The Art of Self-Improvement
Ever since making the (brave? foolhardy?) choice to focus my degree on writing, I've found about a thousand reasons to justify why I can't write. This was fine when I was a student and could blame everything on that title. But as a college grad who's suddenly found herself with an abundance of free time, I quickly realized my old excuses no longer fly.
I spent so much time blaming external things for my inability to focus: I have too much homework tonight, I'm booked on sets all weekend, I'm just not feeling inspired. But what I never really did was try to understand the reason behind these excuses. Since starting this blog and beginning the upward battle of getting back into a writing routine, I've had to take some hard looks in the mirror and ask myself why I'm struggling.
The first step to answering this was accepting that both the problem and solution start with me. If the goal is to change an external behavior, you've got to first look inward at the root of that behavior. Ironically, I found that writing is the most effective way for me to do this. I've always been a fan of journaling prompts, but in the last month I've begun using them as a tool for self-development. It hasn't been the easiest or most glamorous process; it requires a lot of brutal honesty and can at times feel overwhelming. But at the end of the day, journaling has also allowed me to start rewiring my brain for the better.
People have a tendency to think of self-improvement as this very precise, long haul, hard to execute thing. They convince themselves it's too much work to even bother, or else get tired of not seeing results and call it quits too soon. What I'm learning is the issue's not that people don't want to be the best version of themselves. It's that they don't take time to get clarity on what that version really looks like. For me, this is where journaling and putting in time to soul search has made all the difference. The process of writing things down has always soothed me and helped to quiet my brain, and I love that it gives me something tangible to look back on as needed.
Another game changer for me has been shifting the way I think about self-improvement. It's easy to get stuck in the rut of "I have to do this," or to develop an all-or-nothing mindset that doesn't allow for slip ups. In order to make real progress, these kind of mentalities have got to go. Creating real, lasting change requires you to understand that behaviors don't magically start or stop overnight. As with any habit or skill, there's a learning curve and plenty of milestones to reach along the way. You can't uproot your whole mindset in a week; it takes time, dedication, and lots of baby steps.
That's why I've started to approach self-development as its own craft, much like writing. Something to be practiced, worked at, and honed. I now set small goals each day and make a point to track my progress, either rewarding myself or cutting myself slack as needed. Taking these steps has already improved the way I work, my ability to focus on work, and my mentality surrounding work. I feel myself slowly becoming a better writer, better creative, and better person.
Being able to track that growth through journaling has only made this process all the more rewarding. If you're interested in the specific prompts I've been using, you can sign up here to receive a free worksheet I made with the goal of helping others look inward and start their self-improvement journey. Remember that in order to grow, you first have to understand what it is that's holding you back.