Stop Trying to Be Better
Ep. 166
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On this episode I talk about why you should be doing personal development, what it’s for and what it’s not for.

Spoiler alert: if anything you’re doing is to feel more worthy, you’re doing personal development wrong.

Show Transcript
You did all the things that you had on your to-do list, what do you think your brain does there? Right. Your brain instantly goes to like yeah, but you didn't work out. Remember we were supposed to work out three days a week and of course, we didn't do the date night even though we put it on the calendar. Like your brain will just look for where you failed, it won't take a beat to say like wow, we really crushed it in our business this week.

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Hello, my friends. Welcome to another episode. I am so excited to have you here. Yeah, that's it. That's the intro. I'm so excited to have you. I really am. I love doing this and I love all of your responses to the podcast. Thank you for sending me your sweet messages about how it helps you. That literally means the world to me. And if it does help you and you want to help me, share it with someone. Listen, we all know people who are miserable in their careers. I know you know some and sharing is caring my friends as my daughter, who has recently gone to preschool, likes to remind me. So go ahead and just send it to them and be like hey, this helps me, I thought it could help you. And if you need more help, I always tell you guys but I'm gonna reiterate that I do a monthly coaching call. I love how they've been growing. I love how supportive the group is. I love seeing the messages that watching other people be coached helps you. So join the calls. They’re so much fun. They're free. I stagger the time zones because I know we have people from all over. So I try every month to pick a different time zone morning, afternoon, evening, so that we can get everybody in. You can get on the list to get notified at Okay, that now is my only intro. I am so excited about this topic because I have wanted to bring it up in one way or another and I've been seeing it so much in the people that I coach so I'm like let's talk about it. I want to talk about the problem with personal development and I've entitled this episode Stop Trying To Be Better.

Now, if you know me, and if you listen to the podcast, clearly I love personal development. Okay. I think that we will, should constantly be working on ourselves and we should constantly try to evolve and grow and get curious about why we do the things we do and where this is coming from and what we actually want. It's a constant process. Okay. But the problem that I see is that for a lot of us and you know, most people that are listening to this podcast, you are likely a person that likes to develop themselves and you like to be better and that's admirable, but every good thing, every strength has, you know, the opposite side of that coin. Right? And what I see is that when people get into personal development or even, you know, you can call it different things and I'll talk about it in different ways, even goal setting.

I think we lose the forest for the trees. And what I mean by that is that like we become so obsessed with quote unquote getting better, whatever that means. And it becomes this constant search or focus on where we are not good in, like what area we're still struggling in or we're not the best in or whatever. Okay. And I want to just take a step back and really understand like why you should be doing personal development and what it's for and what it's not for. Okay. I think if we understand, and I think intellectually we all do, that nobody is perfect. That the point of trying to better yourself is not to get to some place where you are a perfect human being. Where all of a sudden you're a robot and you don't have human thoughts anymore. And you do exactly what you're going to say every single day. And you stick to a schedule and you never deviate and you work out and you always react positively and everything is regulated. I mean, it sounds ridiculous when I say it, but I think unchecked that's what a lot of us are working towards. That's often what I see, is this level of like beating yourself up when you don't do something the way that you wanted to. I think we have a tendency to forget that we're human. And of course, we're not going to always react the way we want or stick to our schedule the way we want, like welcome to the human brain. Right? Of course, we want to numb and buffer because sometimes feelings are hard and we just don't even want to feel it. And we want to do something else. Of course, we want to distract because we get bored and boredom isn't fun. Like our brain knows how to get a dopamine hit and it's smart. So it's like let's go for that dopamine. Of course, that's going to happen. That's not a problem. That's not a sign that something has gone wrong or that you're deeply flawed or something. It means that you're a human being. And I think that if we really reset and kind of start from this foundation of like of course I will always be flawed. Always, no matter how good I get, no matter how much I work on myself and I can come from a place of compassion for myself, of understanding, of curiosity, then yeah, I can work on things. I can decide like hey, is this the best version of me, am I showing up as the best version of myself? Can I make certain things better? Great. But I feel like it's this yardstick we're measuring ourselves against. And if we mess up at all, we use it for self-loathing. We use it to beat ourselves up. I recently heard this, I can't remember where to give credit, but I thought it was such beautifully stated sentiment. It was saying your standards should always be used to lift yourself up. They should not be used to beat yourself down. Okay. I'm going to say that again. The standards that you set for yourself should be aspirational. They should be used as something to shoot for. They should be used as something to look at and decide and recommit all the time to try to strive for. They should not be used as some kind of floor that if you don't get it each day, you use it to beat yourself up. And unfortunately, that's what we all use our standards for. We decide like this is the thing I want to be.

I want to be calmer with my children. I want to work out more. I want to not scroll on my phone, whatever the thing is you want. And then every day I'm going to like see how I'm falling short of that goal. And I'm just going to play these intensely negative thoughts in my head over and over again, that should do it. That should teach me to ship up. Right? Which like never ever works. It just creates more shame, which makes us want to do things that give us dopamine hits to feel better. So we increase the amount that we're numbing and procrastinating, and we just keep the same cycle going. Right? I want you to understand that like your brain has a negativity bias, right? We all know this. Like it's evolved to look for what's wrong. It's evolved to look for what could be quote unquote a danger. And now our society has evolved enough where we don't have a lot of physical dangers on a day-to-day basis, but our brain is still evolved to constantly look for what could potentially be wrong. And we have trained our brains to constantly look for what's not right. What's not the best, whatever. And I think that a lot of times, for people that are used to pushing themselves to be quote unquote better, whether that's from school or work or whatnot, or just in your personal life, this becomes like the never-ending quest to constantly look at how you're falling short in certain aspects of your life. I always recommend when I do my goal setting workshops, when I have my coaching clients, you know, especially as the new year rolls around, I recommend that people never have more than one goal ever. And I get a lot of like resistance for that because people will say like well, I want a goal for my business and I want to lose weight. And I want to spend more time with my husband, have date nights and I want to do, you know, whatever. And I'm not saying you can't do those things. Just because you have a goal, it doesn't mean that you can't do other things as well. Right. And oftentimes the way I look at it, like for instance, right now, my goals tend to be very focused on my business. And if I want to, you know, like scale my business, that's going to require me to take care of myself. I think about that. Like well I should work out in order to have more energy or go to sleep earlier or whatever the thing is, to make sure that I'm going to scale this business in an easy way. Okay. So I'm not saying that like you can't do those actions, but I want you to think about what happens. Let's say you set five goals, right? You have a goal to work out three days a week and have a date night with your partner once a week and you're going to grow your business and you're going to pay off that debt. And you know, one more for fun. I don't know, whatever, like you're going to stop drinking or something. What happens at the end of a week when you did a lot of like really amazing things for your business, right? Like you did all the things that you had on your to-do list. What do you think your brain does there? If like that's the only things you did, you focused on your business, you went hard. We already know, right. Your brain instantly goes to like yeah, but you didn't work out. Remember we were supposed to work out three days a week. And of course, we didn't do the date night even though we put it on the calendar. We skipped it over cause we had to take the kids to soccer practice. We always put our relationship last. This is going to end in divorce or whatever other like thoughts are running through your head. And of course, like I had a little bit of wine because Friday night at dinner, everybody was having it. And like of course I couldn’t stick to that. Like your brain will just look for where you failed. It won't take a beat to say like wow, we really crushed it in our business this week. We really did do everything. That's awesome.

It constantly looks for like the negative and I just don't give my brain that option. Right. I don't set things as goals. Yes, I want to work on them. Sure, I want to like try to work out more. Right. I don't know what that means for me though. Like maybe one week that means one day a week, maybe the next week it means like three days a week, maybe one week it means not no days a week. That's fine. Cause like that's not my focus right now. Right. My focus is my business and I will integrate other things as much as I can, but like I'm not holding myself to some standard where every aspect and arena of my life has to be perfect. And I sort of see that problem with personal development is like when we're good in one area of our life, which we all are. What's interesting to me, I've been like really trying to observe my coaching clients, my family, myself. And it's funny to watch people because like we all have one area that like comes naturally to us. It's just an easier thing that we don't have to struggle with. Like that might be work for you. Or it might have school let's say, that might be a relationships like maybe your relationship with your spouse is just super easy-going and like really little work and super fun. Or maybe your workout, like exercise, that is just not anything you'd ever have to think twice about because you love moving your body and like you have to do it every day. Okay. Great. And the thing is is that like for a lot of us, like we have that thing and we completely ignore that. Like of course my marriage is fine. Like whatever, but I can't scale this business. Like I'm clearly terrible, a terrible human being. Cause I can't learn how to scale this business or somebody else like business comes supernatural. Like they are a grindaholic, they will work as much as you tell them to, but then their relationships suffer. Right. And so that's what they're focusing on. And I'm not saying that like we shouldn't focus on the things that we want to improve. We should. I just think that the point isn't to become perfect. There isn't this infinite like 1% better, 1% better in every single area where you're all of a sudden going to like wake up one day and be like oh my God, I have succeeded. Everything is a hundred percent fabulous and I'm a freaking robot, you know? Like it just doesn't work that way. And so I see this with a lot of my clients because they constantly see that like as soon as they do one thing that like they've wanted to do, they just jump to the next thing. That's also bad. They’re like yeah but I have been doing this but I've really been letting my health suffer or whatever. And I'm like can we get, just get a second to be happy, is that allowed? But you're, I know the way that the brain rocks, like I'm not surprised. I'm always like yeah, of course we're onto the next thing. And I think this is something to just really start becoming aware of. Right? Because here's the thing, I don't think you need personal development to be quote unquote better. I want you to really define what that means. I want you to define why you're doing it. If anything that you are doing is to feel more worthy, is so you can finally feel good about yourself, you're using personal development wrong, right? You need to work on your mindset to feel worthy and good enough and love yourself right now exactly as you are. The person who doesn't work out at all and whose house isn't perfectly clean and who yells at their kids every once in a while and gets stressed out, whatever that person, a hundred percent worthy of love and respect and rest and joy and everything. And doesn't need to do anything else to earn that and doesn't need to do anything else to be quote unquote better, like a better person. Personal development is to just evolve yourself and grow, like what are ways that I can push myself to just see what I'm capable of? To do things that are, I'm curious at, to work on some of my maladaptive behaviors so I don't have to react that way. I can have more peace, so I can have more calm, but not because like I have to hustle and perfect every area of my life so I can finally feel good about myself because it doesn't work. I just want you to see that. If it worked, I would be okay with you doing it. And you're like yeah, go for it. Set a goal, crush that goal and go right off into the sunset, into your happiness.

Unfortunately, I know from personal experience that that doesn't work and now I see it with my clients. It's like they'll reach each milestone and just go onto the next problem and the next problem and the next problem. You know, I think for most of the people listening, we tried to achieve our way to happiness. Right? We thought if I just succeed, if I just show how good I am, if I just show how smart I am and I get this job and I get that degree and I climb this ladder then I can feel good. I can feel worthy. And we didn't, we still felt like imposters, right? Because it all starts with your thoughts. And so I don’t want you to use personal development as another yardstick by which to measure yourself and then beat yourself up because there's one area where you're still not measuring up. And I don't want you to use any of this to try to think that you need to earn your worth. And I don't want you to burn yourself out by always trying to be better. Like I feel like there's just really something to be said for working on your thoughts, to be happy where you are, because it allows you to rest. It allows you to enjoy your life. It allows you to take time off. It allows you to not have to hustle for that destination or that goal. Like the only way this works is if you can really be in the sufficiency of yourself, right? Like if you can really be in the place of like I love myself, I'm fully worthy. You know, I can manage my mind and be fully happy here. And I just choose to do things because it's fun because it helps me grow because humans are literally wired to evolve and we're curious and you want to keep growing. And that's a great reason to have goals. And it's a great reason to push yourself. But I suspect that for most of you, that's not what you're doing. You're picking goals because like once you have that, what do you think you're going to get to feel? Like if you're picking a goal, cause like once I lose weight or once I get married or once I have the career, once I make money, then I can finally exhale. Then I can finally feel happy. You're doing personal development wrong. And it's just not really an end goal that you're ever going to get to. And so I think the first thought to work on or thoughts or mindset work with first work to do I should say, is to work on your thoughts exactly where you are. It's to really work on the thoughts of sufficiency and love and happiness exactly with who you are right now. Exactly how you are. And that comes only from self-compassion, of really seeing, like being a human is hard. It is exhausting. It is a lot, especially in this world where we are all plugged in where we're constantly bombarded with bad news and all about horrible things happening in this world. It is a tough gig. And so can I have compassion for myself? Like of course, I'm going to beat do behaviors or engage in behaviors that I've never learned, like how otherwise to deal. Of course, I'm gonna act like this, course I'm going to numb and buffer and do all this other stuff. Like it has to start from that point. And it has to start with thoughts of like self love and self trust, you know, and really acknowledging everything that you have done and everything that you have accomplished and everything that you have been able to withstand, make it through, like all your hard days. When you can really see that, like that's the starting point. And then everything else becomes like okay, now that I'm learning better, can I do better? Right, now that I know how to manage my mind, can I start to work on other things that I just would like to change? Because I think it would leave me to be at more peace or whatnot. Like when you start from that point, not only are you doing it more the right way, there's not as much of an urgency to get to those goals. I've talked about this a lot on this podcast about the fact that it's not about the destination, it's the journey, right? And yet when you find yourself constantly trying to get it to a destination, it's because you think you're going to feel a certain way when you get there, you think you're going to be happier, right? And when you can really work in these thoughts of like sufficiency of where you are now, the need to get there faster starts dissipating. You can slow down. You can start realizing like right here is fine, me as my flawed human self right now is great. And that's when you can really actually start enjoying the journey, right? It's more of like I'm doing this because it's fun. I'm picking goals because it pushes me to just grow and blow my own mind and see what I'm capable of. Not things that I need to desperately get to faster and faster so I can finally feel okay. And it allows you to rest me. There's going to be seasons where you don't want to push yourself to develop into the best version of yourself. And that's okay. Like even if your goal is, let's say working out or healthy habits, that doesn't mean that for the rest of your life, there can never be a season that you don't work out as much or you don't eat clean or whatever. I think for all of us, again, like intellectually, we understand that we have childbirths and deaths in the family and tragedies and just depression and anxiety and you know, seasonal disorders because it's dark and gloomy. And if we can really just like let ourselves really understand how sufficient we are, then we can allow ourselves to move with the seasons, just like any other animal. Right. We can understand that like this is just a season that I don't need to push. And then when I'm feeling it, I can push again. But that only comes from really understanding that like you don't have to be any better. You can give yourself the grace and the time to move through your life and through your development at your own pace. And that might mean a year of not doing it, six months, two years, five years. It doesn't matter until you're ready to do the next project and the next project. So I want you to really ask yourself like why am I trying to be better? Like what is the end goal? Do I have these like you know, images, this ideal image of myself where one day I'm going to be a perfect human being. And you know, I'm always going to do exactly the right thing and stick to my schedule and you know, never have negative thoughts or procrastination and, you know, be this health queen and have a perfect marriage and plow through my work with ease and never get overwhelmed. I mean, it starts sounding crazy but I promise you, that's what a lot of people of us are waiting for. It's like someday I'm going to wake up and it's all just going to be ideal. And when you say it out loud and you start realizing like of course that's never going to happen and that's okay. And so if that's what you're going for, then you're using personal development incorrectly and I invite you to start re-imagining your relationship with it and really asking yourself, why are you setting certain goals? Why are you working on certain things in your life? And when you can get to the point of like because it's just fun, because I want to grow or blow my own mind. Not because I have to. Not because there's anything wrong with me. And when you start using those standards to lift yourself up, to just really blow your own mind each week, like can I do more this week? Or can I show up in the way I want to this week? And maybe I didn't do it last week and that's okay and I can leave it. Then those standards become fun. But as long as you're using them as a reason to beat yourself up, then there is always going to be this level of exhaustion and overwhelm that so many of us feel because we're constantly pushing ourselves more and more every year to try to get to some level of perfection that doesn't exist.

You are not robots, my friends. The point of this whole thing is not to become robots. It's not to become 1% better each year until we get to some, I dunno, state where we no longer have the human experience. That will not happen. I don't know whether that's good news or bad news. You're stuck with those negative emotions, 50/50 for the rest of your life. So like how can you slow down and kind of enjoy it? And maybe that means for awhile you stop trying to be better. I hope this helps. And I hope you take some time to figure out where you've been pushing yourself for that reason. And you just give that time to yourself to work on the thoughts of knowing that you are a hundred percent worthy, a hundred percent lovable, a hundred percent enough exactly the way you are. Alright, my friends, I hope you have a wonderful week and I will see you next week.

Thank you so much for listening. If you liked this episode, share it with someone else. I promise you know somebody who also hates their job and wants to quit, so why not share the love? And if you want to come follow along for more, come join me on Instagram at LessonsFromAQuitter and make sure you say hi. I'll see you next week for another episode.