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Set high goals and focus on the experience and skill-building

Updated: Oct 21, 2022

I grew up in a tough-love type of environment and looking back; I am thankful for it. It was never easy, but it also wasn't completely hard. I am sure many people have it much worse and get fewer opportunities. I have nothing to complain about, and I am grateful for my upbringing, all it taught me, the opportunities I created, and some which just showed up. My upbringing helped me 'build a backbone,' learn how to brush things off, and know that there is no one else in the world you can rely on other than yourself. I had people who set high goals for me, which led me to adopt the same mindset and then work hard to achieve them. I had coaches and family members who were the first to point out my mistakes and failures. Nothing was ever good enough. There was always something I could do better.

While I am now grateful for all those experiences, the past wasn't that easy, and as I grew through life, I found that there were things I needed to adjust to progress as some of my old habits were not serving me. If you had a similar upbringing, here are a few tips that might be helpful:

1. Stop telling yourself you are not good enough. Growing up in the type of upbringing I described naturally leads to the mindset that you can always be better and do better. There is nothing bad with striving to be better, do more, and be more, as long as you are also celebrating your wins and successes. Looking back, I never valued any of my achievements. I used to take them for granted, and when one does that, a lot of life may seem unfulfilling and dreadful. Pause often to celebrate your wins and small achievements. I am still not the one to celebrate new jobs, promotions, anniversaries, my birthdays, or Christmas. I hate celebrating any significant achievement as I believe that any big milestone is created by a collection of many small things/ habits done right over and over along the way. Instead, I choose to celebrate three things I did right every day. This daily pause and mini-celebrations practice helps me value my effort on a daily basis and see more accurately whether I am on the right path directionally. Am I putting my effort and energy into the right things? What am I focusing on? Am I building the right skills? Am I creating and leaning on the correct habits?

2. Stop judging yourself. Because I grew up in this type of upbringing, that was the only way I knew how to motivate myself. If I didn't have people who would 'yell' at me, telling me all the things I have done wrong, I created that person for myself. It turned out that I became my own worst enemy as I replicated the 'you are not enough' mentality, especially when I had people around who I felt were not pushing me hard enough. I don't think I need to explain this to any of you; it's just common sense knowing that you cannot achieve your goals if you don't believe in yourself. Pushing yourself down is the complete opposite of believing in yourself. If you make a mistake, pause to evaluate what went wrong, and try to be as rational and calm about it as you can - identify lessons learned - implement iterations - and keep moving towards your goals with the adjustments you created. A simple equation would look like this: Failure --> Pause to Evaluate --> Gather data to identify opportunities to improve your model --> Iterate to improve.

This Ray Dalio drawing is excellent for explaining it:

3. Stop putting negative pressure on yourself. I say negative pressure because I believe that pressure can be positive - it all depends on how it's implemented and your mentality and mindset. What I mean by this is making it as simple as choosing your goal and then putting your whole heart and effort into it. That's it. No pressure. No judgment. All you have to do is put your entire heart and energy into this journey. You will collect new experiences and learn new skills along the way and have fun - enjoy the work you are putting in and see if you can achieve your goal. There is only hard work, commitment, and curiosity. Exploring all that you are able to do (all that your body is able to do - if this is a physical goal), all that you learn, keeping an open mind believing in yourself, and the goal you set for yourself. Be kind to yourself, and be your own cheerleader. Show up and put in your best effort. If you make it - fantastic! Great job! Maybe you underestimated yourself. Perhaps the goal wasn't big enough. What else do you want to achieve? If you didn't make it - oh well! What can you learn from it (back to steps #1 and #2)?

As I grow through life, I treasure my energy and effort more than anything else. It used to be the time I have always valued the most, and I still do, as the time investment is an inevitable part of any journey, but as I grow older, I find that effort and energy are even more valuable. They are more personal. It means I value something enough that I put my whole heart and effort into it. It means that I am enthusiastic and passionate about something, and really, our effort and energy is the only thing that distinguishes us from each other, including the experiences we choose to create for ourselves.

  • What are your goals?

  • What are you putting your effort and energy into?

  • What are the habits you are building? What skills are you creating? Are they aligned with your goals?

  • Do you celebrate your wins/ achievements?

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