If you’re reading this you’re probably interested, as I am, in personal growth and development. As you likely do, I also frequently reflect on my life and my progress in being a better person, a better me. During a recent period of self-reflection I realized there are three skills that have contributed the most to my own personal growth:
- Awareness of my self-talk, keeping it positive.
- Treasuring the present moment, being mindful.
- Embracing the gift of imperfection, not needing to be right or perfect.
Awareness of Self-Talk
What do I say when I talk to myself? An early introduction to self-talk came from a book simply titled, What To Say When You Talk To Yourself, by Shad Helmstetter. Published nearly forty years ago, it’s still a great read on the topic and a top Amazon seller.
How I talk to myself is a reflection of what I believe about myself. What I say to myself and how I say it not only reinforce how I feel about me, but guarantees I will continue to feel that way going forward.
Most of us don’t realize it, but when we talk to ourselves we often use two of the most powerful words available to us. I am. I am, followed by what we add shapes our futures. How often have you and I said to ourselves, ” I am so stupid, how could I make that mistake again?”
Or these widely used I am’s: “I am so clumsy; I am so dumb; I am such a klutz; I am a terrible writer; etc.”
These are terrible things to say to anyone, let alone to say to ourselves. Our thoughts shape us, direct us, and lead us to our futures. It’s so important to be acutely aware of our self-talk.
I’m very careful now to monitor how I talk to myself. Sure I make mistakes, do dumb things, fumble about clumsily, and otherwise screw up sometimes. But I’m careful to separate those human mistakes from who I am.
Motivational expert Lou Tice suggests this form of self-talk when reflecting on a mistake: “That’s not like me, the next time I’ll …” This separates the problem from who I am and adds a positive corrective action.
It can be trendy to bash ourselves, some social groups make an art form of it. But it’s so hurtful and dangerous to self-image.
When I led personal growth workshops I often offered this challenge: No negative thoughts or talk for twenty-four hours. No negative words or thoughts for one full day. Reactions to this challenge were very interesting. Generally, most participants would simply laugh as this felt preposterous and impossible compared to a normal day.
Try it yourself. You’ll be surprised at what happens. No negative thoughts or words for twenty-four hours. None. If you mess up, reset the clock and start over.
Treasuring the Present Moment
Life only exists in the present moment. The past is gone and the future is just imagination. Life is right now. But oh how I used to waste it. Trained as an engineer, I learned to anticipate problems, forecast outcomes, and project solutions to potential threats. Even when solving current problems my mind was in a future state of analysis and projection.
The combination of retirement and growing older has led me to fully embrace the benefits of now. Now is the best place to live. There is no fear in the present moment of now. No threats, no dreams, no wishes, just a moment of life now. A present to treasure.
Treasuring now is an act of gratitude. There’s enjoyment in routine moments of daily living. Remembering to tune into my emotions and thoughts, paying real attention to what is now occurring in my life helps me feel that I’m getting my money’s worth out of each moment of life.
Fully living each moment is a skill I need to constantly work on.
My favorite resource on now is Eckart Tolle, author of The Power of Now, published in 1999. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go, There You Are is another best selling book on now.
Embracing the Gift of Imperfection
Embracing and acknowledging my human imperfection has always been a tremendous challenge for me. I put much energy into being Mister Right. Why? It’s easy to blame parents, teachers, coaches, and all the other adults in my childhood life, but I won’t do that. Something about me took my environment, schooling, and parenting environment and interpreted it as necessitating being right to being loved and valued.
It took my loving wife several years (way too many I’m sure) to convince me that I was loved and lovable despite my human imperfections. What a relief that has been! I hadn’t realized how much energy I put into being perfect. It takes a lot of work, and of course it’s still impossible, but we perfectionists persist in trying.
No more for me. I’m human. I make mistakes. I do dumb things. But I don’t do these things all the time. Most of the time I’m a fully functioning adult, doing my best to be the best me I can be. So what if I slip up at times? Just makes the journey that much more satisfying.
Being the best version of me that I can be is a worthwhile life goal, a meaningful journey, and a gratifying life path.
Questions for You
- Did you attempt the challenge of no negative thoughts or words for twenty-four hours? What happened? How did it feel?
- What skills do you depend on to keep you progressing on your personal growth journey?
- If you could reach back to the twenty-year-old you, what advice would you give yourself?
- What To Say When You Talk To Yourself, by Shad Helmstetter
- The Power of Now, by Eckart Tolle
- Wherever You Go, There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn
- The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown
- Featured image courtesy Flickr user Richard Stephenson, CC Attr. Lic. Image used without changes.