How to bring out the best in yourself

When I first left teaching as my profession and began my life as an entrepreneur, I knew it was going to be tough. My first challenge: figuring out time management. You see, for the first time in my whole life, I wasn’t going to have my time managed for me. As a student, I was told where to be and when. As an athlete, I was told where to be and when. As a teacher, I was told where to be and when. But as an entrepreneur, I was completely responsible for my time. If I didn’t want to work, I didn’t have to. But I would have to suffer the consequences of not making any money. So, I wasn’t really concerned at first. How hard could it be anyway?

It turns out, time management is extremely hard. Especially for someone with zero experience in how to do it. Simply put, I didn’t know where to start. There are so many aspects to my day that I never thought of before. What should I do first? Answer emails? Exercise? Read? Post on social media? Honestly, I didn’t have the first clue.

Not knowing where to start was very demotivating for me. I am not an unmotivated person but I can lack a sense of urgency at times. And I had never had a problem with getting things done in the past. Yet I found myself feeling so unaccomplished day after day. Then, as time passed, I started to get it. I found methods that worked for me. I still struggle at times with time management but it is nowhere near as bad as it used to be.

As I unpacked all the things I was doing, I found that managing time really wasn’t about my time at all. It was about key themes that I focused on. As I analyzed my experiences, I came up with 5 Themes for Personal Growth to bring out the best in myself.

1. Take care of yourself

I begin every day taking care of myself through my morning routine. Self-care gives me confidence about the path I’m taking, as well as peace of mind about who I am becoming. Make sure you’re exercising and eating right. Build a healthy immune system by managing your energy and spending time on your mental health. Take on an identity that is completely within your control by producing a set of core values and sticking to it. Find purpose in what you do and look to increase your impact in your chosen field. And when you fall short, be willing to admit it and start over the next day. Every day is a new day and our goal needs to be trying our best every day.

2. Make progress towards achievement

Progress is all about what we can measure. You can’t truly gauge progress unless there is a metric tied to it. Once you have a metric, then you need a goal. “Aim small, miss small” is a great principle for goal setting. It means set as specific a goal as you can. When we narrow our focus by setting specific goals, the details become less invasive and overwhelming. We can lay out a plan and work to execute it every day but the key question that’s always on our mind is “are we making progress towards our goals?” If the answer is no, we need to find a better system or we need to revisit our goal.

3. Manage everyday life

Part of being an adult is committing to certain responsibilities. Landing a job, finding a place to live, paying bills, and parenting your kids are all adult responsibilities. And while having these things taken care of often brings us satisfaction, the act of doing them can cause us major stress. This can be a frustrating dichotomy unless we know how to approach it. First off, we need to stop expecting things to be easy. Take pride in getting through tough activities and tough times. Find value and meaning in things that cause stress instead of viewing them as something to avoid. Second, have a plan for what to do when things don’t go as planned. This makes us less frustrated when our expectations aren’t met. And third, remind yourself why you’re grateful for all your responsibilities. They may be a pain at times but they also cause so much joy for you in your life. It’s really a matter of what you choose to focus on.

4. Focus on others

Another way of saying this is to do things for others while expecting nothing in return. I’m not saying you must do community service every day (although that’s not a bad idea every so often). I am talking about finding a way to fill a need in someone else’s life. Sometimes that simply means writing them a letter of appreciation. Sometimes it means paying for someone’s food in the drive thru. Or it means picking their kid up from practice along with your own. Stress and anxiety can often be triggered by an intense over-focus on ourselves and our problems. If you feel overwhelmed, get out of your own head, and do something nice for someone else. You’ll be surprised at how it changes your attitude.

5. Adjust as necessary

The famous definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result. As we take in new information every day, we see new patterns emerge if we pay enough attention. These patterns are crucial in our ability to pinpoint what needs to change and what should stay the same. As you go through your day/week/month/year and reflect, notice the patterns of success and failure. Find ways to change those patterns that lead to failure into habits that lead to success. But a word of caution, don’t abandon your plans too soon. Adjusting does not mean abandoning, as the latter will prevent momentum. But that’s a whole other topic for another day. The point is, make changes as you move forward but don’t change too much all at once.

So, there you have it! Five things that will help you bring out the best in yourself. I don’t believe in “one-size-fits-all” models, as people are too unique to believe that we can give a blanket set of rules that will give you what you want in life. But if just one of these helps you get a little better, I would consider that a win.

Keith Galloway

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