The new year, 2016, has just begun, and you'd think that everyone wants to put their best foot forward, but I've been noticing how reluctant people are, these days, when it comes to their personal growth. The opportunity to do this kind of work can be handed to them on a silver platter, and they'll shy away from it. I've even seen this happen when they have a trained, experienced therapist there to guide and support them.
I've recognized a number of factors involved in why people avoid doing their inner work. The good news is that these factors don't have to prevent us from creating a better life.
It's clear that change is scary. People become attached to the status quo and are fearful of the unknown. They'd rather stay with the devil they know, even if it's the unhappiness devil, than venture into uncharted territory, even if it might be the best place on earth.
Many people have a great fear of confronting their own demons. It can be painful to face our personality quirks, shortcomings and mistakes. Sometimes, we'd rather avoid looking at ourselves, than face our flaws and errors and work with them in our process of change.
We're changing all the time, either for the better or for the worse. If we take responsibility for ourselves, and do our inner work, we're much more likely to make positive changes than negative ones.
It's also daunting to imagine how much energy it might require in order to change. We envision months or years of grueling work on ourselves, and have little sense of what the outcome could be. It just doesn't seem worth all the effort.
The thing is though; change is a fundamental reality of life. We're changing all the time, either for the better or for the worse. If we take responsibility for ourselves, and do our inner work, we're much more likely to make positive changes than negative ones.
If the inner critic is loud in your head, every time you identify a problem area in your thoughts or actions, it gives the critic ammunition to use against you.
But, if you develop self-compassion, you can look at yourself honestly, identify your counter-productive thoughts and actions, and make the changes that will allow you to be happier, healthier and more successful in your life.
Change requires work, and in this era of "quick and easy" everything, we've become averse to expending effort, even on a worthwhile goal.
Many kids think that they should get an excellent mark, just for showing up in class; many workers expect a great evaluation, even if they practice "presenteeism;" many parents think that all they need to do is provide their child with the basics of survival, and nothing more.
It's an unfortunate attitude, because everyone I know who's happy and successful in their life has put a lot of time, energy and effort into initiating and maintaining their achievements.
Whether it's doing well at school, building a fulfilling career or raising a healthy, well-adjusted child, it takes an investment of effort over a period of time to achieve this success and hold on to it.
If you're unwilling to do the work, your attitude is self-defeatist. Your reluctance to roll up your sleeves and do what has to be done is probably what's holding you back from getting what you truly desire in life.
When it comes to personal growth, it's essential that you take responsibility for yourself, muster up your courage, and devote yourself to the process. You'll have to face your fears, and make a commitment to yourself for the long run.
Anything good in life takes work and the value of doing your very best should also apply to your personal growth. When you commit to this process, you'll reap the rewards, and discover a level of contentment you previously couldn't have imagined, as well as a degree of success that you probably never dreamed of. I'd say it's definitely worth the effort.
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ALSO ON HUFFPOST:
Take the time at the beginning of the year to go through your mailing lists and unsubscribe from all but the essentials, Lisa Gasson of New York suggests. It’s a good way to clear out inbox clutter, and also to reduce shopping temptation from constant emails from merchants. Try using Unroll.me to unsubscribe easily and keep things manageable going forward.
Take some of the time you spend mindlessly poking around on the internet and spend it with an actual book, says Megan Hamilton of Ontario. That’s her resolution for the coming year, and she’s solicited suggestions from friends for recent favourites to add her her library list.
After a couple of tough years for the her own health and that of her family, Carol-Ann Cole of Newfoundland and Labrador decided to cut out the little things she couldn’t control, including those to do with the lives of other people. "I try now to not gossip -- well, maybe just a little juicy stuff, ha ha -- and just live each day happy and healthy,” Cole says. "So far it’s working and I feel so much happier and contented."
Dry skin getting you down? That’s worth a small resolution all on its own, especially during Canada’s dry winters. "After making big, thought-out resolutions -- and then feeling stress and guilt about not keeping them -- about 15 years ago, I resolved to put lotion on everyday after showering,” says Erika Serviss-Low of the Yukon. “Easy to do, no guilt, and -- after scratching my skin raw and frantically searching for lotion by mid-day -- life changing."
Jenny Hinko Polischuk of Alberta picks a theme for her family for each year and focuses on that instead of a specific resolution. "Our theme was to 'CHOOSE HAPPY’!,” she says of their 2015 theme. "I got it printed in vinyl and put it up on a wall in our kitchen. I also found a great print on Etsy and framed it. To kick it off we brainstormed as a family situations where we consciously have to choose happiness. We put that up in our mud room about 3 feet high so my little women could see it."
Instead of picking a resolution that restricts or removes something, pick something that adds joy to your life. "I do ones that make me feel good, not that are challenges,” Julia Cain of New Jersey says of her resolutions. "'Say yes to travel,' for example, which will be a continuing resolution this year, or 'snuggle with babies as much as possible.’"
If you do want to make a list of things to accomplish this year, break it all into a very specific itemized list—maybe 101 items for the year, or a number that makes sense for you. "those worked really well because they were incremental and accumulative,” says Lisa Schmeiser of California of her itemized lists for the year, "so by the end of the year, I had momentum and completed tasks on my side."
"One of my students gave me great advice: Make three tiers of resolutions,” says Vanessa Vakharia of Ontario. Make the first tier something easy to immediately implement, like wearing eyeshadow or flossing daily. Get a bit higher-concept for tier two: a promise to run regularly, for example. And then think big for the third, like finishing your degree or planning a major trip. "I think it's a good way to level goals out so that you can get instant gratification, which motivates you to work towards those higher level goals,” she says.
"I don't know if they're resolutions, but every year I go back and assess how I'm doing as far as becoming the person I want to be,” says Carolyne Whelan. Think about how you respond to strangers, your friends and family, how you treat yourself, and the way you move about in the world. "Obviously there is a lot of tweaking, but since it's all a learning process with a wide curve, every year just presents the opportunity to be closer to the person I want to spend all my time with,” she says.
What’s something you enjoy, that is easy to do and adds a bit of light to your day? Pick something, then do more of it! "A few years ago, my only resolution -- after years of the same 'lose ten pounds, learn Spanish, write a novel' flailed if not failed -- was 'sing more,’” says Paige Conner Totaro of Virginia. "I did and it felt great. The next year it was 'dance more.’"
Is there something you need to do, even want to do, that you keep finding a way to get around or avoid or not actually work on? Stop doing that, and just do the work—every day, over and over, says Jennifer Polk of Ontario. You’ll get a lot more done if you put the energy you spend worrying, procrastinating, avoiding, and over-planning into just doing. "Everything's better when you do the work,” she says.
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