Last Thursday I was standing in the rain with someone who was smoking his first cigarette of the week, angry with himself for giving in rather than giving up. I stopped smoking more than 10 years ago and can still remember the effort involved.
Even though I’m no addiction expert, when someone asks me how I gave up, I like to think I can help. This was one of those days and I gave my advice confidently and without hesitation.
Removing the smoking reference the advice sounded a bit like this.
‘Don’t beat yourself up. It’s just a bad day. It’s so easy to beat yourself up and tell yourself you’ve failed because of a blip. Acknowledge the blip and keep going. Focus on the progress.’
He thanked me, I wished him success and we both moved on with our day. An hour later, that conversation was still playing on my mind, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.
Today someone gave me exactly the same advice.
I may have been kind to myself when I gave up smoking, making allowances for bad days and cutting myself some slack occasionally, but I’m clearly less generous with myself in other areas of my life. I’m also frequently less generous with myself than I am with those around me.
Hands up anyone who could do with taking their own advice a bit more often!
As a coach I believe in goal setting. I see the value in visualizing success and aiming high, but I also question the rigid approach that is often applied to the process.
The path to success is often presented in neat steps, a bit like this staircase, where you gradually and systematically work your way to the top. In reality it’s nowhere near as tidy. There are blips; we trip up, slow down or stop and sit to catch our breath. There are days when it feels too far or too high or we just don’t want to take another step!
The staircase also assumes we can see what is ahead when that is rarely the case. No matter how carefully you try to plan it all out, there will always be surprises. At times you catch yourself nervously peering over the edge hoping nothing will poke you in the eye.
Whether you are giving up smoking, have career aspirations or sporting dreams, it’s important to acknowledge that no matter how well you plan, it’ll always be more like a hilly landscape than a perfect staircase. Dips are part of the journey; they don’t mean you are going backwards, they are just bumps in the road.
This week take these 3 simple ‘and kinder’ steps to review your progress in any area of your life where you are prone to beating yourself up a little.
Step 1 – Look back at where you started
Go as far back as you need to in order to see progress, to see how far you’ve come. If you struggle to see any progress and you’ve been putting a lot of effort in, then ask someone who was there when you started to help you with this. They often see what we don’t.
Step 2 – Acknowledge the progress
If you have moved 2 steps along a 20 step path then celebrate the 2 steps. You’re on the right path! That’s 2 steps further than you were when you started. It’s a positive trend and you are on the right track even if there are another 18 to go. Pat yourself on the back! (Get help with this if you are less flexible!)
Step 3 – Keep going
Now that you can see things are going the right way it’s easier to motivate yourself to keep going. So do it, keep going!
Oh, and the next time you find yourself standing in the rain, telling someone who is struggling with something not to beat themselves up, just remember that sometimes the best advice you can get is the advice you give to others.