You certainly want to grow, you want to be the best version of you possible. But you seem to stumble more frequently than you would like in that quest. And often, your struggles are of your own making.
It raises the question, are we really our own worst enemy like they say?
We certainly can be.
Whether you believe it or not, you have the greatest impact on your own life. Not your parents, not society, not happenstance.
And we use that power for evil more than we'd like to admit.
I certainly fall victim to this particular problem.
For literally 25 years I have been studying Spanish off and on. It has been a goal of mine to be fluent for about 15 of those years.
In that time, I have traveled to Spanish-speaking countries, purchased various language-learning products, tried all the "best" apps, watched countless Telenovelas, and listened to tons of music in Spanish (in fact, as I write this I'm listening to Moscas En La Casa by Shakira). And that doesn't even mention the classes I have taken in junior high and high school, the 16 hours I took in college, and the Spanish for lawyers class I took in law school.
The sum of all that: I'm still not fluent. I can get around if you drop me in a Spanish-speaking country, but that's not my goal.
The problem has not been lack of opportunity (I live in Texas where if I wanted to, I could find someone who speaks Spanish to talk to everyday) or lack of information (there are as many tools as you want available in whatever form you want to learn Spanish). The problem has been me. I've gotten in my own way. I have not applied the areas discussed below to language acquisition.
The good news is, that I can apply the steps below to language acquisition and complete my decades long quest to be fluent in Spanish, and you can use them to ensure your success in whatever growth you are trying to create in your life.
For all the reasons we can be our worst enemy, we can also be our greatest hero, we have the power to ensure our own success, we just have to be intentional about it.
Here's four ways to make sure that happens for you.
1) Your Valuable Reason for Wanting to Grow?
You usually find growth hard.
By definition it is moving from an area you are comfortable in (your current self) to a new area you will undoubtedly be less comfortable in. That is often either painful or scary or both.
And, as humans, our default is to avoid painful or scary to protect ourselves, so we often
rationalize ourselves out of growth to avoid the pain or fear associated with it.
We are really good at this.
But, to grow, you have to have something in your tool box that pushes you through when your brain starts telling you, "I'll workout tomorrow, I'm tired now and need to stay in bed because the extra hour of sleep will be better for me than the workout."
That something is your reason for wanting to grow. It has to be valuable to you or it won't push you to do anything. I like to call your reason, your "because clause."
The formulation looks like this: I want to [insert habit/growth] because [insert valuable reason].
I'll give you an example. For about six years, I tried to start working out regularly. I often had the conversation above from the comfort of my bed and almost always concluded the hour of extra sleep was necessary.
Then I had a son.
And, like in most parts of my life, it made me rethink why I was doing things the way I was, and what example that would set for him as he grew up.
My growth statement went from "I want to workout because I need to be healthier and look better" (which was squishy and not super valuable, and also completely ineffective) to "I want to workout because I want to be fully functioning human person as long as possible, keep up with my kiddo, and set an example for him that fitness is important."
I started working out after that, the extra hour of sleep became much less important.
2) Experts, Schmexperts, How to Learn From Anyone
We tend to think that when we want to learn something, the only way to do it is to find an expert on the subject and learn it from them.
Although that may be true if we are talking about something where technical knowledge is essential , it isn't true for something like growing as a person.
There we are really talking about being better at life. And every living person has some experience in living.
So, every living person has something to teach you because their experience will be different than yours. And that is where you can learn.
The lessons may be positive, or they may be about how not to live, what not to do. Either is great.
I confess, I struggle with this one. I spent a lot of time only learning from experts in school or books.
In fact my wife used to say (and sometimes still does) that whenever she wanted me to do something, the easiest way to convince me was to find a book that said it was a good idea. She was right.
While I still have to check myself, I have gotten better at this.
Here's How to Learn from Anyone
First, recognize that it is your job to learn and if you don't learn something from someone, it is because YOU didn't ask the right questions or pay attention to the answers.
It might be a life lesson, or it might just be an interesting story, but everyone has something to share that is valuable to you. You just have to show a genuine interest.
And second, talk to them like you genuinely believe they have something to offer.
You will be amazed at how much people appreciate this and how willing they will be to share their story with someone who actually wants to hear it.
Listen, be interested, and look for things to take away from the conversation. You will be surprised how much you learn if you don't wait until you are in front of an "expert" to do it.
3) Stop Caring So Much About Tomorrow
We spend a lot of time thinking about the future. We set goals for 1, 3, or 5 years out. We think about what we want to be when we grow up. We plan vacations months in advance.
We start things "tomorrow."
And that's a problem. It puts all of our eggs in the tomorrow basket.
Tomorrow becomes the most important day of the year. But as you know, you never actually live in tomorrow, you only live in today.
When we look at today as just the time to plan for tomorrow, it devalues today. You view today as just the means of getting to tomorrow. And you're always chasing something you'll never catch.
Tomorrow will turn into smoke as soon as you are about to grab it and you will be back to today again, planning for the next tomorrow.
Flipping the value you put on today and tomorrow will break this cycle and, somewhat paradoxically, actually get you to those goals you spent so many todays planning for.
Here's how you do it.
"Start" whatever you are trying to do today. Don't "start" tomorrow.
To continue the workout example above. If you decide you are going to start working out in the mornings and it is now noon, you won't be able to workout today.
But, that doesn't mean you can't start today.
Before you go to bed tonight get ready to work out in the morning. Take out your gym bag, pack it with your stuff, and take out your workout clothes and shoes.
You will have started.
In the morning, all you will have to do is get up and go.
The hard work of doing the first thing will already done.
4) Action, It Doesn't Mean What You Think It Means
Ok, so you've decided you want to grow in x, y, or z. Great. You go buy a book or two, start reading a couple blogs, listening to some podcasts, maybe buy an information product.
All that is a great start. But it isn't going to actually get you growth.
To grow, you have to act.
And none of those things really count as action.
That doesn't make them bad. They are a great place to start. You need information in the beginning so you can act on something — and obviously, I'm not advocating avoiding blog posts in this blog post.
But they are just that, the start.
They are not action.
Action means you take that information, and you actually do something with it in your own life.
It is easy to read the post or listen to the podcast and then feel like you did something. To give yourself a pat on the back for the day, and then go back to your daily live.
What makes this particularly troublesome is that it is not obviously a problem because you feel like you are acting. You are doing something new, so it seems like you are moving forward.
The problem is, it doesn't actually get you the results you want (growth) it only gets you a momentary feeling of accomplishment that fades as soon as you pick up with your life where you left it.
So you have to start acting on the information you are digesting.
Take a two-day vacation from digesting any new information about whatever area you are trying to grow in. And in those two days, try to implement one thing from the last thing you read or listened to (which could be this very post).
Then, on day three, reflect on how actually implementing rather than just passively receiving felt and what effect it had.
Then go back to get more information, but again, implement. And if you feel like you are at your limit of starting new things, stop reading or listening for a while, so that those new things become habits that you don't have to spend a ton of energy to keep up and then go get something new to implement.
We all struggle with most, if not all, of these on the way to wherever we are trying to go.
But the beauty is that the answer to each of these issues is simple and completely within our control.
You can absolutely overcome these bumps in the road, and be the person you want to be.
The first step is recognizing what's happening.
Then, you can do what only you have the power to do, take control of the situation and turn it in your favor.
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