“You gotta start doing the work!”
This is something we hear so often these days, but what does this actually mean?
As someone who coaches and mentors people with regard to their mental health, I am often asked what “doing the work” means. Personal development and personal growth can be overwhelming and it is easy to get lost in all the advice, guidance and information we are bombarded with.
It can get confusing to determine what habits we need to change, to take on, to let go of. The truth is, it’s going to be different for everyone. The basics, however, remain the same.
Growth, learning, commitment, awareness, love, empathy. That’s what doing the work means. It may sound overly simple but in the end, those are the things to aspire to and the change we can effect in our lives. Doing the work is an admirable thing but it has to be done the right way to be successful.
Doing the Work
I wholeheartedly believe in a commitment to growth, to bettering oneself and to reaching new accomplishments. I believe in setting goals and overcoming obstacles to attain them. The idea, however, that a single decision can create a 180° turn in every aspect of our lives fails to consider that change takes time and repetition.
The idea that we can create personal change abruptly and that we can make it stick is perpetuated by much of the information we consume. The most powerful example of this is the culture surrounding New Year’s resolutions. The first day of the new year is always full of promises.
We are faced with an onslaught of New Year’s posts vowing to change, to improve, to pick up better habits. Everyone is full of motivation and drunk off the “New year, new you” mentality. But what do we know about gym memberships a few months after New Year’s? A large number of them are no longer in use.
What Does Doing the Work Actually Mean?
Many people can’t keep up with the intense and sometimes unrealistic goals they’ve set. That is because we put so much pressure on immediate change and instant gratification. We set goals as if they were a simple list of errands and begin climbs towards them that are unsustainable. We imagine there will be no obstacles to overcome, we imagine it will be as easy as deciding to do it.
We should be focusing on consistent and sustainable growth, not on arbitrary spurts of it accompanied by stress, societal pressure and unrealistic expectations.
Yes, your goals should be lofty. Your goals should scare and inspire you. Aim for the absolute best version of yourself you can imagine. The trick is to break down those goals into smaller steps and to work towards those smaller goals regularly. Baby steps, building momentum until you reach the ultimate goal. Doing the work is not about grand gestures. It is about continued commitment to small, sustainable changes.
We should be committing to bettering ourselves, to giving back, to being healthy, to loving and caring for ourselves and others on a regular basis.
Besides, do you really want a new you?
We are all valuable and worthy people, we do not need to fundamentally change who we are. We all simply have areas that could be improved. Part of finding the strength, the conviction and the confidence to work on these improvements is celebrating who we are now.
Doing the Work: How to Work On Your Personal Growth Without Exhausting Yourself
We do not need to change to be a worthwhile person. We are enough. We are enough, and we can improve – the two ideas can be true simultaneously.
The trick is to focus on those baby steps. Make it a life-long journey. This might sound trite but every endeavour, every success and failure has made us the person we are now, the person who is now undertaking a change. It is cumulative and all builds on itself.
Bettering ourselves should not be about radical change. It should be about a slow but steady shift, a process, an opportunity for growth. But most importantly, it should be about ongoing commitment and continued determination. Sudden change will not stick but a determined and committed path, despite obstacles, despite hurdles, will lead us where we want to go.
If what you are doing feels difficult, if it is exhausting, if you are confronting parts of yourself that are uncomfortable or scary, if you often want to throw in the towel, then you are doing the work.
Keep going, keep pushing, you will not regret it.