Whether you’re turning your sidehustle into a career, sculpting a fitter body, or perfecting your favourite sport, getting better at anything requires a simple yet specific sequence:
You do it, you encourage each of your efforts and then you repeat this process every day without cease.
Now think about the goals you’ve set after, and the habits you’ve tried to hone. If you aren’t exactly where you want to be in your growth curve, you’re skipping one or two of these simple steps. Which is it for you?
I used to be really good at starting things—step one. But, back before I began my self-improvement journey, I didn’t have the slightest concept of self-encouragement—step two. I figured that once I did something well enough, I’d get all the congratulations I needed from other people. It didn’t work out that way.
When things got really tough in my new business ventures or educational endeavors, I’d crack. I didn’t have someone orienting me toward the future, coaching me, and approving my efforts. I didn’t have me in my own corner.
Self encouragement is like the protein you consume after a workout
Lifting weights is hard on your muscles, right? The resistance/stress breaks down tissue. But if you don’t replenish your body with protein after the workout, your muscles won’t grow, which makes regular workouts frustrating and pointless. The same is true for self-encouragement and your personal growth.
You need that reflexive “good job!” or “you’re kicking ass!” to rebuild confidence after a big effort. But when you don’t get that positive self-talk, you won’t feel good enough about yourself and confident enough about the future to persist in your success effort.
“A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success.” – Unknown
After landing back at my parents (for the third time) when my business venture in California went bust, I decided I would no longer succumb to the forces that had sabotaged my previous efforts. So I read all that I could from Tony Robbins and Zig Ziglar. The one thing I learned was that I had to become my own biggest supporter, otherwise, I’d continue to bring myself down with negative self-talk and inconsistent effort.
That’s when I started planning self-encouragement
My greatest weakness is that if I don’t plan something out and have an action step I can check off, I just won’t do it. This weakness ended up becoming my biggest strength when I decided to take ownership of it.
Since I wasn’t encouraging myself enough to grow consistently as a writer, I started writing out ten checkboxes for self encouragement in my daily planner. That’s when I literally got addicted to success.
Before, I’d write an article and then think to myself, “Yeah…probably not gonna make a difference anyway.” This attitude prevented me from taking risks and consistently doing my best, which is crucial for any kind of success. But when I started creating self-encouragement rituals to conclude my writing sessions, I got high off of the positivity.
“Thank you so much for kicking ass today! Thank you for doing everything you need to do to be successful and to make a difference. I’m so grateful for your efforts, and so excited to see where this effort takes you. Keep it up!”
This was instant gratification in the otherwise-delayed gratification process of achieving success, and it ended up giving me the confidence and positive attitude I needed to persist, to learn from my mistakes, and to grow in the ways I desired.
Three months after I planned for daily self-encouragement, I had my first full-time job as a staff writer at a major publication. That was no coincidence. When I continued my success sequence, do, encourage, persist, it was only another year before I was on each of the major magazines I’d dreamed of writing for.
“In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.”
I gained a following. People began seeking me out for coaching, to help them gain similar success in wherever they wanted to improve their own lives. But more important than anything, I established an identity as my own greatest supporter, which will help me to succeed in anything I set my mind to: marriage, expanding my business, etc. I owe my successes and my career to ten self encouragement checkboxes.
Here’s how to start your self encouragement practice today:
1. Start a morning routine of affirmations
Before your mind can drift to negative thoughts, immediately set yourself to positive affirmations. I mean literally right after you wake up, don’t skip a beat! Pick out the forty affirmations that you need most. “I am worthy, I am persistent, I am successful” and write them down on a 3×5 index card. Then, recite them to yourself in a mirror as soon as you wake up. Keep up the habit until you have all forty memorized.
Once you start this practice you’ll become sensitized to your inner dialogue and you’ll begin to hear everything going on between your ears, including the negative. When you start to hear you beating yourself up, that’s when it’s crucial to fall back on the positive affirmation. You’ll cement this habit by scheduling regular self-encouragement checkins in a daily planner.
2. Create ten checkboxes for self encouragement in your daily planner
If you don’t already have a daily planning habit, you won’t get the life you want until you start planning for it every day. You don’t need to plan much, just your top five to eight goals, and the habits you intend to do every day (self-encouragement being the most important one). After you list your first three or four goals at the top, break the page up with “encourage yourself!”—followed by ten checkboxes.
As you check off your goals, make sure to encourage yourself for your efforts. For example, if one of your goals were to run five miles in the morning, when you check that goal off you’ll immediately applaud yourself and then check off a self-encouragement box. “Thank you so much for taking care of my body and making me feel good about myself, you’re doing awesome!” Check.
When you refer to your planner throughout the day, you’ll notice that there are more checkboxes than you have goals. Use those empty checkboxes as reminders to affirm yourself. “I am generous, kind, patient, uplifting, creative, dependable, perseverant, etc.” Check.
Keep this up over the course of a month and you’ll be on your way to mastering whatever it is you want.
By holding yourself accountable to a self-encouragement practice, you’ll grow the resilience and confidence you need to persist in the things you love and to master the skills and habits you desire. All it takes is a blank sketchbook and the routine of planning out each of your goals at the beginning of a day, including ten checkboxes for self encouragement.