On a blog like this, we generally cover things like inspiration, motivation, and perspectives on how to get things done. Today, I want to talk about something different. I want to discuss the idea of dropping expectations for yourself.
I know, I know. This is a hotly contested topic among the self improvement crowd, who like to instead talk about always striving for new goals and working to make themselves better. I get it. I'm with them, but over time, I've come to a serious realization.
Who you think you should be and who you are can be very different things. Many of us have high aspirations, but are constantly fighting the pull between our goals and our actions. If we "fall off of the wagon" enough times, we start to feel that we are somehow incapable of actually making the changes happen. Then, we silently (or not so silently) beat ourselves up, trying to "get tough" on ourselves or, worse yet, making excuses for ourselves while knowing, deep down, that we just aren't truly committing to what we say that we want.
May I propose the idea that instead of going through this cycle over and over again, that we look at things a little differently. In this slightly off beat vision, there is no need to act hardcore, deny yourself, or do anything that strains you. Why? Because when you set yourself to strain over a long period of time, you will fall off. It's a basic tenant of our human willpower.
What if we first were easy on ourselves. We allowed ourselves to be exactly who we are without judgement. What if we took care of ourselves and then looked for a few places where we could tweak our behavior to get the most bang for our buck?
As an example, let's say that I have realized that I need to get up earlier. Well, forcing myself out of bed at an early hour, grumbling and sleep deprived might work for a few days, but eventually, I'm going to collapse back into my old pattern. Instead, what if you started clearing your evenings a bit earlier, allowing you to take a warm shower and easily downshift into a restful sleep. Go to bed early for a week. Then, after about a week or two, set your alarm twenty minutes earlier. Then, move your bed time back another twenty - allow yourself to acclimate and then shift your waking time again. - You get the idea.
The point here is not that you are forcing discomfort into your life. It's that you are working with your human tendencies instead of fighting against them and eventually beginning to shame yourself. You are taking care of yourself first, making it pleasurable and enjoyable on a deep level, not just pretending to be a hardcore self development junkie.
It's easy to consider: Want to be a writer - start a blog. Write a little every day and enjoy the process. Want to eat more healthy? Find amazing and healthy food that you love and have it for dinner once or twice a week. Starting finding more and more healthy dishes and build them into your diet over time. The goal should be to have a diet that you love AND is healthy for you.
I could go on and on, but the point has been made. Life isn't easy. You are so hard on yourself. Why not learn to be easy. Let it develop naturally and with limited struggle. You'll find that if you respect this principle and develop both the pleasure and level of engagement with your goals over time, they will stick far more than they ever have in the past.
Give a shot, see what you think.