The path to self-improvement starts with self-awareness – the ability to have a clear understanding of your personality, strengths, values, weaknesses, motivations and emotions. The awareness of why you do what you do helps you develop the process that will move you forward. Where you focus your behavior, thoughts and emotions determines the direction your life will take.
When I was in college I took a swimming class. The professor made a statement that has stayed with me to this day. As we were learning new swimming styles she said we had to know what our body was doing. We had to be aware of how our legs, arms and breathing were all moving to make sure they were working together. This awareness would propel us through the water efficiently and effectively.
This working together of all the parts isn’t learned from a book. It’s a skill we have to practice, by staying aware and making a concerted effort to create a necessary change mid-stream. Changes in your behavior is easier if you catch them in the early stage before your emotions and thoughts have taken over.
Define your core values. What are the five most important things about you? Yes you may be a hard worker or a good parent, but dig deeper. Is it honesty, creativity, integrity, joy, faith, that is important to you? These core values are the net you can fall back on when a trying event occurs. Go a step further and write a short personal mission statement with your top five core values.
Keep a journal. One of the most effective ways I have found to keep me on track is to write daily. In addition to other thoughts, I write down at least three items that went really well for me and the at least one opportunity for improvement. Go even further and;
Engage in self-reflection. As I look at the events that didn’t quite go as well as they could, how could I have turned that into a victory? Cut off in traffic – instead of engaging in a bout of road rage, breath and think about why this event made you angry? Are you late for work? Just had a fight with your spouse? Is the way you are about to handle this event congruent with your core values?
Write your own manifesto. A manifesto is defined as a declaration of one’s beliefs, opinions, motives and intentions. It’s simply a written statement that declares what is important to you. Incorporate your core values and your personal mission statement into your manifesto.
What are your habits? Most of us go through the day thinking we make conscious decisions. When in reality, our behaviors are rote from years of habits. What activities do you engage in when you first wake up? Do you hit the snooze button? Or do you get up right away, drink a glass of water and write in a journal. The person who hits the snooze button and turns over for an extra half hour of sleep is a very different person than the one who engages in productive morning activities.
Do your emotions rule the day? Many of us allow our emotions to decide the course of action we will take at any given moment. When we react in the moment – we don’t allow that time to consider another alternative or perhaps just not reacting at all. When an emotion, such as anger, pops up just sit with it and see what happens. It may take five minutes or an hour but the emotion will pass. Also, going for a walk or a jog will help you from engaging in a decision you may regret later!
Keep engaging in self-awareness exercises. Make this a habit and strengthen your self-awareness muscle. Surround yourself with people who encourage your exploration into self-awareness activities.
Take care of yourself. Exercise and proper nutrition feed our body and keep us alert. When we feel our best it’s easier to be positive.
Life is a journey not a destination. As you delve more into your own awareness you will discover your authenticity and what is really important to you. Over time you can evaluate your core values and where you are with your job, relationships, etc. and adjust. I know today I am a different person than I was twenty years ago. Being able to let go of the things in my life that don’t fit anymore and getting my emotions and habits on track were instrumental in making substantial improvement in my life.
Shelly is a personal development strategist and founder of The Rescue Yourself Project helping women over 40 step into their unique selves so they can create a life they love! A few years ago, she found herself living a life that wasn’t of her making. Deciding that wasn’t what she wanted she ran away from home and spent eight months “re-branding” herself. Today Shelly helps women find their unique selves by becoming experts about their values, strengths, passions, goals and purpose so they can design a life they love.