Shortly after lockdown measures were announced, I remember my family, friends, professors and social media encouraged me to take advantage of this unique break to “work on myself.”
This meant participating in the increasingly popular YouTube fitness workouts, engaging with academic and professional enrichment webinars and working on long-procrastinated side hustles, to name a few.
The self-growth mentality — an attempt to flip and redefine the crisis — was infectious.
As with New Year’s resolutions, motivation is typically short-lived, and goals are quickly abandoned. Our limited progress mocks our ambitiously crafted goals.
I am not going to deny the value of pursuing self-improvement during these unprecedented times, but I would like to acknowledge that this situation has imposed unique challenges on our journeys toward growth.
The COVID-19 crisis has introduced immense uncertainty and discomfort in our everyday lives, creating a climate of fear and negativity. The pandemic challenged everything we had known and accepted, naturally shaking our confidence in ourselves and faith in our institutions.
The lack of structure and social accountability has also limited our ability to complete our daily tasks such as work and school. We’re all too familiar with the challenges of staying focused while attending Zoom meetings and taking virtual exams in the same place where we sleep and socialize.
Spending quarantine in our homes reinforced these obstacles. Living in an old, familiar environment and adopting a forwarding-thinking mindset have a noticeable disconnect between them.
It is important to note that while the pandemic has thrown everyone’s lives off course, it has disproportionately affected certain groups more than others, such as those with compromised immune systems, the unemployed and lower-income communities.
During the COVID-19 era, we simply cannot hold our productivity and growth trajectories to the same standard as we would otherwise.
That said, here are three items to consider on our self-growth journeys:
1. Take time to reflect on your own personal motivations for achieving a goal — not what others advise you to do. What is meaningful to you? Having an authentic “why” will help determine whether it is worth pursuing a goal in the first place.
2. Sometimes the motivation is not what is lacking. We are typically quite aware of the benefits behind a goal and have no trouble daydreaming about achieving a goal. The differentiating factor is creating a specific, actionable plan that fits well with your current lifestyle.
A plan that specifies when, where and how you will complete a certain task multiplies your chances of success. A recent study found the success of goals in the workplace is shaped by writing down goals, creating plans and establishing a system of accountability.
Even if you don’t fully follow through with the plan, it can help create an action-oriented mindset, provide a template for implementation and limit what is on your mental plate. It also prevents you from falling into the trap of developing unrealistic expectations and overly ambitious to-do lists.
3. Self-growth cannot happen without self-love. Our futures will not fully align with what we want. In our ambition-driven society, it is tempting to be hard on ourselves because we may not always follow our carefully written plans.
In fact, the U.S. News and World Report found that up to 80% of New Year’s goals fall short by mid-February.
A lack of self-love sets the stage for self-doubts, which contribute to self-sabotage.
This effect starts early: Self-doubts may mislead us into thinking our biggest and wildest dreams are beyond our capabilities. Shaped by initial setbacks, self-doubt and perceptions of failure affect the way we approach our goals and our willingness to persevere.
This cycle works as a self-fulfilling prophecy: If we keep reminding ourselves of our inadequacy and inability, these thoughts bleed into our psyches, becoming our realities. When we believe that something is beyond us, we exert less effort and are thereby less prone to success.
It may initially seem that self-love and acceptance of our own humanity can devolve into complacency. But taking steps toward achieving growth and investing in yourself, your future success and your well-being is self-love.
The good news is that the pursuits of growth and self-love are largely intertwined: Self-growth results in increased self-love, and self-love creates the foundation for self-growth.
Be it a single affirmation or action step, one move can launch a life of limitless growth.