When we are finally ready to face our fears and start a personal growth journey, it’s natural for us to want to create healthier habits to achieve our goals. We’ve worked on mustering up the courage to face our shortcomings (sometimes we’re mustering up the courage to just admit we even have shortcomings) and we analyze what we need in order to change, grow and improve.
And although we may have the best of intentions, it’s inevitable that starting something new will lead to falling back into comfortable, old patterns which give us that euphoric dopamine hit of instant gratification followed by a guilt and regret hangover.
Our negative reel will quickly highlight our downfalls: You’re not dedicated enough! How are you supposed to live a healthier lifestyle if you can't even make one little change? What’s wrong with you? You can’t stay focused! You don’t have what it takes! You’ll never change.
So how do we create new habits to achieve our goals when we feel like we’re always falling off the wagon?
We do this by celebrating the effort we’re putting towards our goals and breaking down our goals into attainable milestones. No one wakes up one morning with the goal of accomplishing something very difficult and think they can achieve it without training. The training takes time, energy, showing up, falling down, getting back up again, and achieving incremental progress.
That's why step 7: effort + goals focuses on recognizing the effort we’re putting forth and making sure we set reasonable goals along the way. When we celebrate our efforts in reaching smaller, more realistic goals, we find that we naturally propel ourselves to the next milestone. We also find it easier to focus our attention on softening our grip on our old vices and habits that used to bring us short-lived enjoyment.
Luckily, we have both been on our personal journeys long enough to know that we have fallen off our wagons, tested our boundaries, given ourselves cheat days and we still have experienced significant changes helping us move forward towards our goals.
Just like humans, our personal growth journey will be flawed and will have setbacks. Our brains are wired to feel strain and discomfort when we are doing something for the first time, but it's also designed to shift and change once we develop new habits. So we must expect agitation, frustration, and flair-ups of our negative reel when we first start changing, which can make us crave our old habits.
This is why our mindset of focusing on incremental progress instead of how much further we have to go is critical to the success of our personal growth journey. We must have the mindset to acknowledge the breaking of our old habits and the creation of new ones, but we also need the mindset to accept reasonable goals and grace as we travel along our journeys because the fact of the matter is, it’s a bumpy ride with a lot of ups and downs.
As we navigate through the harshness of self discovery, we have reached a point where we can now fully admit to ourselves that we are flawed, without the immediate backlash of shame and embarrassment. So if we have done the internal work to accept ALL of who we are, then why wouldn't we believe that our growth journey would be anything different?
It’s been a long process to get where we are now and there’s much more to go, but that no longer seems as daunting or unappealing like it once used to. Through our journeys, we have found the reward within the challenges of fighting for a life of ease, focusing on living in alignment with our core values, and knowing that we are worthy enough to get what we want. And to keep us moving through our growth journeys, we continue to work on focusing our attention on our efforts and goals to remind ourselves we can keep doing hard things.
Ming-Wai + Ming-Cee