Growth requires change

An image of a hand holding a small green shoot

One of the hardest steps to growth is making change.

But it doesn’t mean that we have to make massive change all in one go.

Changes that kickstart growth can be a simple as mixing up your daily routine. Such as getting up 20 mins earlier, going for a walk straight after work, or writing a meal plan before the new week starts.

All good growth – and by that I mean growth that you can sustain – begins with making those small incremental differences.  These are the things which build confidence, or change habits.

And they are also a way to boost momentum and get you moving to the next step, and the next after that.

Often what people find hardest about change, is that they try to do too much at once.  This is when you find that you haven’t properly planned it, or anticipated the time you need to commit properly.  And we convince ourselves that we can’t do it, or it’s going to be too hard.

So try making one small change this week.  It doesn’t have to be too drastic.  Not life changing in the short term, but something that over time will help you build a more positive habit.

You can do hard things….gradually!

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Why self development is all about the domino effect

An image of a row of dominoes about to be knocked over

No, this isn’t a homage to my favourite game as a child.  (But it was all about Domino Rally in the 80’s!).

It is in fact a great visual reminder of how things impact on another.  And in the case of self development, this works in both positive and negative ways.

I’ve had a busy couple of months with work and study, and I’ve let the non-essential things slip.  Such as exercises and eating healthily.  One missed gym class became a week of missed classes.  One convenience meal became a daily pattern of snacking and making poor meal choices.

I say the non-essential things, because we often assume that they aren’t that important, right?  These are the things that we can put off thinking about until tomorrow, or the weekend, or next week.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said next week I’m getting back to the gym every day, or I’m going to cook every meal from scratch.  And if I’m honest, I usually get annoyed with myself when I don’t get things done.

Going for the ‘boom or bust’ approach of “I have to do all the things at once” isn’t helpful either.  Often, we start off really motivated and focussed, and with all good intentions.   But then work happens, or social events happen or, well, life happens – and we’ve skipped a few days, or  week, and we start off back at where we started.

The most successful approach to any habit, is to take it gradually.  To build up patterns and routine, to ease ourselves in and build our confidence.

It really is the small actions we take each day that add up.  And it’s much easier to maintain small actions, rather than tackling an overwhelming amount of stuff all at the same time.

So if you’re thinking about making some changes, try and visualise the domino effect.  Small action can create movement and progress.  It’s never wasted!

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How often do you try and predict the future?

An image of a crystal ball

Planning and preparation can help us to anticipate problems, and give us the chance to make adjustments if we see something on the horizon which could be a problem.

But we can also become too distracted or focused on the ‘what ifs’…and end up creating new problems for ourselves.

Trying to find that balance can be hard.  We want to do our best and avoid any pitfalls, but in doing so, we lose sight of the here and now.  Maybe we appear distracted or not interested in what is going on around us.  Or we freeze and can’t take action, because we’ve built up all of these scenarios of failure in our minds.

Try and notice how much time you spend on the ‘what if’ scenarios…and whether you’re thinking too much about what ‘might’ happen, rather than what ‘is’ happening.

Being able to recognise these thought patterns is the first and most important step.

 

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No one is born an expert

Characature of Albert Einstein

No one is born an expert.  Not even this guy!

One of the biggest buzz-kills to motivation is the false belief that we have to be brilliant at something.   It’s as if we can’t fail, otherwise “what’s the point?”.

If you recognise that you have high expectations of yourself whenever you attempt something new, you might have had these thoughts before too.

Putting so much pressure on ourselves from the outset can be a barrier for attempting to learn new skills or put ourselves out there.  We fear looking like a novice or beginner, or worry that other people might notice our weaknesses.

We all want to feel successful at new things, especially if we put time and effort into something.

But if we’re willing to accept being a learner for a while, it can really help when we feel rewarded for our hard work by noticing our improvements and progress.  These incremental gains can help to build motivation and give us the incentive to keep going.

Go on, dare to try something new…and be willing to learn along the way!

 

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Motivation isn’t like a light switch

An image of a light switch that can be flicked on and off

How do you view motivation?  Is it all or nothing?  Either all ‘go’ or all ‘no’.  It can be helpful to remember, motivation isn’t like a light switch.

We can easily talk ourselves out of things when we feel less motivated,  and the more we do it, the more difficult it can be to overcome it.

If you can think back to a time where you’ve struggled to get motivated with something, can you remember how you felt about yourself?  I’m guessing it was pretty negatively.

We can start to blame ourselves for things going wrong and the more we avoid situations or taking action, then we are at risk of starting to see ourselves as a failure.   This type of thinking gets us believing that motivation is something we either have or don’t have. And if we don’t have it in that moment, we blame ourselves.

In reality, there are a lot of different factors that impact on our motivation, and it’s normal to feel more or less motivated at different times.  Even when it’s something important or enjoyable.

So if you notice that your motivation is a little unpredictable, go easy on yourself.

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How conscious are you about your behaviour?

An image of a water wheel

How conscious are you about your behaviour?  

If you’re someone who is actively going after a goal, then you are probably already aware of the impact of your behaviour.   You should have an idea of the input required to get you to where you want to be, and are taking steps to modify your behaviour to get you there.

But often we go about our daily lives, just ‘getting things done’.  We might not give a great deal of thought to it.

In CBT, the role of our behaviour is key to understanding not only why we have certain issues, but also how we might be maintaining them.

In other words, how we behave might be contributing to the fact that the problem doesn’t seem to be getting better.

You might notice for example that if you are feeling low in mood, then you might start cancelling plans or you might not have the motivation to do things you used to enjoy.  Things feel more of a chore than usual.

Or alternatively, you might recognise these change in behaviours as an indicator that you’ve been taking on too much and need to rebalance.

This month, I’m looking at some of the common behaviours that can have a big impact on how we feel…whether we’re conscious of them or not.

Identifying behaviours that might be impacting or holding us back, is a key first step in making change.  But with a few small tweaks, they can make all the difference.

 

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Where Is Fear Leading You?

Do you feel that you are being led, rather than leading?

If so, this could be an indication that fear is running the show.

Sometimes we’re aware of it, but often we’re not.  There are so many fears that can impact on how we feel, without us knowing.

Fear of failure, fear of getting it wrong, fear of looking silly or incompetent. These are all quite common.

But so is a fear of being stuck, a fear of not reaching our potential or getting left behind.

Fear in that sense can be helpful. Because it highlights what will happen if we don’t act.  In other words, we’ll stay exactly where we are.  And that can be the scariest thought of all.

Fear is there to teach us something

So don’t be scared of fear.  Fear can be good.  Use it to motivate and move yourself.  Use it to make positive changes towards the life you want. Not the life you feel stuck in.

As Susan Jeffers famously wrote, “Feel the fear and do it anyway!”

 

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Don’t allow self doubt to hold you back

One of the most common, but unhelpful, thinking patterns is self doubt.

When things go wrong, or don’t go to plan, it is so easy for us to look within ourselves as the first point of blame.

Once we get stuck in that cycle, it can be harmful and upsetting.  And we can become fearful of putting ourselves out there again.

If you recognise that self blame is something that you notice in your own thought patterns, try asking some reflective questions:

Is what’s happened within my control?

What did I do, or not do, that affected this outcome?

What could I do differently next time?

Do I need some help or practice in order for me to do that?

Learn to coach yourself

Any good coach would take you through this process of reflective learning, in order to help you grow and develop.

By being able to practice this kind of reflection on yourself, you can take back control over how you react, and how you will act in future.

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Great expectations

It’s great to have an active and positive imagination. But at times, we can also be our own worst enemy.

We build up ideas and expectations of how things should be. Either from putting unrealistic pressure on ourselves, or by judging our abilities in comparison to someone else.

If we’re planning to make changes or work towards a goal, we need to make sure that what we’re reaching for is achievable for us, given the time, resources and ability that we have available.

Setting ourselves up to fail

One of the biggest ways we sabotage ourselves is by having unrealistic or unachievable targets. And so it’s no wonder we feel disheartened. And then we can start looking for faults within ourselves to blame when things aren’t going to plan.

That’s why it is much easier to set small incremental goals – so that we can adjust and adapt accordingly. If we set out to do too much too soon, or set ourselves deadlines or end goals that are not going to happen, then we risk giving up altogether.

Also, being honest with ourselves and our current ability can help. If we’re trying to learn something new, or overcome a habit that has become stuck, then it will take work. And we will get things wrong.

So before you start something, get really clear on your expectations. Yes, set yourself challenges or look to stretch yourself, but be fair. There are enough people in the world who want to see us fail…don’t let yourself be one of them.

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What are you thinking?

How often do you think about your thoughts?

It probably isn’t something we think about very often, is it? If anything, we’re probably too busy trying to work out what someone else is thinking, rather than ourselves.

So, I have a really simple exercise for you this week.

Set yourself a timer for the same time every day this week, where you know you can take a few minutes out of your day to ask yourself this question. “What are you thinking?”

You don’t have to spend a long time on it, but just get a general feel of what takes up space in your head as you go about your day. If you can, write down a few notes or record a voice note for yourself.

The things that come up might feel surprising or informative. You might be particularly stressed about something you’re doing at that moment, or you could be pleased and excited, thinking about something good. You might be running over a list of things to do, or worrying about something. Your mind might be peace and at rest.

By keeping a daily track like this, it might give you some interesting insight into the things that go through your mind. And if there is a similar theme cropping up, that can be really helpful too.

We often have a narrative running through our heads, and this can often be negative. “Why did I do that?”. “I bet they think I’m useless”. “I always get things wrong”. Recognise any of these? We’ve all been guilty of this self criticism at times.

But when this narrative is playing on repeat, it can have a really harmful effect on how we feel and how we behave. We might stop putting ourselves forward for things, or we become more withdrawn, out of fear of doing or saying the wrong thing, for example.

The sooner we’re able to identify some of the more negative or unhelpful thought patterns, the easier it is to challenge and change them.

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