It’s a common aim: striving to be better every day. We work to improve the parts of our lives where we believe we’re somehow falling short. This motivates us to face challenges, stretch our boundaries, and reach for important goals.
All this aiming and reaching and improving can, however, become a black hole of feeling like you’re never quite enough. Because there are always ways to continue to improve. You could always be a little more healthy, fit, environmentally conscious, generous, kind, calm–you get it.
So right now, just stop. Take a moment to appreciate right where you are. Take a moment to feel good about yourself, without changing a thing.
This is particularly important if you have a habit of being really tough on yourself. If that’s you, first, know that you are not alone. It’s very common to focus on all the ways you feel like you’re not awesome.
But instead of moving from a place of feeling like you’re always lacking, discover where you’re already winning and build from there. Because, you are never starting from zero.
To be clear, this is a feel good exercise. It is very specifically meant to help boost confidence and create a positive mindset. And it’s specifically being published now, early in the year, to coincide with a time that, statistically speaking, most people have abandoned those new year's resolutions they were so excited about just a few weeks ago.
Abandoning goals generates pretty much the opposite feelings that you felt when you were setting them. Optimism, hope, and enthusiasm get swapped for disappointment, frustration, and negative self talk. We’re here to flip that back around.
Reframing Your “Failed” New Year's Resolution
Okay so maybe, like many others, you did ditch your new year’s resolutions and you’re feeling badly about it. But flip that around: you actually stuck with it for two weeks! Or two days, perhaps. That may feel small, but first off, congratulate yourself on what you did do. Now, let’s count up some other wins.
To even get to the point of acting on a resolution, you had to muster the energy to, first, recognize that there’s a shortcoming in your life you’d like to change, and second, you had to formulate some sort of plan to make that change.
Those steps are meaningful. So are the efforts you took to carry out that plan, however short lived those efforts might have been. What did you learn? Why didn’t this stick?
Figure out what you did get from this process and feel good about what you learned. Even if you learned what doesn’t work, that’s progress!
It Doesn’t Have to Be Big to Be Meaningful
Every small thing you can find to be proud of about yourself and your life is a step in the right direction. Even if it feels silly, it’s useful. Just find something. Having issues with body image? Find one part of your body that you like, and enjoy it. It could be your kneecaps, ears, or calves. Or perhaps consider what your body is capable of. Maybe you’re not so thrilled with your form at the moment, but you do appreciate that you can hike or play with your kids or golf. Cherish that.
Something to note here: this isn’t an exercise in trying to convince yourself that you’re actually happy with something you aren’t happy with. You’re too smart to get away with lying to yourself. The point is to stop focusing on what you don’t like and refocus on something else that you do like–no matter how insignificant it might feel.
A key part of this exercise is to stop beating yourself up, and instead distract yourself with positive thoughts. It’s been shown time and again, shaming yourself (or anyone else) into changing behavior doesn’t work. Trust me, all the negative self-talk is not a path to feeling good about yourself. It’s also a path to never really appreciating when you actually are doing great (which just might be right now; read on).
Focus on Things You Don’t Need to Improve: Ways You Are Already Winning
Now’s a great time to look at all the places in your life that you aren’t focused on improving because, in those departments, you’re doing just fine, maybe even totally crushing it.
Many of us tend to quickly overlook parts of our lives where we’re really excelling and instead focus on what we haven’t yet achieved.
So let’s say you want to get more fit. You know you’re lacking in that area of your life. Fine. But we’re going to set that aside for right now.
Right now, we’re going to focus on what a great parent, co-worker, or neighbor you are. Or maybe you’re an amazing volunteer, singer, or gift-giver; yoga practitioner or hiker; knitter, gardener, or cook.
Remember to give credit to things that come more easily for you than they seem to come for other people. What are your natural strengths? Celebrate them. Maybe it’s easy for you to eat well because you love cooking whole foods with great ingredients. Or maybe being active has been a normal habit since childhood, so motivating yourself for a regular run is just part of your day.
Whatever it is, remember that just because it feels easy or seems to come naturally doesn't mean it’s not worth feeling good about.
You Can Love Where You are Today, and Still Strive for a Better Tomorrow
Perhaps you’re concerned that, if you aren’t hard on yourself at all times, you just might stop trying. What if you find so much you like about yourself today, you give up on ever going after another goal?
The chances of that are slim to none, I’d say. The more likely scenario is that the confidence you develop through getting yourself in a more positive mindset will help you strive for even bigger goals in the future.
When you give yourself more reasons to see yourself in a positive light, you’re much more likely to bet on yourself–and bet big.