Take a tip from high-performance athletes. Look at how far you’ve come, not how much you have left to do. Scientists call this the horizon effect. It creates encouragement–”I’ve done twice as much as a week ago!”–and builds determination–”I’ve made it this far; I might as well keep going.” Focus on the 10 pounds you did lose; the closet you managed to clean; the $1,000 debt you’ve wiped out; the evening you carved out for yourself. Don’t forget to ask yourself how you’ve accomplished the task so far, so you can mine your success for ideas on how to keep going.
Most of us treat ourselves harshly when we stumble–”You blew it again, you jerk, can’t you ever get it right?” So the very least we can do is to recognize and value when we do it right: “Hey, you managed to keep your cool for the whole week, as you vowed to!”
Congratulations! Self-appreciation is powerful stuff. It reinforces the behavior we want to bring into being. It tells the brain, do more of this. So the next time around, you’re more likely to make that same good choice. Being grateful for how we’ve done reminds us that we indeed have succeeded at something we set out to do. When we fail to acknowledge our efforts, it’s easy for them to become invisible to us.
Recognizing and acknowledging our success also gives us the encouragement to try again tomorrow. Because we are aware of what we’ve done right, we have more confidence that we can do it again. So when we appreciate the success we have today, it actually makes it easier to succeed the next day. Especially when it’s something that involves a lot of effort over time, it’s important to keep appreciating how far you’ve come. That will give you the energy to keep on.
To Try: Right this second, stop and appreciate how well you’ve done so far. Even if you’ve only done it one time, appreciate yourself for that and think about what made the one-time success possible.
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In this monthlong learning series, M.J. Ryan, author of the best-selling book This Year I Will…: How to Finally Change a Habit, Keep a Resolution, or Make a Dream Come True, will take you through four steps, each lasting one week, to help you figure out what your most important intentions are and give you the tools to make each a reality. Just joining the learning series? Go here to start at the beginning. Intent.com provides content and community for who you aspire to be–personally, socially and globally.