I talk to myself a lot. Sometimes out loud. Sometimes in the mirror. I treat myself as if I were my own friend. I give myself advice, provide reassurance, and constantly strategize and consult with myself.
Self-improvement is tough. Getting what you want is tough because sometimes you want certain things even more. Mainly, as bad as you want to improve your life and reach your goals, you want to avoid rejection, embarrassment, and uncertainty more. To get through this process, you have to be in your own corner. Consult with yourself always. Use some of these phrases and be your own best ally.
How many times have you looked at a situation in the past and wish you made a better decision? Definitely more times than you can count. As much as you’d like to go back and change things, you just can’t. Also, it doesn’t do you any good to beat yourself up about bad decisions, even if they were really bad.
It’s important to remember this phrase when it comes to the past:
I did the best I could at the time with what you knew.
Does this mean you couldn’t have done any better? Of course not. But it does mean that you’re not deeply flawed just because you made some of the wrong choices. There could be times where you made a bad decision because the scripts in your mind told you it was the right thing to do at the time, e.g., choose a stable job even though you hate it now.
I look at a lot of my youthful indiscretions this way. In a way, making very bad decisions like selling drugs made sense at the time. I was broke, needed money, and selling drugs seemed to be the quickest and most efficient way to get it. When I got married to a woman I knew I didn’t want to be with deep down, it seemed like the right thing to do for our child.
Hindsight is 20/20. Yes, we sabotage ourselves at times. Sometimes we know our decisions are bad before we make them. But always remember that these decisions made sense to us in some sort of way. Explore those reasons and analyze the past instead of beating yourself up about it.
Sometimes you just look up and your life and think, “What the hell happened?” I’ve felt that way plenty of times. I felt that way after some of those decisions I just mentioned. I’ve used this phrase over and over again to not just get over the past, but make better decisions moving forward.
This is where I’m at and I have to deal with it.
Every moment you spent wishing things were different is a moment you could’ve spent figuring out what needs to be done in the present to change your life. If you’re in a hole, it’s best to stop digging and figure out a way to climb out of it, no matter how deep it is.
I found myself in several holes at one point in my life. $10/hr job, a convicted felon, college dropout, $70,000 in debt. I could have easily taken the route I saw others around me taking — resigning to their circumstances because the mountain was too steep to climb. But I used that phrase and decided what would be done now to make things better.
My life changed when I reached a point of full acceptance. I messed up and it was what it was. There came a day where I started to make necessary changes, something as simple as picking up a book can make a world of difference. There were several days where my day-to-day actions didn’t pay off yet, but I had to stay focused on what needed to be done in the present.
It can take months or years to turn things around fully. But the more present you are on each day in that path, the quicker the time will pass. Next thing you know, you’ll have made a full 180.
Context matters when it comes to self-improvement. There are so many variables in what makes up one person’s life that the idea of life being fair is laughable. Sometimes you get advantages and disadvantages purely through luck, your genetic makeup, your environment, tons of different factors.
When it comes to disadvantages that occurred through no fault of your own, this phrase comes in handy:
It’s not my fault, but it is my responsibility.
Here’s the thing. I’m all for leveling the playing field as much as possible. But I also know that you and I don’t have time to wait for that leveling to happen. This is what so many people just don’t understand. They focus on the way they think the world should work vs. the way that it actually works.
There’s no question that it’s unfair for you to take certain responsibilities, but taking responsibility still makes the most sense most of the time because it gives you more power to change your life. There’s another saying “You can have freedom, but it comes at the cost of responsibility.”
Most people don’t want full responsibility because you have nowhere to turn but the mirror when things don’t go your way. Shirking responsibility or even rightfully pointing the finger at injustice can be used as a coping mechanism that keeps you trapped but at least gives you some sense of solace.
You have to give up your addiction to solace if you want to be free. Stop looking for messages that make you feel good but don’t give you room to change. Notice how all of the reassuring messages in this post inevitably lead to you making changes in your life instead of continuing to dwell.
The short term is volatile and unpredictable. There’s no way to tell exactly when your efforts will pay off. But, usually, in the long run, they will.
Embrace this phrase:
“The universe will catch up to my effort.”
Sometimes I use phrases like ‘the universe’ ‘energy’ and ‘vibes’ as metaphors for how putting the right energy out there will eventually come back to you. Other times, I feel them in a literal way. There’s just something about focusing on improving your life that just seems to attract positive energy and opportunity.
When I first started working at personal development, my demeanor changed, which changed the way people responded to me. I can’t count how many times I ran into people that said something along the lines of “There’s something about you. You’re going places.”
I didn’t know where I was going at the time, but I knew good things would happen if I continued to learn and grow. Some opportunity would pop up. I’d be successful somehow, even if I didn’t know exactly how.
Fast forward a few years and the universe has caught up to my effort — I discovered my passion, turned it into a living, and got my freedom. This process took a half-decade, but it worked. This is where faith comes in. You shouldn’t just have blind faith that your future will be better. I’m not talking about focusing on the secret without doing any actual work.
But if you focus on getting a little better and a little smarter each day and have ideas in your mind you execute on, good things will happen. Rarely does someone dedicate years to a meaningful life path or project without some good results. The word ‘years’ is the crucial element. Remember that.
I get it. Getting your life together and building a dream seems like it might elude you for your entire life. There are so many times you feel that wave of motivation where you really feel like this is it, but then you stumble and fail again. You start to question whether or not your dreams will ever happen, whether or not you’re really capable, whether or not you’re going to end up living with regrets at the end of your life.
For most people, this translates into resignation. See, it takes energy to have hope. Hope can drain you if you keep hoping for better life without getting any results. Often, people give up because at least you get some sense of relief. You no longer have to experience the tension that comes from wanting something and not having it. The allure of settling is strong. And, honestly, for some people, it probably is the best option.
I’m not one of those gurus who says you must pursue your dreams. You don’t have to do anything. But, if you still have hope and you’re not ready to give up, just remember this:
“It ain’t over til it’s over.”
Life can be a lot like sports. Take basketball for example. They call it a game of runs. Often, teams will go through streaks where they either heavily outscore or get outscored by the other team. The key difference between the teams that make comebacks and the ones that don’t is the way they perceive being down in a game.
Some teams just fold because they think the lead is insurmountable. Other teams go all out because, in a weird way, there’s less pressure on them. They figure they’re already down so much that they might as well go all in and see what happens. Be like that second team.
Been living your life in a way you don’t want to live for years? Screw it. There’s no pressure on you. Not all that much to lose. You could start your next run, right now. In sports, those comebacks can start with a play that energizes the team. They score a few baskets.
Figure out what that looks like for you. It could take nothing more than a string of consecutive good weeks to change your entire life. I know from experience. So, as cliche, as it sounds, try starting today. See what happens. Maybe you can do well again tomorrow. Then a week. Then a month. Who knows? Maybe you just might change your life.
Worth a shot, isn’t it?