I’ve done some pretty brazen things over the years. I took six months off from dating—cold turkey. I moved to New York in the middle of the Great Recession with no job. I decided to write a book about my lifelong battle with shame.
But even those who are closest to me may not realize that I doubted myself every step of the way.
Truth is, I’ve become a master at standing in my own way. I’ve projected my own shortcomings onto other people. I’ve self-sabotaged in more ways than I’d care to admit. And, worst of all, until just a few years ago, I rarely even realized I was doing it.
I’ve learned so much about myself and what I’m capable of in the process. But in the interest of helping you take a shortcut past the many setbacks I faced and mistakes I made, below I share eight effective ideas for keeping you focused on growth. So you can finally face your biggest battle of all—the one against yourself.
1. Recognize and replace limiting beliefs.
If you pay attention closely, you’ll notice that there’s a limiting belief behind every moment of confusion, hesitation and uncertainty in your life. You just weren’t aware of it.
A limiting belief is a long-held negative thought that you’ve given power over you. It can be as simple as “I can’t do that” or as complex as “I’m not worthy of something better.” But regardless of the nature of the belief, it’s something you’ve allowed to have real estate in your precious mind—and dominion over your life.
That ends now.
Use the following exercise to bring these thoughts out in the open and into your conscious awareness. Start by writing down some of your limiting beliefs. These typically begin with phrases like, “I never _____,” “I can’t _____” or “I suck at _____.”
Here are some of mine from previous versions of this exercise:
I’m too clingy
I suck at working out
I hate when people waste my time
Next, write down the subjective value these stories may have provided in the past. Here’s what I think these beliefs did for me:
Being “clingy” puts the burden on me and the control back in my court; I get to choose how much of this I express or hold back
Not knowing a lot about fitness is a great excuse to hold myself back from pursuing my health ambitions
Assuming that someone intentionally wasted my time allows me to be right and to play the victim to get attention
Finally, rewrite your limiting beliefs into affirming stories. Here’s how I tracked mine through:
I have a deep desire for intimacy and a need for closeness in my relationships—and that’s perfectly normal
I don’t know a lot about fitness, but I’m looking to learn
I get to choose how I spend my time—and if I feel like it’s not being spent effectively, I can change my investment
See the drastic difference in tone between the final set of stories and the initial list of negative beliefs? Reframing your inner narratives in this way will help you realize that you’ve been worthy all along.
2. Raise your expectations of yourself.
Now that you’ve learned to recognize how your thoughts are holding your back and what you can do about it, it’s time to kick it up a notch.
If you want to grow and become a better version of yourself, you need to raise the bar, plain and simple. One of the greatest mind tricks when you’re still stuck or holding yourself back is to expect more of other people, but the harsh reality is that you’re the one who needs to step up and put in the extra effort.
Someone who has a growth mindset won’t say, “I need something from the world,” they’ll say, “I have something to offer the world.”
Once you recognize that you are a blessing to the world just the way you are, you’ll truly be primed for success. And prepared to tackle the next steps in the process.
Set new goals for the next three, five or even ten years. Get clear about exactly how you want to live your life so you can hold yourself accountable and start making progress.
3. Stop making the same mistakes.
This is one of my 16 Life Lessons I Wish I’d Learned Sooner.
Making mistakes is one of the most powerful ways to learn in life. But a mistake made more than once is a choice. Successful strivers understand that in order to elevate their existence, they need to switch up the curriculum and not allow the same cycles to repeat over and over again.
If you keep finding yourself stuck in a familiar narrative that isn’t helping you, stop and take a hard look at what your role is in the process. And then break the pattern by doing something you’ve been afraid of or unwilling to do before. Like letting go, giving it space or putting yourself first.
Once you recognize that you can’t evolve and level up unless you close the chapter you’ve been re-reading, you’ll be eager to learn what you can—and excited to progress to what’s meant for you.
4. Invest your time wisely.
You can always make more money or acquire more possessions, but you can never make more time. Time is precious and limited. So spend it like it’s the most valuable thing you own. Because it is.
Take strict inventory of how you use your time and you’ll likely see that you’ve been wasting a ton of it and have very little to show for it.
The harsh reality is that if you want to move along to something greater for yourself and share your gifts with the world, you need to clear the path for that progress to occur. And that means cutting some things out of your schedule so you can fill it back up with productive, meaningful activities that add value to your life and support your goals.
Make no mistake: You’re going to have to scrutinize, make difficult choices and get comfortable saying no to things you said yes to for a long time. And that requires strength and willpower. But you can do it!
After all, this is about getting out of your own way so you can finally be a productive participant in your life and in the world. So make your priorities clear and then dedicate time to them.
5. Break it down.
Remember: Life is a marathon, not a sprint.
Too much change at once can feel quite overwhelming, especially when you think about the effort it will require over time. But as long as you break your goals down into small, actionable steps that are realistic and achievable on a regular basis, you have nothing to worry about.
Part of the reason you’ve been hesitating to go to the next level is because you may feel like you’re biting off more than you can chew. And that’s an important concern to consider. But chunking things up so they’re manageable and simpler to accomplish creates bite-sized activities that you can complete and cross of your list.
Stay strategic, diligent and determined and you’ll reach your goals in no time.
6. Don’t wait.
There’s a reason that Nike’s “Just Do It” tagline is famous all these years later. There’s really no better way to say it. At some point, you’re going to have to actually dive in and get shit done.
One of the greatest tricks your mind will play on you is by making you think that you’re not ready or that it’s not the right time to take action. I’m here to tell you that’s bullshit. (Also, go back to step one and replace that limiting belief with one that’s affirming.)
Truth is, there’s no right or perfect time for anything. There’s only opportunity and the energy required to align with it.
There will always be another obstacle and another excuse right around the corner to distract you. But if you’re resolved to keep your head down and focus on sharing your talents with the world, you’ll never be on the wrong side of the situation.
It’s either a regret or a learning lesson. You decide. So get in the game and just try.
7. It’s about progress, not perfection.
You’re not going to get it right or perfect every time. But that’s how you learn.
Fumbling still means you’re moving forward. So focus on taking it one step at a time. And don’t get distracted by all the side steps you may need to make along the way. As long as you’re progressing toward your goal and staying true to you and your gifts, you’ll always be winning—and growing.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Track your progress and look back to see how far you’ve come.
8. Remain curious and open to possibilities.
You may have a strict list of goals. You may have taken inventory of your time and realigned your commitments to reflect your new priorities. And you may be making some great progress in sharing your abilities with the world. But life isn’t always so black and white or cut and dry. Things don’t always go according to plan.
And that’s okay! Don’t be so inflexible that you miss a blessing or an opportunity sent your way. Embrace the process and remain open to what may come your way as you’re working diligently on sharing more of who you are and what you have to offer.
Stay rooted in your integrity and positive spirit and you will attract people and experiences that align with your energy. And that’s pretty damn rad.
What are some of the ways you’ve held yourself back in the past? How can you use these tips to take your life to the next level and share your gifts? Share your story in the comments—or Tweet me at @crackliffe.