoughts. We will essentially need to question the value of how we have been living our life, which includes the choices and decisions we have been making.
If the choices we make are not stretching our comfort zone and pushing us toward our goals then change is something that needs to be on the horizon.
Even though this journey and the inevitable transformation will not be easy, it will, however, be worth your while.
No longer will we be at the mercy of our rose-coloured view of reality. Instead, we will have taken control. With control comes confidence and with confidence comes potential to transform our life with purpose.
It is important to note that the quality of our life is a direct reflection of our emotional state of mind. What this means is that when our emotions are healthy and serving our greater good, then the quality of our life will likewise improve.
Our life improves because life always comes down to the emotional experiences we choose to indulge in. When our emotional experiences are of a healthy and positive nature, this improves the quality of our thoughts. As our thoughts improve so do our choices, decisions, and actions. When we make better choices, we get better results. With improved outcomes, we feel immeasurably better about ourself and when we feel better about ourself, our self-concept grows stronger.
That is, in essence, the key that will help transform a poor self-concept into something that can help optimize how we live the rest of our life.
Lets have a look at the steps we can take to Improve our Self-Concept
Step 1: Make a Personal Contract
Before we begin working through these suggestions, it’s imperative that the very first thing we do is make a personal contract.
Write up a contract with yourself that gives You the green light to initiate the process of change.
Things must change…
I am responsible for this change…
I am committed to making this change…
If for any reason you are unable to tick-off all three boxes, then you are just not ready to instigate change yet.
Let us look at this in a little more detail.
Firstly, acknowledge that changes need to be made. If you are unable to admit that there is something wrong, then there is no point moving forward with this process.
Secondly, you need to take responsibility for making these changes. Nobody is responsible for your life but YOU. Without YOU this can not be done. Only You can make this decision. If at any point you feel or believe or think that someone else is going to or should be involved in this process for you or with you – You are not ready to initiate changes yet.
Thirdly, you must be committed to making the necessary changes to improve our life. Without commitment, there is no motivation and without motivation, there just are just not enough reasons for you to initiate change. You need to know WHY you need to and want to make the changes. Without a solid WHY to keep you motivated things will fall apart.
You therefore, need to acknowledge that things must change, You need to take responsibility for this change, and You need to commit yourself to follow through with the change.
Once you have ticked all three of these boxes, you will be ready to take the first step along your journey toward a healthier self-concept.
Step 2: Discover Who We Are then Bridge the Gap!
Your next step to transforming your self-concept is to discover who you are.
Now, on the surface, this might seem kind of silly. We already know who we are, right? I am me and yo are you! We are a physical beings living a life that is uniquely ours. However, below the surface, we are in reality so much more than that.
So, my question is, do you honestly know who you really are?
What we are going to try and do here is identify the gap between “who we are” and “who we are seeking to become.”
To strengthen our self-concept, we must figure out how to bridge this gap successfully. We must essentially merge the ME [YOU] in the NOW together with the ME[YOU] in the FUTURE.
This, of course, is not going to be easy. In fact, there will always be some kind of discrepancy. This is important to understand because without a discrepancy there is no motivation to grow and develop ourselves over time.
However, if this discrepancy is too significant between the YOU of today and the YOU that you desire to become in the future then your self-concept will never bloom into its full potential. There must, therefore, be congruence, or otherwise, self-actualization is impossible.
With this in mind, take time to answer the following questions:
Who am I?
Who am I really?
Who am I physically?
Who am I socially?
Who am I emotionally?
Who am I spiritually?
Who am I in terms of my accomplishments?
Who am I in terms of my failures and mistakes?
Who am I in terms of my goals?
Who am I in terms of my social roles?
Who am I really? Why?
Who am I not? Why not?
The purpose of these questions is to identify how we see ourself in the present moment and then compare that against the final set of questions laid out below. The final set of questions focuses on what kind of person we are seeking to become.
As we go through each question, we will gain various insights and perspectives into who we are. And that is perfectly okay. Embrace these differences, because this is in essence how we see ourself each day.
It is also important to note that there are no incorrect answers. Things are the way they are.
What is most relevant here is whether or not these answers are congruent with the answers we give to the following set of questions:
Who am I ideally seeking to become?
How do I see myself in the future?
What kind of person is this person? What is this person like?
What kinds of qualities does this person have?
How does this person think?
How does this person talk to themselves?
What kind of questions does this person ask themselves?
What kind of emotions does this person experience?
What kind of habits does this person indulge in?
What experiences does this person have each day?
What kind of goals is this person working towards?
What kind of person is this person really?
Our ideal self must be congruent with our perceived self in the present moment.
If there is a significant difference between the two, then we must work on bridging that gap thereby strengthening our self-concept.
Let’s take a closer look at that gap.
What is the gap between my perceived self and my ideal self?
Where is the gap most significant?
Where is the gap not so significant?
Is the distance between the gap realistic?
How could I begin bridging this gap starting today?
Our objective for the remainder of this journey is to begin bridging that gap between our ideal self and the self we are experiencing at this very moment.
The more congruent both of these “selves” are, the stronger and healthier our self-concept will become.
Before moving on, I do have a few words of caution.
Our self-ideal must be realistic and achievable otherwise, we will struggle to meet our highest standards of performance. Subsequently, our self-concept will continue to suffer.
The key therefore is to ensure that our self-ideal is not entirely out of this world at least not at the beginning.
Given this, be sure to look at your standards and expectations to make them more achievable. Only when you reach these set standards and expectations should you incrementally raise the bar higher.
Remember though that your self-image is often not based on reality BUT rather based on your interpretation of reality.
Therefore, if your self-image is based on false assumptions or distorted perspectives, then you will first need to work through these issues before moving through the process outlined here.
Our discussion here is more about using this process to help build our self-confidence so that we can then take the necessary action steps to achieve our desired goals and objectives.
Time to Make Some Key Changes to Improve Our Self-Concept
Below you will find numerous suggestions and guidelines to help you transform your self-concept. Some of these suggestions are easy and quick to implement, while others might take a little time.
What is, however, crucial here is what you focus on while making these changes. This essentially comes down to three fundamental things:
- Changing Your habits of thought.
- Changing Your self-talk.
- Changing Your belief systems.
No matter how we proceed, every particular change we desire to make comes down to just these three fundamental things.
No matter what ideas we decide to implement, be sure to always keep in mind how these changes can be made in relation to your thoughts, self-talk, and the belief systems that govern your subconscious behaviour.
Let us work through the following ideas and this will start making more sense.
Our first objective is to look within and become very consciously aware of our daily thoughts, self-talk, belief systems, psychological rules, and the questions we tend to ask.
Are my thoughts aligned with my self-image?
What kind of thoughts do I allow myself to dwell upon?
What are these thoughts doing to me?
How do these thoughts make me feel?
How do I tend to talk to myself?
What questions do I tend to ask myself?
What are the consequences of my self-talk and the questions I ask myself?
What do I tend to believe about myself?
What do I tend to believe about my abilities?
Is this congruent with my self-ideal?
How does all this make me feel?
How do these “rules” influence my daily undertakings?
Are all these things congruent with my self-ideal?
How can I make the necessary adjustments to match my self-image with my self-ideal?
Our objective is to reach congruence in these areas.
Our self-image will never directly align with our self-ideal. However, we can certainly make the necessary adjustments to our mindset to move in the right direction.
To assist you with this transition process, it is necessary to give yourself time for meditation and visualization.
Meditation will help clear the clutter in your brain. It will encourage you to think and act more mindfully throughout the day. This will subsequently improve your ability to make effective decisions. Visualization, can provide you with the necessary vision you need to better understand your future direction. This will likewise help you lay down a much clearer path toward your desired outcomes.
Remember, that how we think about things has a lot to do with our perceptions and interpretations of reality.
Interpreting things one way will give you access to a particular set of resources and opportunities. However, interpreting things another way will provide you with access to a different set of resources and opportunities. Ironically, it might even deny you access altogether.
It is therefore paramount to keep in mind that how we frame and/or reframe our experiences essentially determines what we gain or lose from those experiences.
Therefore, when problems arise, it is not what happens to us, but how we interpret what happens that makes all the difference.
Transforming Our Physiology
When it comes to our physiology, it is important to remind ourselves that the body and mind are intrinsically connected.
What this means is that how we think and how we emotionalize our experience influences how we use our physiology. Likewise, how we use our physiology influences how we think and emotionalize our experiences. These are both interconnected, and therefore what we do to one directly influences the other.
With that in mind, have a think about your body and how you use it throughout the day. Do you move your body with confidence, or do you tend to move it sluggishly? What about your breath and posture? What is that like? How active are you during the day or do you tend to spend your days confined to a specific room or area without much movement?
By making small adjustments to our physiology, we will indirectly influence our inner world. As our inner world changes we will begin bridging the gap between where we are today and our ideal self.
Improve Your Lifestyle Choices
Try this little exercise. Close your eyes and see Your Ideal Self. What do you look like?
When it comes to your lifestyle, you need to start making some choices that will help move you toward your ideal self.
What kind of life does my ideal self live?
How often does my ideal self exercise?
What kind of food does my ideal self eat?
What kind of environment does my ideal self spend the majority of time in?
What does my ideal self spend time on?
How does my ideal self tend to work? Where? On what?
What kind of lifestyle choices does my ideal self make?
How can I begin bridging the lifestyle gap between where I am today and my ideal self of tomorrow?
As we go through these questions, we will get a strong sense of the changes we might need to make to bridge the gap between where we are today and our ideal self.
Above all else, keep reminding yourself that it is all about reaching a state of congruence where your current self (self-image) matches your future self (self-ideal) on as many levels as possible.
Strengthen Your Self-Confidence
When we have an unhealthy self-concept, we will typically struggle with our self-confidence.
If we struggle with self-confidence, we are often very susceptible to falling prey to rejection, to criticism, to judgment, and to the influence of others.
To strengthen our self-confidence, we need to explore self-love. Before we can feel confident in the external world, we must first find confidence in ourself and that comes through self-love.
Self-love means fully accepting ourself despite your flaws, despite our weaknesses, and despite our inadequacies. It means feeling comfortable in our own skin no matter what we look like or how we feel. To find our self-love, spend time with yourself. However, do not just spend time watching mindless television, actually, spend time pampering ourself. Get a massage, enjoy a hot sauna, go for a nature walk, etc.
First and foremost, the key is to reconnect with yourself. It is only when we have found that connection with yourself that you will tap into your true sense of confidence.
Gain Relevant Knowledge and Skills
Your ideal self-has certain skills, knowledge, and abilities. Identify what these things are and then go to work acquiring the relevant knowledge and skills you need to help bridge the gap between your self-image and your self-ideal.
You will often find the information you need in books, by taking courses, by volunteering your time to a cause, or by connecting with people who already have the knowledge and skill you desire.
You could, get a mentor or life coach. Find someone who could guide you along your journey toward your self-ideal.
Build Your Support Network
As we work on developing our knowledge and skills, we will most certainly need support along our journey. We will need people to help us through the tough times and struggles. We will need people that can be relied upon for emotional support and we will need people who will accept us unconditionally without strings attached. 😉
These people must, be positive, inspiring, creative, passionate, and caring. They must be giving and generous, joyful, and happy souls. These are the kinds of people that should comprise your support network.
Our support network might, be made up of friends, colleagues, family members, life coaches and/or mentors. These people will be there to prop you up when you are facing difficulties. They will be there to help keep you motivated, focused, and inspired as you make progress toward our ideal self. Your support network will be your voice of reason, and your sanity check and most of all these are the people who will hold you accountable.
Use your support network for guidance and direction. However, don’t give up control of your own life by putting your destiny in other people’s hands. This will never work out well in the long-run. You must be in charge of your own choices and decisions. To be in charge means not concerning yourself with what others think. It means not worrying about criticism or rejection and it means not comparing ourself with others.
We are all on our own unique path. Our support network is there to support us, but ultimately we make the final decision that determines the direction we will take.
Set Inspiring Goals
Having inspiring goals means that our life has purpose and meaning. This keeps us motivated and active. However, we don’t just want to set random goals. We actually want to set goals that match our self-ideal.
So ask ourself:
What goals is my ideal self working towards?
What purpose is my ideal self striving for?
What inspires and motivates my ideal self?
Once you have your answers to these questions, set some inspiring goals and lay down a plan of action that will help you bridge the gap between where you are today and where you ideally would like to be in the future.
Building a healthy and robust self-concept no doubt takes some work and consistent effort. In fact, it takes time. This is not something that we can build or transform overnight. Likewise, it is not something that we work through once and then forget about for the rest of our life.
Transforming our self-concept is something that we need to work on consistently over time. It is something that must continuously change and evolve as we reach new milestones along our life’s journey.
This journey certainly does not need to be difficult. There is no need to complete this process in one go, or even set timeframes to it. Take your time. Set small daily objectives, and over many weeks, months and years you will make considerable progress as you sculpt who you are and whom you desire to become.
Was this article helpful? – What skills or techniques have you used to transform your concept? Leave a comment I would love to hear from you.