We all feel discouraged from time to time. Some days, we might run full speed ahead and tackle life with no problem, but other times, we might feel like throwing in the towel. Life contains ups and downs for a reason, so that we may appreciate the good times and learn from the hard ones. If you ever feel like giving up, just consult the following inspiration to get you through another day.
HERE ARE TIPS TO HELP YOU BECOME ENCOURAGED AGAIN:
1. CLAIM YOUR JOY.
When life seems a little boring, realize it’s because of us, not because of a task, our job or the lack of a nightlife. We have the ability to create joy and excitement in everything we do, and it starts with our thoughts around the situation. It is not so much about trying to fix the situation or even ourselves as it is learning new things, finding the good, and focusing our energies on activities that have personal meaning.
2. FREE YOUR MIND.
We need to take the time to look after our emotional well-being by putting time aside every week for a yoga class or a little meditation. The relaxing breathing strategies involved in both will help eliminate stress and reduce anxiety. We will feel better, and will look at things differently.
3. MAKE LITTLE, POSITIVE CHANGES.
When we make small changes to our daily routine, it brings back the excitement. Take a new exercise class, read a book, or even just doodle – these can get you out of a rut and ignite your creative self. You will soon realize that the act of starting and doing something new can give you some confidence to continue creating.
4. REFRAME NEGATIVE THINKING.
Negative thinking is common, but it’s how we handle the thoughts that will either drain our excitement for life, or build on it. We can’t stay in the midst of negativity and hope to be our best selves. Understanding our negative thoughts and reframing them into thoughts that better serve us keeps us from getting stuck.
5. PRACTICE OPTIMISM.
An optimist is more excited about everything, not just life! If you’re not presently an optimistic individual, don’t worry – optimism may be learned. And it’s not whether the glass is half full or half empty, it’s knowing you can fill it up.
Teach yourself to see the other side, even with the small setbacks, little adversities, frustrations, disappointments, and letdowns in daily experiences. Look for the lessons and trust things will work out. When you do, it’s easy to get excited about the possibility.
6. ELIMINATE WASTED TIME.
When we start to look at our day, we’ll probably notice quite a bit of time wasted on non-value added activities like Candy Crush, Facebook or mindless television. Wasted time is energy draining, and as mentioned earlier, it’s hard to get excited when your energy is drained. When you know down deep you need to do something, you will find the time and the energy. But beware, because time fillers have a way of creeping in.
Today, most people like the idea about self-improvement. It’s trendy.
But before you can improve yourself, you have to get to know who you are, what you want, and why it’s so crucial to know the answers to those questions.
Once you know who you are, what you stand for, and what you want, then you can go on to work on self-improvement.
This article will take you through the main reasons why you should take the time to get to know yourself, how to get to know yourself, and then finally how to seek self-improvement.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Why You Should Get to Know Yourself
How to Get to Know Yourself
How to Seek Self-Improvement
Why You Should Get to Know Yourself
Many people go through life without getting a clear understanding of themselves. There’s a difference between wanting to be someone and then the actions that creates a person. It’s easy to tell people who you are, but can you actually walk the talk?
We have a tendency to brush away our shortcomings and play a certain role that we’ve intentionally or unintentionally created for ourselves. It may work for a while, but it won’t help you achieve anything in the long run.
Yes, you can say you’re a good spouse. People will believe you when they see the picture-perfect image on your office, but if you go home to a different story, it doesn’t really matter.
In the end, the opinion that matters the most are the one we hold about ourselves. A lie will drain you, overwhelm you, and unresolved emotions will resurface.
Maybe you choose a certain path many years ago and now you feel stuck. You look in the mirror and you don’t recognize yourself. The week seems endless and it’s only 7am on a Monday morning.
These are just examples. It doesn’t mean that only unhappy people need to get know themselves and seek self-improvement. Even if your life is truly as great as it looks like, it’s always worth checking in with yourself.
It’s natural to change throughout life, but too many people are afraid of reacting to this change or realize that the path they once choose may not be right anymore.
Change is scary, but it’s even more scary to ignore your emotions and not react to them. For better or worse – change is the only constant. If you get to know yourself now, then you’ll be able to handle change better. Obviously, you can’t always control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it.
There’s no time limit for getting to know yourself or window of opportunity. Remember that:
“Self-improvement and success often occur together. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the same thing.”
You can be at the top of your game to the outside world, but still feel the need to get to know yourself and seek self-improvement.
It’s never too late to get to know yourself, because once you do, then you’ll be ready for whatever comes next. When you know yourself, a new road won’t seem scary because you already know whether you’re planning on turning left or right.
How to Get to Know Yourself
So, it’s settled. It’s a good idea to know this person that you wake up to every morning and look at while brushing your teeth. The person in the mirror that kind of looks the same, but yet somehow seems different over time. Here comes the million dollar question: where do you start?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a quick answer (or solution) to this. It isn’t math. There’s no right or wrong. You can’t find a page with all the secret answers and ace the test.
Most people will get a better feeling of who they are over time by simply looking back at their previous actions, reactions and decisions. But you can also choose to take an active part of the progress right now.
Here are some active actions you can take to get to know yourself:
1. Increase Your Self-Awareness
It’s all about you now. Let the outside world exist on its own. It’s not about your neighbour or the guy from high school that posted yet another sunny picture from Dubai. It’s not about them.
Take some time to look at yourself. What have you been doing? How do you react to certain situations? What makes you smile?
And if you keep going back to comparing yourself to a specific person, then ask yourself why you’re so fixated on them. Figure yourself out. You’re worth knowing.
2. Face Your Fears
It might seem obvious, but for some reason you keep avoiding that one thing.
A lot of people let fear stand in their way even though they know deep down they have the ability to face it. It’s easy to say of course, but if you manage to overcome your weakness, it will change you for the better. You will learn from it, and you’ll know a whole lot more about your character.
Not sure how to conquer your fears? This guide can help you:
How to Overcome Your Irrational Fears (That Stop You from Succeeding)
3. Focus on Your Strengths
It’s always a good idea to focus on what you thrive at and nurture it. It will help you become more successful, but you’ll also get a better understanding of yourself as our strengths are a big part of who we are.
Even if you’ve been running towards the wall for a while and your head is really starting to hurt – you’ll always have some strengths in you that you can return to. Go back and focus on them and see where they’ll lead you. Maybe a talent will turn into a career. Maybe a character trait will turn into a new path or relationship.
Now, let’s move on to how to go further and seek self-improvement.
Ryan Holiday said:
”You can’t learn if you think you already know. You will not find the answers if you’re too conceited and self-assured to ask the questions. You cannot get better if you’re convinced you are the best.”
How to Seek Self-Improvement
It’s important to leave ego behind and realize that you’ll never move forward, if you don’t accept that you’re not the best. You can always become better. Maybe you’re currently the best at your job, but you should never stop competing against yourself. It’s not about putting endless pressure on yourself. It’s about keeping yourself in movement.
Maybe you did some soul-searching and you realized that you did choose the right path. That’s great, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to improve yourself. Or maybe you just realized that you want a completely different life. You quit your job, bought a dog and moved to a new city. Great, but you’re not done yet.
Once you tell yourself you have done what you set out to do, then you’ll run into the same wall that knocked you out in the first place.
Self-improvement is not about putting yourself down. Self-improvement is about lifting yourself up higher. The only way to do that is by accepting that you’re not the best. You can always become better. Even (or maybe especially) if you’re only competing against yourself.
Self-improvement can be applied to anything from learning a new skill, learning to deal with your anger, or putting yourself in a new situation that scares you. Some people need to change their scenery completely. Some people just need to attend a meeting every Thursday. Others may need to take up a self-defence class to feel in control again.
Sometimes life is not about gaining or achieving. Sometimes life is simply about losing and letting go.
People are capable of doing (almost) everything that the people they admire are doing. You can’t limit yourself by saying you can’t do a specific thing, because you’re you. It all comes down to mind-set and commitment. Get to know yourself and then set out clear goals.
Aristotle once said:
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
If you regularly read my articles, you’ll notice that I’m more in favour of building strong habits, creating a supportive environment and knowing how to truly motivate yourself compared to focusing too heavily on self-discipline. If you get the first three elements right, it makes hard work much easier and more enjoyable compared to just disciplining yourself.
Nevertheless, you still need self-discipline as the basis for many of your decisions. Therefore, it’s a very important part of peak performance. Those who consistently make better decisions (which, in essence, is self-discipline) are the ones who get ahead in life.
Your self-discipline influences whether you’re going to grab a hamburger or a salad. It influences whether you’re going for a workout or binge-watch Netflix instead.
In other words, self-discipline determines whether you’ll make an empowering or limiting decision within the moment — and that can lead to either stronger or weaker habits.
Habit #1: Cold Showers
If there’s one habit that cultivates discipline, it’s taking cold showers. When that cold water hits your skin, your mind is screaming to get out. In fact, the mental battle already starts when you’re contemplating whether or not you should take a cold shower at all.
If you then override this inner voice and stay under the cold water nevertheless, you develop a strong habit out of doing something that you don’t necessarily want to do — and that’s discipline.
Not only are cold showers great for developing strong discipline, but they also have a ton of other benefits that help you improve your performance:
Gets you in a ‘peak state’ instantly
Improved blood circulation
Reduced stress levels
Higher level of alertness
Stronger immune system
Stimulates weight loss
All in all, try out this habit for yourself if you want to develop stronger self-discipline. Keep in mind that the first times it may feel like hell (especially the first few seconds, which are the worst). Try to calm down your breath as that will also calm down your mind, which makes it easier to follow through.
Habit 2: Meditation
Not only is meditation an amazing habit for lowering stress levels and improving your focus, but it also helps to cultivate strong discipline.
First of all, through meditation, you learn how to focus on one thing (for example, your breath) and silence inner distractions. You learn how to override the inner voice that so often talks us out of doing certain things, even though we should do them. Merely because you’re familiar with silencing your inner chatter through meditation, you’ll find it easier to overrule the inner voice when it pushes you towards procrastination at other moments during the day.
Second of all, it has been proven by science that meditation ‘strengthens’ (simplified explanation) the pre-frontal cortex, which is the area in the brain responsible for many of our executive functions such as decision-making, focus and… self-discipline. In other words, on a neurological level, your brain will find it easier to be disciplined.
Habit 3: Working Out
Exercising is another great habit to cultivate strong self-discipline. When you’re in the gym and you’re pushing yourself to go another rep or increase the weight a bit more, you train yourself to push beyond resistance — and that’s literally what discipline is. In fact, getting yourself off the couch to go for a workout already strengthens your discipline habit.
Furthermore, like meditation, exercise is proven to lead to a stronger pre-frontal cortex, which cultivates even more discipline in your life.
Habit 4: Working Distraction Free
In today’s tech-heavy world, our productivity and self-discipline suffer heavily from the constant interruptions from our smartphone, email, social media and messaging apps.
In fact, most people haven’t worked in a distraction-free environment for years, and that’s a real problem. Personally, I experience that I produce my best work when I work in a distraction-free environment. That means, no smartphone, no social media, no email, no news websites and no other tabs than the ones necessary for my work.
I make sure that I eliminate my distractions beforehand, so that I don’t even have to tap into my discipline to fight them off (which is not a sustainable strategy).
However, working in such a stimuli-deprived environment is very unusual for us and our brain. In fact, when you’re used to checking email or social media every 15 minutes, it’s quite boring to work in such an environment all of a sudden. Therefore, your brain starts to crave more stimuli. It wants dopamine hits so it can feel good and saturated again.
Yet, this craving for dopamine is exactly what makes discipline so hard, as you’re fighting a battle on a biological level (and that’s never an easy fight). It’s because of our need for dopamine hits that we eat a hamburger instead of a salad. It’s why we binge-watch Netflix instead of reading a book. Dopamine is the reason why we procrastinate instead of work hard on our tasks.
But, when you cultivate the habit of working for at least 2 hours per day free of any distractions, you slowly but surely train your brain to crave less dopamine — and that makes it easier to make the right choices over and over again (aka, be more disciplined).
On top of that, you’ll be able to produce higher quality work and finish it much faster than before as you don’t waste time and energy on mindless distractions. In fact, it has helped me reduce my average workday from 8 to 6 hours..
Habit 5: Do A Regular Dopamine ‘Fast’
As I mentioned before, the craving for dopamine hits is why it’s so hard to be disciplined sometimes. You see, every time you scroll through Instagram, watch something on YouTube or Netflix, receive likes on your Facebook post, play some Call of Duty, masturbate to porn or take a bite of a nice juicy hamburger, your brain produces a strong hit of the neurochemical dopamine.
Essentially, your brain is addicted to dopamine and it feels really good whenever dopamine is produced. Therefore, your brain will try to stimulate the repetition of the behaviour that produced the dopamine in the first place. And that’s where things go wrong for us nowadays.
As this is such a big problem for us nowadays (even though most people don’t realize it), I decided to counter it by doing a crazy experiment. I decided to do a 24-Hour Dopamine ‘Fast’
For 24 hours, I had to follow these strict rules:
No electronics (no phone, Netflix, laptop or video games etc.)
No reading of books or magazines
No sex or masturbation
No music or podcasts
No coffee or other stimulants
The only things I practically could do were:
Write (with pen and paper)
Go for walks
Do deep thinking
It’s not as terrible as it sounds. In fact, it was quite peaceful. I finally created the mind-space to think, reflect and come up with new breakthroughs.
Regularly doing a dopamine fast is like pressing the mental reset button. It helps you get out of the fast-paced dopamine-fueled world so that you can focus on the important stuff again.
I clearly noticed that after my first dopamine fast, I became much more aware of how my craving for dopamine led me to make undisciplined decisions (such as procrastinating, eating bad foods etc.) and I was able to override my inner resistance much easier because of that.
If you’re interested in doing a dopamine fast yourself, check out this article that I wrote about my own experience with it!
Note: Dopamine is not per se something bad. It’s a very complex neurochemical that is also responsible for motivation, our attention and our decision making. So dopamine isn’t the bad guy here.. It’s the fact that certain man-made pleasures abuse dopamine in unnatural ways that is the real problem here.
Now Do It
You can only improve your discipline by taking action and not by merely knowing about how to do it. Therefore, I encourage you to implement at least 3 of these habits in your own life in order to cultivate stronger self-discipline.
Learning how to motivate yourself is one of the most powerful skills you can learn in life. Motivation is definitely not something random (even though it sometimes feels like it is). There’s a psychology behind why you feel motivated or unmotivated.
In today’s self-development landscape it’s very popular to glorify self-discipline and to disregard motivation. I completely disagree with this notion.
Learning exactly how motivation works makes it much easier to stop procrastinating, overcome the inner resistance and work hard on your goals instead. Furthermore, it makes your work and life much more fun as you don’t have to force and discipline yourself 24/7 to do the right things (which, let’s be honest, isn’t a fun way to go through life).
I’ve tried both approaches in my life and work. I tried just disciplining myself to do the work even when I didn’t ‘feel like it’ and I tried getting myself in a peak state of mind before the start of the day. I can say with 100% confidence that I prefer the latter.
Why not look into the methods to make you ‘feel like it’? When there are habits and tactics available that can spark motivation within a matter of minutes, it would be a waste not to make use of them. Why rely only on your willpower when that’s proven by research to be a finite resource that weakens throughout the day?
Yes, you’ll need to perform these habits on a daily basis as motivation is just a temporary wave of emotions. But that doesn’t really matter when these habits only take a few minutes each day.
“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing — that’s why we recommend it daily.”
— Zig Ziglar
Nowadays, I’m more motivated than ever before — and my results are better than ever. It’s not that I wake up and immediately feel motivated. Rather, it’s that I exercise certain quick habits that spark the motivation necessary to work hard on my goals, without the need to force myself.
I clearly notice that when I don’t perform these habits, my motivation levels drop heavily. That’s why Zig Ziglar’s quote is so true — we need to spark motivation every single day.
Habit 1: Visualization
Visualizing about your goals and how your future could look like is a highly effective way to motivate yourself to work hard today in order to make your vision a reality.
In the past, however, I had trouble adopting visualization as a habit in my life because I always thought it was a bit vague and pseudoscience-ish.
However, visualization can be extremely powerful as it can prime your RAS (your lens through which you view the world) and disarm limiting belief systems. Furthermore, as your goals are at the forefront of your mind during your visualization, you’ll be consistently focused on them.
Personally, I use the 3-phase visualization technique, which takes only about 3 minutes to complete. In the first phase of the visualization you think about how your life would like 3–5 years from now. Clearly visualize what you’ve achieved, what you are doing, where you’re at and who you are with. In the second phase of the visualization you think about how the coming 12 months will look and the last phase of visualization you think about what you need to do today in order to make significant progress on your long-term visions.
During today’s visualization practice I envisioned how my business, Personal Growth Lab, would have many highly engaged followers that would join me on a Peak Performance retreat in Bali. I clearly envisioned the exercises we would do there (such as defining your values, setting your goals, getting clear on your priorities, learning about state change hacks and productivity techniques) and how fun and exciting this retreat would become.
This immediately fueled me with motivation to work hard (and smart) today so that I can grow the PGL following and make this retreat come true.
Habit 2: Reviewing Your Goals
Another highly effective peak performance habit is to review your goals every single day, preferably as part of your morning- and nighttime routine. By reviewing your goals and your reasons why you want to achieve your goals, you put them at the forefront of your mind. This doesn’t just spark the motivation to work hard, but it also helps you to stay focused on your goals and spark new ideas on how to achieve them.
The main reasons why people don’t achieve their goals is because (1) they set too many goals and are therefore spread too thin with their time, energy and focus, and (2) they ‘forget’ about their goals because they fail to remind themselves every single day about what they want to achieve.
Habit 3: Cold Showers
Taking a cold shower has become one of my go-to tools for getting out of a lousy state of mind and into a peak state of mind in an instant. It quickly helps to me to go from unmotivated and low on energy to highly motivated and peak energy levels.
From this improved state of mind it’s much easier to stop procrastinating and work hard on your goals instead. In fact, there hasn’t been a single time where I didn’t feel energized and motivated to go out and crush it after taking a cold shower.
I have to admit, at first, taking cold showers sucks. Your body is actually going into a stress response as the cold water hits your skin, but the key is to stay calm, control your breath, breathe deeply and silence your mind. After 10–15 seconds you’ll start to notice that you can actually handle it and that it’s not as bad as you first thought it would be.
Try to stay for at least 30 seconds under the cold water and notice how awake, energized and on fire you feel when you leave the shower. This instant boost of energy feels amazing, and it’s totally worth the initial struggle.
Habit 4: Reading
Reading the work of the greatest minds in the world is incredibly motivating. By reading business or self-development books, you feed your mind with empowering messages and learn new valuable lessons that you can implement in your own life.
Through reading, you continuously focus your mind on growth instead of mindless distractions, and you spark new ideas that get you motivated to take action.
“Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary.”
— Jim Rohn
If you make it a strong habit to read every single day, you’ll fuel your mind with new ideas and motivating messages. Personally, I read for about 15 minutes as part of my morning routine. This helps me to start the day with an engaged and highly motivated mind.
Habit 5: Affirmations
Affirmations are essentially messages that you want to remind yourself of on a daily basis. This could be in the form of post-it notes hanging around your house or by having a single piece of paper with all of your affirmations on them.
Your affirmations can include any message that you find empowering and motivating. Whether it’s inspiring quotes or life-lessons you’ve learned yourself, it doesn’t really matter. As long as it gets you motivated.
Personally, affirmations such as ‘you are strong, you are powerful, you are great, etc.’ don’t really work for me. There’s nothing wrong with it though, and maybe they work great for you. My personal preference is to affirm important questions and principles that will help me improve my performance during the day.
For example, part of my affirmations is the question ‘What’s the one thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?’ This helps me to focus on my most important task every single day.
Another part of my affirmations is ‘Focus on the highest value activities. Focus on just a few key things. Continuously do a 80/20 analysis and eliminate or outsource everything else’.
But I also have reminders like ‘Fear is a compass for action, direct action.’ and ‘Act and behave like the person you want to be. How would they act?’
Affirming these messages or questions to myself on a daily basis helps me to focus my mind on doing the things that are necessary to accomplish my goals, and it feeds me empowering messages that spark that motivation within to work with much less resistance than I used to.
Habit 6: Continuously Optimize Your Environment
We are truly a product of our environment. Most people view themselves as separate from their environment, but this is impossible.
In fact, your environment continuously influences how you feel, think and act. It influences anything from how motivated you are to how productive you can be.
Your environment, such as the people you surround yourself with (friends, colleagues, family and your significant other) and your direct environment (your home and your office) can either support your goals or hinder your goals.
For example, your environment could make you lose motivation because people in your surroundings distract you from your work. Another common example is that friends and loved ones try to talk you out of chasing your goals or subtly shame you for improving yourself. Maybe they even (subconsciously) try to pull you back towards destructive habits while you are trying to build up empowering habits.
“You are the average of the five people you associate with most, so do not underestimate the effects of your pessimistic, unambitious, or disorganized friends. If someone isn’t making you stronger, they’re making you weaker.”
— Tim Ferriss
That’s why you should continuously analyse whether you have the right people around you. Ask yourself important questions such as:
Which people support and inspire me?
Which ones hold me back or talk me down?
Which ones make me feel better and which ones make me feel worse?
From which people do I learn a lot?
From which people do I get energy and which people drain energy?
These are all questions you should ask yourself regularly. If you come to the conclusion that the people in your environment are actually limiting your success, make it your mission to surround yourself with new people who accelerate your success. Make it your mission to find your ‘tribe members’. Talking with and being around these people is one of the surest ways to spark the motivation within, as you engage in more stimulating and inspiring conversations more often.
Another example of an environment that limits your motivation and success is when your physical environment is filled with distractions and lacks success-reminders.
Especially as a work-from-home entrepreneur (like myself) or freelancer, you should be careful when it comes to your work environment. When you try to work with focus and intensity while your environment is filled with distractions (such as your Playstation, Netflix, bad foods and even your smartphone), you’ll find it hard to stay motivated. All of these distractions pull for your attention non-stop as your brain finds them more stimulating and novel than your work, pushing you towards procrastinating.
Instead, make sure you work in a distraction-free environment to keep your focus and energy on your important work at hand.
Furthermore, if you want to continuously get that spark of motivation throughout the day, make sure you fill your office or home environment with success-reminders such as inspirational books, empowering affirmations and pictures of your goals.
By creating a supporting environment, you make motivation ‘effortless’ as your environment essentially does the work for you.
Personally, I found that upgrading my environment was one of the most powerful decisions I’ve ever made to upgrade my mindset, motivation and productivity levels.Through upgrading my physical environment and surrounding myself with inspiring people, I built a ‘system’ that sparks motivation and new ideas round the clock. I encourage you to do the same!
Now Do It
Learning how to motivate yourself is one of the most powerful skills you can develop. It makes it a lot easier to stop procrastinating, decrease inner resistance and work hard instead.
Furthermore, you don’t need to force yourself every single time to do the work. Instead, it’ll flow with less effort and with more joy. In my opinion, that’s a much more fun way to live your life.
Therefore, as an action point for this article, I recommend you try out at least 3 of the previously mentioned habits. Experiment with them and see which ones work the best for you!
We are all gifted with different natural talents and abilities that are meant to help us in one way or another in our day to day lives but do we really use them at all?Truth is, few people in this world know their talents and abilities and even then, the people who have actually discovered their talents still do not know how to develop and use them.
A good place to start is by gaining a clear idea of your skills and talents. Make a list of the things you are naturally good at, as well as the things you’ve become good at through repetitive effort. Write down the skills you use in your job, the things you learned in school, and the things you enjoy doing in your spare time.
When you’ve listed everything you can, look over your list and consider whether any of these skills and talents might be marketable. How can you use your talents to provide something of value to others?
Take your time with this exercise!
Seriously, don’t rush through it. You’re trying to get an idea of the work that would make you feel passionate and fulfilled – therefore it deserves your undivided attention.
This exercise is also important for another reason. Your dream is NOT just about you. It’s about all the lives you will touch when you do what you were meant to do on this planet. It took me a long time to understand that by holding myself back I was denying others something special I had to share with them. And I don’t mean that as a boast.
We are each special and unique, and we each have something to offer this world that no one else does. By denying our own talents, we deny others the gift of what we have to share.
So please, don’t skimp on this exercise. You owe it to yourself and others to be ruthlessly honest about your passion(s).
Once you have a clear list of your existing skills and talents, make a check mark next to the ones you use on a regular basis, whether in your work or personal time. Can any of those skills be enhanced or strengthened? Can you enroll in a continuing education course to expand on any of your skills? Make notes about possible opportunities to grow and develop what you already have.
(Note: if any of the skills on your list are not things you truly ENJOY doing, cross them off the list and do not consider them as career candidates. That doesn’t mean you’ll never use those skills, just that they won’t be your main focus. A good example might be bookkeeping or accounting skills that you use in your day job. You may be good with numbers but if working with them doesn’t thrill you and move you, you should simply consider it an additional tool that can help with your work.)
What’s left on your list? Look at the talents that were not checked as something you use frequently. Would you like to spend more time developing those talents? Again, if they don’t thrill you, cross them off the list. If they do interest you, consider ways to expand and develop them further.
Finally, make one more list: of things you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t yet. These will be things you can explore gradually and see if they have potential to be your passion.
Then, be sure to MAKE TIME to explore them! Check out courses and classes in your local area, or do a few internet searches for groups of likeminded people. Give your interests a chance, and one (or more) of them might blossom into a life-changing passion.
As adults we often take courage for granted – but where does this virtue come from? How do we foster this quality in our children so they too can become resilient and strong?
Resilience enables us to handle adversity, manage stress and deal with life changes. As parents, we want our children to develop these qualities so they are equipped to handle daily pressures as well as inevitable hardships that all children face as they grow into young adults. As a foundation for building resilience, children must know that there is an adult in their life who believes in them, loves them and supports them unconditionally. There is no simple formula to guarantee resilience but we can provide our children with a set of tools to help them negotiate their own challenges.
Kids and teens are growing up in a world that is becoming increasingly competitive and comparative. It is easy to for them – for any of us – to believe that the ones who have found success or happiness are better than, stronger than, smarter than, or privy to something magical – certain strengths or qualities that are reserved for the lucky few. The truth is that none of us are born with the ‘success’ gene or the ‘happiness gene’. There are many things that lead to success and happiness, but one of the most powerful of these is courage.
Behind so many brilliant successes are failures, rejections, and unexpected turns. Often many. Without exception, there is also courage. Mountains of courage. Courage to keep going, to find a different way, and of course the courage to try in the first place.
Teaching Kids to Be Brave: Explaining What Courage Is.
For kids and teens, one of the most important things for them to know is that courage doesn’t always feel like courage. From the outside, courage often looks impressive and powerful and self-assured. Sometimes it might look reckless or thrilling. From the inside though, it can feel frightening and unpredictable. It can feel like anxiety, or fear, or rolling self-doubt. Courage can be a trickster like that – it often looks different from the outside to the way you would expect it to feel on the inside. This is because courage and fear always exist together. It can’t be any other way. If there is no fear, there is no need for courage.
Courage isn’t about something magical that happens inside us to make us ‘not scared’. It’s about something magical that happens inside us to make us push through fear, self-doubt, anxiety, and do the things that feel hard or risky or frightening.
Sometimes, courage only has to happen for seconds at a time – just long enough to be brave enough.
There’s something else that kids need to know about courage – you don’t always see the effects of it straight away. Courage might mean being kind to the new kid in class, trying something new, speaking up for something they believe in. Often, these things don’t come with fireworks or applause. In fact, they rarely do. The differences they make can take time to reveal, but when actions are driven by courage, the differences those actions make will always be there, gently taking shape and changing their very important corners of the world in some way.
How to Build Courage in Kids.
We all want to feel safe. It’s so smooth and unsplintered and unlikely to scrape you or embarrass you or leave you with bruises. Sometimes, ‘safe and certain’ might be the perfect place for our kids to be, but so much growth and the things that will enrich them, will happen when they let go of the handrail, even if just for seconds at a time. Here are some ways to nurture their brave:
1. Speak of their brave as though they’re already there.
Kids and teens step up to expectations or down to them. Speak to the courage that is coming to life inside them, as though they are already there. ‘I know how brave you are.’ ‘I love that you make hard decisions sometimes, even when it would be easier to do the other thing.’ ‘You might not feel brave, but I know what it means to you to be doing this. Trust me – you are one of the bravest people I know.’
2. Give permission for imperfection.
Failure and rejection are often a sign that you’ve done something brave. Every experience gives new information and new wisdom that wouldn’t have been there before. It’s why only the brave ones get there in the end – they have the knowledge, wisdom and experience that can often only be found when you land badly – sometimes more than once. Give them space for imperfection – it’s a growth staple.
3. You won’t always feel ready. That’s why it’s brave.
Let them know that it’s okay to hang on while they’re getting comfortable – while they’re working on a plan, fanning the brave spark inside them (and it’s always inside them), but then there will be a time to let go. When this time comes, it won’t always feel like readiness or certainty. That’s what makes it brave. And a little bit magical.
4. Try something new.
Encourage them to do activities that push them to the edges of their physical or emotional selves – drama, sport, music. Anything that will help to nurture the truth to life that they are strong, powerful, that they can cope, and that they are not as fragile as they might feel sometimes will help to nurture their brave hearts.
5. Be the example.
Everything you do is gold in their eyes. Talk to them about the times you feel nervous, or the times you’ve said ‘no’ or ‘yes’, when everyone else was moving in the opposite direction. Talk to them about the times you’ve pushed through fear, exhaustion, sadness, anger, to do the thing that was right for you. Talk about your risky ideas, the times you thought differently, did differently, and the times you felt small, but did something big. Let them feel that the brave in you, is in them too.
6. Give them space for courage of thought.
Courage isn’t only about pushing against their own edges. Sometimes it’s about pushing against the friends who might steer them off track, the limiting expectations of others, the media, the majority, the world. Too many times, creative, change-making, beautifully open minds have been shut down in the name of compliance. There is nothing wrong with questioning – it opens hearts, minds and mouths – what’s important is that the questioning is done respectfully. One of the reasons the world is capable of great things, is because young minds who are brave enough to challenge the way things are and to want something better, grow into adults minds who make it happen. Ask for their opinions and let them know they can disagree with yours. Some of the world’s very ideas have often started with small ideas that made no sense at all at the time.
7. And when the motive is brave but the behaviour is, let’s say, ‘unadorable’.
Sometimes brave behaviour gets shadowed by behaviour that is a little scuffed. When this happens, support the brave voice or intent, but redirect the behaviour. ‘I love that you speak up for what you feel is right. It takes guts to do that. We won’t get anywhere though if you keep shouting.’
8. Give space for their intuition to flourish – and teach them how to use it.
Intuition is not magic and it’s not hocus pocus. It’s the lifetime of memories, experiences, and learnings that sit somewhere in all of us, just outside of our awareness. Gut feelings and heart whispers all come from tapping into this pool of hidden wisdom.
Scientists in Switzerland have found the physical basis of ‘gut feelings’. The innate fear response, or the feeling that something isn’t right, is heavily influenced by messages sent along the vagus nerve from the stomach to the brain. The vagus nerve is the longest of twelve pairs of nerves that leave the brain. It sends messages from the belly to the brain, touching the heart along the way. When the vagus nerve is cut, the loss of signals from the belly changes the production of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. (Neurotransmitters help to transmit messages between brain cells. Everything we do depends on these messages flowing properly.) The hard part – and the part that can take a lot of courage – is acting on gut feelings or intuition and doing what feels right, regardless of the noise that tells us to do otherwise. Encourage them to take notice of when something feels right or wrong for them. Sometimes this means giving them permission to let go of needing to justify or explain the reason they feel the way they do. ‘When you are still and quiet, what does your heart tell you?’ ‘Do you have a feeling about what you should do? Sometimes those feelings come from the part of you that knows what’s best. Taking notice of them can be really valuable.’
9. And then there’s self-talk. Sneaky, sidelining self-talk.
Self-talk is one of the biggest ways we stop ourselves from venturing outside of our limits. Self-talk can be automatic and barely noticeable, but so limiting. They are the ‘can’ts’, ‘shoulds’ ‘shouldn’ts‘, and ‘what-ifs’. They can be persuasive little ponies that put courage in a box for a while.
Let your kiddos know that however scared they might feel, or whatever they might be telling themselves about how much they ‘can’t’, they will always be braver than they think they are. Brave can be a thought, a feeling, or an action. They can do brave even if you don’t think it or feel it. If they don’t feel brave enough, or believe they are brave enough, they just have to act as though they are. Their bodies and their brains won’t know the difference. Brave is brave, however much fear and self-doubt is behind it.
10. It’s never to late to change … anything.
Let them know that it’s never too late to change direction, change friends, or change their mind. It’s so easy for courage to turn cold when a decision or choice feels final. All experiences bring new wisdom, and if that new wisdom means the decision stops feeling right, that’s okay. There will a plan B, a back door, a way out or a way back up. But first comes the brave decision to start.
11. The outcome doesn’t matter as much as the process.
When they feel the need to play it safe, they are focusing on the ending, or the need to avoid failure. Whenever you can, encourage them to shift their focus to the process – the decisions they make, the actions they take, and the courage that drives all of it. Many kids (and adults) are held back from brave behaviour because of the fear of failure, but what if the goal is courage. It’s always important to be considered when being brave – sometimes brave decisions and silly ones can look the same – but if the process has been thought about and the consequences considered, let the courage to have a go be more important than any outcome.
They will always get over a disappointment, but any time they take the opportunity to be brave, they are strengthening a quality that will strengthen and lift them from the inside out.
12. Encourage their sense of adventure.
And let them see yours. It is in the adventure that we learn new ways of being, thinking and doing. Whether it’s taking a different turn, trying a different food, going something they’ve never been before, it’s all part of discovering their own capacity to cope with unpredictability and their own resourcefulness – and that is the fuel of the brave.
13. Let them celebrate their courage regularly.
Introduce a weekly family ritual – maybe around the dinner table – where everyone shares something brave they did this week. This is an opportunity to show them that courage comes in many different shapes and sizes, and that even adults struggle with being brave sometimes. It’s a way to prime them for taking risks and doing things that they might not otherwise do – even if it’s just to be able to tell you about it.
14. Brave is about doing what’s right for them.
Sometimes courage is about doing the scary thing, and sometimes it’s about doing the right thing. Let’s say a bunch of friends are going to watch a scary movie. It’s easy for kids to think the brave thing is watching the movie, but if it doesn’t feel right to be wathing it, the brave thing is actually saying ‘no’. Saying no to something that doesn’t feel right is one of the bravest things we humans can do. There are three clues that can help them wade through the noise and find the right thing to do:
Will it break an important rule or is It against the law?
Will it hurt someone?
Does it feel right for you?
Deciding whether something is right or wrong is the first step. The next part – which is the tricky part – is finding a safe out. It’s not always easy saying ‘no’, which is why this is where courage happens. Give them some options to try. These might involve leaving, suggesting something else to do instead, blame a parent (my mum/dad said I couldn’t. There’s no way I’m getting myself into trouble today. Nup’), make a joke (‘out of all the ways to get grounded, that’s not a way that’s worth the trouble’).
They might also believe that courage comes in the way of grand, big gestures, superheroic feats, or actions of dragon slayers. The truth is, our children are slaying their own dragons, every day. They’re heroes, every one of them. The key is helping them realise it so they can use it to push through their edges when they feel small, scared, confused, or unseen. Because one of the most important parts of being brave, is knowing that somewhere inside of you, ‘brave’ will be there when you need it, whether you feel it or not.