The attitude of ‘this could be better’ plays a part in many areas of our lives. We are always trying to find ways to improve ourselves, whether it is our writing, fitness or just general well-being. This is motivation can stem from being disappointed with how we currently are or the need to achieve something else we want.
We then find different ways to improve ourselves by reading about how to instill good habits, become happier, wake up earlier and so on. Our efforts might not go the way we plan first time round or even the second. But we promise ourselves that we won’t make the same mistakes. However, our disappointment and frustration only continues to grow. If you exercised regularly a year ago, you already would have lost the weight, right? This disappointment will only fuel your current effort and make you even more determined than before.
It’s important to understand just how powerful your attitude can be when approaching any form of self-improvement. A lot of self-improvement journeys start from moments of sadness and disappointment but we seldom look back and give ourselves credit for the good things we have done.
At what point does it change from wanting to improve things to simply focusing on the negative?
Always saying ‘this could have been better’ can be more harmful than beneficial.
This isn’t the same as simply trying to forget about any goals you failed to achieve in the past. It requires honesty and willingness to let go of self-imposed burdens. Deciding to forgive myself for not reading much more when I was younger or not being more proactive with my education was tough. It meant that I had to admit that using disappointment and frustration as a basis for my attitude was only leading me towards more frustration. It meant I needed to stop dwelling on what I hadn’t achieved but on what I am going to do.
But ultimately, it meant that I freed myself from cycles of self-criticism of a past that I couldn’t change. My attitude towards self-improvement, and more importantly myself, started shifting from focusing simply on what I hadn’t achieved, to the progress I have made and the progress I will continue to make.
Why is this so useful?
- It doesn’t prevent you from looking for areas of improvement.
- You’ll dwell on past misfortunes much less which means you put more energy towards future goals.
- You enjoy the progress you make instead of worrying about the things you haven’t yet done.
Allowing yourself to appreciate your current progress and putting aside the anger you had for your previous actions will result in a more positive approach to your work.
Your attitude towards yourself and work also affects how likely you are to complete goals. Here are a few things you should remember when trying to complete something:
1. Perfection is impossible
Whether we admit it or not, we always want our best work to be the first piece of work we produce. It leads to constant worrying about whether our work will be good enough and we may even doubt our ability to get it done at all.
We seem to forget that work is actually worked on. Not produced and framed straight away. If I could write the perfect book without having to edit it, I would have written it yesterday. But I can’t do that and neither can any of the famous authors you read.
They begin and later improve on it.
2. Improvement is slow
A large reason why people give up on goals (especially New Year’s resolutions) is because they expect to see visible change instantly. When we don’t see the change we expect straight away we become demotivated and give up.
However, we shouldn’t expect fireworks to straight away. Musicians practice regularly, writers write regularly and runners run regularly. See the pattern? If you ask a person about how they lost weight, they won’t say it happened in a day. If you ask an author how many times they edited their work before they experienced some success, they won’t say only once.
Realising this helped me understand why consistency is the key to getting things done.
3. You’re better than you give yourself credit for
Doubt is normal but it shouldn’t stop us from trying to work towards goals we want. Having a realistic outlook on things is good but that should not equate to always telling yourself that you’re worse than you actually are. This eventually leads us to the point where we believe that there’s no use is starting something. Usually because we don’t think we are intelligent enough, as hard working as we used to be or have the necessary self-discipline.
We essentially say to ourselves that we can’t run the race before we even get out of bed. Try letting yourself believe that you’re capable of completing what you want and see what happens. After all, you’ve probably downplayed your ability for much longer than you’ve praised your work.
Looking at the how influential my attitude towards myself and my work is has increased how much I enjoy it. Self-criticism should never result in self-loathing or continuous disappointment. It should only serve to improve the work that you’re doing.
Try changing your attitude towards yourself and your work. There’s little value always being negative about your progress or character.