No matter your goal, creating positive change in your life—big or small—isn’t easy. “To cultivate inner strength is a goal basic to our mental health,” says author and psychotherapist Piero Ferrucci in his book Your Inner Will: Finding Personal Strength in Critical Times. “And it is the work of a lifetime.”
According to Ferrucci, many people never begin that work because they feel trapped by their circumstances, the responsibilities in their lives that they feel keep them from reaching their goals. The key, he believes, is to take a mental step away from anything that is distracting you from your objective and use that space to re-discover and re-energize your inner strength.
Though easier said than done, there are actions you can take and exercises you can practice that can help give you the strength to persevere through a challenge. Here are a few:
Get out of your comfort zone
Although routine implies safety, research says that disrupting your schedule and forcing yourself to deal with the consequences will help you become more adept at dealing with unexpected change. Don’t be afraid to start small: use a map when you would normally ask Siri for instructions, take on a one-time volunteer duty, or call someone you might typically text.
Remind yourself of your wins
Remember the time you lost five pounds, found your way around a new city, or stood up for yourself? Don’t make excuses—own it, be proud, and use those moments to stick to your guns.
You ate the cookie. You lost your temper. Instead of marking it as a fail, mark it as a F.A.I.L., or First Attempt in Learning, and take a moment to reflect on why you stepped away from your plan. What was the trigger? How can you avoid it next time? While you’re at it, don’t forget to practice a bit of self-compassion: how would you counsel a friend who had made the same mistake?
Give Social Media a Break
It’s a fact: the algorithms employed by social media apps like Instagram and Facebook are specifically designed to keep you engaged and on their sites; research indicates that using these apps can trigger the release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of pleasure. The bad news is that as you add more and more screen time to your day, you’ll be left with even less time to focus on your goals.
Live with Purpose
Need motivation? Remember the wisdom of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who said, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how,” and attach your intention to something bigger than yourself, like eating healthfully so you can play with your grandchildren.