As we blatantly see on a daily basis, life is short, fragile, and uncertain. Moving into the new year is a prime opportunity to re-evaluate and assess what we left behind and what we have to look forward to.
Positive change and growth, as we all know it, doesn’t come spontaneously and automatically. It requires intentional concerted effort and continual practice and maintenance.
Anything we want badly enough will inevitably come with a degree of planning, perceived discomfort, and direct effortful action.
You must commit to cultivating and exercising your self-belief, self-efficacy, and self-compassion. There’s no way around it. You need to personally decide if you are worth investing in and sticking it out for, no matter what.
To forge personal growth and pave the way to be your best self, ask yourself these 10 questions daily:
(1) What values inform the way I live my life and my decision making? Our values directly guide our behaviors and actions. They are unconditional and have no contingencies. If we don’t act on a particular value in a given moment, it doesn’t disqualify that value or deem it less important to us. We have the chance to recalibrate, circle back, and choose how much credence we’ll give to a particular value. In our values we find our pain, in our pain, we find our values.
Stipulating what these values are is critical, and paves the way for mindful, conscious decision making. In my book ACE Your Life: Unleash Your Best Self and Live the Life You Want, chapter two is dedicated to identifying your values, and stipulates specific steps to take to live a meaningful and joyful valued life.
(2) What am I continually believing about myself that sets me up for certain behavioral patterns? These patterns can be both positive and negative. We have narratives and fixed ideas about who we are, how we are, and the life that we’re destined to live. Some negative thoughts include, “I am unlucky,” “I’m an angry person,” “it’s too difficult for me to change,” etc. These thoughts evoke negative feelings and perpetuate maladaptive and sometimes unproductive behaviors and behavior patterns.
(3) What am I avoidant and/or fearful of facing about myself? It is crucial to identify what these attributes or negative characteristics are. If we don’t, we run the risk of getting emotionally and somatically triggered, projecting onto others, and becoming defensive and protective in our interactions with ourselves and others. Facing our imperfections, our wounded parts, and our adaptations (what helped us to survive) can be incredibly validating and freeing. It can compel us to connect with our vulnerability and relational and compassionate best self.
(4) What is my core belief(s) focused on? According to Aaron Beck, the father of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), our negative core beliefs center around ineffectiveness, unlovability and/or helplessness. Some of us may focus around one or more of these core beliefs. It’s helpful to identify which ones so that when you’re evoked, you can connect to which one is being prodded, and contemplate how to address the challenge with more openness and conscious awareness.
(5) How does my stuckness benefit me? Despite intellectually, we desire to work through the stuckness, we would have let it go long ago, if we were able to and were desiring of doing so.
There’s some secondary gain that we get out of our behaviors. They serve a purpose for us. We may not necessarily be proud of or be conscious of what those benefits are but understanding that better is the key to forging ahead and exponentially improving your life.
(6) What triggers me? Think about your triggers and what evokes you in an intense emotionally provocative way. This is direct information and insight into letting you know the parts of you that still need healing and need to be directly worked on. We often blame our triggers on others’ behaviors. We need to take ownership of what that says about the way we see and think about ourselves. No one triggers you, you get triggered.
(7) How else can I see this? When you find yourself getting rigid and dig your heels into seeing and thinking about something in a certain way, it’s a clear sign that there’s a need for expansion. There are always alternative explanations if we’re open to seeing it and seek it out. No one thinks or feels the way we do, despite having similar circumstances. If we ask ourselves this question, we will be more open to asking open-ended questions, rather than being accusatory, critical, strengthening our narratives, and confirming our biases.
(8) How much effort am I willing to put into being proactive? It is much easier and more comfortable to stay in our comfort zone. Our brain is naturally wired to take the path of least resistance, repeat what’s familiar, and considered more “safe.” Growing your willingness to be uncomfortable and challenging yourself when your mind tells you to avoid are valuable and necessary skills. This takes consistent practice so that you can create new neural pathways and prove to yourself that seeking new alternatives, are both worth it and valuable to you.
(9) Am I taking direct action to be more connected to others? Connection is varied. You get to define what it means to you. Emotionality, an overt display of emotions, can often be confused with connection. One can be tearful without connecting to their sadness. Connection leads to intimacy and depth in a relationship with others. Expressing what someone means to you, how you feel in another’s presence, and what you want or need from another individual is different than telling them what you think about them (i.e., “you’re beautiful” or “you’re kind” vs “I care about you,” “I enjoy being with you” or “I want to know more about you”).
(10) Am I effortfully taking action to connect to myself? We are in the longest relationship with ourselves, which is our most formative relationship. We’re never taught how to increase our confidence, integrate self-compassion, and assert our worthiness and needs.
Reflect on whether you are checking in with yourself regarding your needs. Are you assessing how confident you’re feeling about yourself? Also, consciously noticing and validating your values, accomplishments, and proactive steps you’re taking toward living a life of authenticity and purpose.
I continually bear witness to people’s pain because of the work I do. I am reminded daily as to the fragility and precariousness of life through individuals life experiences. We can’t take any moment for granted. We have the power to live each moment fully and meaningfully. Take the time and make the effort to leave the past behind, carry forth the lessons, and most importantly, commit to enhancing yourself because you’re worth it.
Blog as originally published in Psychology Today.