No matter what it is we are trying to accomplish in our lives there are only a small set of tools we have to work with. Most problems we will face will require most, if not all the tools is the box to one degree or another so it is important to understand how to, and when to use each one. On top of that like other tools all of the tools of self improvement require maintenance, so let's take a look at the tool box and see what we have to work with.
Self control: Nothing is more powerful than our ability to tell ourselves no. However self control is something that we posses in finite amounts, think of it as the battery that powers the rest of the tools; every so often we have to give it time to recharge. So it is important to pick our battles, trying to create lasting changes in our self that go against our basic desires more than a few at a time can over tax our reserves. When we run out of will power before we have created new habits we fall back in to our old ways, we create a cycle of failure.
Motivation: We do the things we do to get a result, this is true of behaviors that we want to have as well as the ones that we don't. We will not do anything that does not produce a pleasing result in one way or another. The problem is that it is easy to get distracted by things that bring short term rewards vs. long term rewards. If we want to create lasting changes we want to have a firm understanding of why we want the change to happen. If the path you are creating for your self is a hard one it is sometimes necessary to add extra motivations. Make watching your favorite TV shows contingent on getting the house picked up for example. In the tool box motivation is the level and the t square, as long as we remember it is there it will help keep our projects looking good and proceeding according to plan.
Introspection: Call it self awareness or inner knowledge; if we do not know what we want why are we even trying to achieve it? If we are making changes in our life because Oprah said we should or our friends think we need to do something but we do not want it we will not be happy. This is not to say Oprah or friends cannot be the inspiration for the changes we want to see in our life, but that desire has to come from within. Introspection is the measuring tape in our toolbox. With it we know what fits for us. Happiness comes from getting the things we want and lasting happiness comes from getting those things in a sustainable way. Most of the other tools help us find the sustainable ways; this one helps us find what we want.
Reason: Here is our saw. Think of our potential actions as a large sheet of plywood. There are a lot of different shapes that are in that plywood but only a few that will help us create the life that we want. We apply reason to the wood cutting out the shape of the action that best fits our life, that create positive change and that satisfy our motivations. Without reason to cut the good plans from the bad we would be paralyzed with too many things to do more of them wrong then right. With reason we can cut the wood, toss the scrapes and can focus our energy on the task without distraction.
Time: Every project we undertake takes time. It is the nails, the glue the staples that holds our constructions together. If we do not give ourselves enough time, a realistic amount of time to create changes in our lives there are two possible results. Hurried shoddy workmanship which will not hold up for more than a few weeks or a pile of lumber we have not even begun to assemble. We must understand that there is no greater resource that we can invest in our own development other then time. Given enough time we can change anything about ourselves, but we must constantly strive for the change. Just because we know we have years to accomplish some change does not mean we can procrastinate. Personal growth should be like a tree growing not like an earth quake. Slow inexhaustible change over a year produces more positive effects on our lives then sudden violent moments of compressed change.
Confidence: Lastly we come to the hammer in our personal growth toolbox. With confidence we can do the delicate work of putting in the finishing nails of a project or the heavy labor of smashing through a wall. As long as we know we are capable of succeeding at a task it becomes that much easier to succeed. Confidence is how we know we will be successful in what we do. The key is to develop it a little at a time. Learn to succeed, pick up that hammer and give it a swing, drive home a few nails before you start building a book case or framing a home. Every little success we have goes a long way to making us more confident. As our confidence grows we become willing to tackle larger projects.
Take good care of your tools and they will take good care of you.
Editing project: The state of the blog