Maybe it was when you were picking a major. Maybe it was when you were starting a business. Maybe when you were switching jobs. Maybe when you were going back to school. Maybe when you were trying to get into shape. Maybe when you failed a class. Or two.
Maybe it was a guidance counselor. A gym teacher. A friend. A classmate. A coworker. A customer. A neighbor. An acquaintance. A relative. Or two.
It doesn’t matter whom, or when, why, or how it happened; it only matters that somewhere along the way, someone cut you down, and those comments stuck with you. Then, somehow, the comments became a fact in your mind.
Maybe they called you lazy, or slow, or dumb. Maybe they said you were a flake, or a failure, or that you always fizzle out. Maybe they said you give up too easily or that you never follow through.
Maybe they started with, “You always…” or “You never…” or “You should’ve…” or “You shouldn’t…”
The world is constantly trying to tell you what you’re not. It’s up to you to say what you are. Stop letting the comments, thoughts, and action of others define you. Let today be the day you start to define yourself. There are a few ways to stay on track in this most valiant of pursuits.
Keep your commitments. To yourself. The “to yourself” is the key here. Of course, you should keep commitments to others; that goes without saying. But often, the things we aim to do for ourselves are the ones kicked off the list first. For some, this might be coincidence, for others, it’s self-sabotage. Think about the various times you bailed on your goals. Did you use your commitments to others — your kids, your spouse, your friends, your job — as an excuse, or did you really have too much on your plate? If it’s the latter, there are ways to remedy it. This might mean saying no. It might mean asking for help for something you “should” be able to handle on your own. If it’s the former, there are also ways to remedy it. Namely, stopping the excuse-making and forcing yourself to get to it.
Don’t underestimate the power of relationships. Good relationships are gold. They can give you a boost when you need it most. Surround yourself with people who build you up and believe in you. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes one to build a life as well. Find your tribe. Find your allies. Whether it’s online, offline (or both!), join clubs of likeminded folks, volunteer, or find the few pockets on the Internet where people aren’t fighting and instead are supporting one another. Your tribe it out there. You just have to look for it — and in some cases, create it.
Be real about your progress. This goes both ways. Don’t talk yourself into believing you are doing more than you are, but don’t discount your accomplishments, even the seemingly trivial ones, either. Are you really pushing yourself and hustling or are you merely doing busy work — or worse, are you just thinking about the work you’re going to do once X, Y, or Z happens (those X, Y and Z are always getting in the way!)? Or are you putting yourself down and not acknowledging the real work you’re putting in? That could lead to burnout, discouragement, and disenchantment. Keep things fun and be honest with where you are. Sometimes that means working harder, sometimes it means working smarter, and sometimes it means working...period.
Don’t let others define you. Don’t let them tell you what you’re not. Do it by showing them who you are. As Roger Daltrey (and, well, technically Pete Townshend) asked, Who are you? (Who, who, who, who?)