By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.
7 Top things to avoid in recovery and self-improvement programs.
Whether you are in recovery or just thinking that this would be a good time to make some changes in your life, it helps to develop a self-change plan that has a chance of working. Resolve and willpower will only take you so far. You will need to watch out for some self-change mistakes that doom your change project before it ever gets off the ground. Here are some common beginner’s mistakes that may undermine your self-change program.
1. Losing hope reduces possibilities.
One of the hallmark characteristics of depression is feeling hopeless. Nurture your hopes and dreams. By hope, I am not suggesting that pie in the sky thinking will get you where you want to be. What you do need is the belief that this goal you are pursuing is possible. Hold on to the hope that a better future is possible.
There will be setbacks, learn from them. Do not stay focused on what did not happen. Just because everything did not get done the first week does not mean that things will never happen. Have a well thought out plan for what you want to change and how you will do this self-improvement project and then stick to it. Believe that things can get better and work to make those positive events a reality.
2. Cultivating hope is a critical part of any change process.
Encourage and nurture hope in your life. Select friends and allies who have hope for you enough to share. Surround yourself with others that will encourage your hope. What you attend to you get more of, make sure that you are keeping your eyes on the end result and not down at the dirt along the way.
Change cannot be all negative and suffering. You need to build rewards and encouragement into your program to keep growing your hope and self-confidence.
3. Negative self-talk is a recovery barrier.
Tell yourself you can’t and you won’t, tell yourself that this thing is possible and you are already headed in the direction of self-improvement. What you tell yourself has a powerful impact on the successes of your efforts to change. Tell yourself that you can and you make it so.
Your brain holds onto self-talk and works overtime to make those things you are thinking about happen. Be sure you have given your unconscious thoughts the right goal to focus on. Do not ever call yourself names or beat yourself up for mistakes. Learn from missteps and keep moving forward.
4. Excuses keep you stuck– too old etc.
We can all find plenty of excuses for why we can’t do things. You can say you’re too old. Say it to yourself often enough and you make it so. Remember that old children’s story about the wee engine. Tell yourself you can and you are halfway there.
Setting low expectations and collecting alibis do not get things accomplished. Do not look for reasons you can’t do something. Look insisted for the things that you can do and get those done.
For every excuse you use to avoid trying and failing, there are people who refused to think that way. Because they did not know they couldn’t do something they accomplished it.
5. Expecting results overnight will discourage you.
You have decided to get in shape. You start dieting and exercising, some of the time, and then when a week or two goes by, you are feeling tired and see no change in weight. It would be easy to give up and fall back on those old excuses. Change of any sort takes time and it takes rehearsal. Humans revert to their usual and customary ways of doing things. To make a change and have it stick you need to practice that new way of being long enough that it becomes your default setting.
To perfect a skill takes many long hours of dedicated work. It may also require working with a coach or adviser who can see the things you can improve on. Improvement comes in small increments. Have patience with yourself and the process, but always keep moving towards those goals.
6. Going too fast – overdoing things will undermine your efforts.
You decide you want to change yourself and change your life. You get a new job, go back to school and start a new relationship, all in the same week. A common recovery mistake is to try to change everything all at once. Working on too many goals all at once results in none of them coming to be.
Prioritize, work on the important things first. Do those “must do’s” and check them off your list. Set goals for the steps along the way so you can see the progress, not the distance that still remains. Include time to savor the results of your efforts. As time passes you will be able to add more to your goals.
Having a list of accomplishments that you can reflect back on and feel pride can fuel your future change process.
7. Thinking that believing in yourself means being selfish.
You are far more likely to be affected by a case of self-doubt than by a case of too much confidence. Taking good care of yourself is not being selfish, neither is believing in yourself.
The winners always have self-confidence. That self-confidence does not come from bragging or expectations of successes without work. True self-confidence consists of setting challenges for yourself, acknowledging your progress and then setting a new goal.
To build self-esteem do positive things and give yourself credit for what you have accomplished.
Staying connected with David Joel Miller
Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!
Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.
Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.
For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.