6 Tools for SELF Growth - by Bob Crawford
Compare it to exercise. You know, at least on an intellectual level, if not from experience, that if you begin an exercise program with the goal of changing your body’s appearance, you will only get results if you exercise regularly. If you exercise sporadically, you’ll be sure to get sporadic results. If you begin a weight loss program and you don’t follow the program consistently, you know that you can expect inconsistent results.
Improving or growing your SELF is no different. If you’ve decided that you need to make changes in your life, that you’re ready to go after the things you desire, then you have to commit yourself to doing whatever is necessary to bring about those changes. There is no way around it. You will have to spend time focusing on your goals or desires. You will have to examine your thoughts and feelings towards your goals or desires, because they are the basis of your actions. If your thoughts, feelings, and actions aren’t moving you in the direction of your goals, you must replace them with ones that are.
The tools listed here can help you stay focused on your goals, and will assist you in maintaining the thoughts and feelings that you need to have to achieve your goals. But in the end they are just that – tools. They can aid you tremendously, but only if you let them. They aren’t magical, but the results you can achieve with their proper use might just seem that way.
If you are visually-oriented you might be drawn to visual tools like vision boards, or pictures of your goals. If you prefer words to pictures you may find that journaling, or writing out your goals and desires, is more appealing to you. Which technique you prefer doesn’t matter. Begin with the one that appeals to you the most. But consider trying some of the other techniques also. You may discover that the techniques that you shy away from at first are, in fact, the very ones that will produce fantastic results for you.
Most people will have the greatest success using a combination of tools, and that is why almost all self-improvement programs utilize a mixture of these techniques. The fact is that the more of your senses that you involve in your self growth activities the quicker and more completely you will realize your goals.
Tool #1 - Meditation
Meditation is by far the number one recommended tool to aid you in achieving any kind of self growth or self improvement. The benefits of regular meditation have been reported time and time again, and include: lower stress, increased energy, the increased ability to focus, and the ability to relax quicker and more completely.
There are many, many types of meditation, and they all involve a quieting of your mind. You learn to still your thoughts, either by focusing on the stillness, and allowing the quietness of your mind to expand; or alternatively, by learning to still your thoughts and focusing exclusively upon one particular thought. This thought may be the name of your deity, it may be a sacred word, or you may be focusing upon a desired outcome or intent.
If you have no experience with meditation and would like to begin receiving the benefits it provides, try the following basic breathing meditation. Begin by sitting quietly in a comfortable position. Next inhale slowly and completely. Feel your breath expanding first your abdomen, then your chest. As you complete your inhalation count ‘one’ silently. Now slowly and evenly release your breath, beginning with your abdomen and counting ‘two’ as you exhale. Count your next breath in as ‘three’ and your next breath out as ‘four’. Now begin the cycle at ‘one’ again and continue in a slow, steady, rhythmic pattern.
As you breathe in and out, you will notice thoughts flitting around inside your head. Sometimes these thoughts will seem totally random, other times, especially if you are struggling with a particularly difficult problem, they will seem to be related to your problem. This is normal and will decrease with practice. As a thought appears in your mind, simply notice the thought and then return your focus to your breathing. Don’t try to ignore the thought, and don’t pretend that the thought doesn’t exist. Your mind already had the thought, so you can’t stop it from happening. Instead, you are saying to your mind, “Okay, thanks for that, but this is what I’m doing right now.” Your mind can’t focus on two separate thoughts at the same moment in time, but it can, and does, flip back and forth quite rapidly between two or more separate ideas. Acknowledge the stray thoughts that enter your mind and then let them drift away without pondering them further. Always return your attention to your breathing and continue counting, in and out, in and out. You are training your mind to focus, to focus on one thing, one task, at a time. Begin by practicing for ten or fifteen minutes once or twice a day.
Tool #2 - Affirmations
Affirmations are basically positive thoughts that you read or repeat aloud to yourself several times a day. They should always be stated in the present tense, meaning that you would say, “I am a happy, successful person,” and not, “I will be a happy, successful person.” Your affirmations should be tailored to your goals or desires, and should be as specific as possible. Whatever changes you desire in your life, put them into words as if you had already attained them and then read them to yourself at every opportunity. Repeat them first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Keep them in your pocket and repeat them to yourself throughout your day. Repeat them when you are feeling good, and repeat them when you are struggling with anything that seems to run counter to your desires.
Tool #3 - Goal Cards
Goal cards are similar to affirmations, but are always written. A goal card is an index card or piece of paper with your goals written on it in the present tense. List each of your goals separately. Always use the present tense and always be as specific as possible. Don’t write, “I am rich,” decide exactly how rich you want to be and put it in writing. “I earn $100,000 a year,” or “My net worth is one million dollars.” Don’t write, “I live in the home of my dreams,” instead, spell it out – “I live with my loving wife, Donna, in a beige, three-bedroom, ranch-style house, with a fenced in yard, in a quiet neighborhood just outside of Sedona, Arizona.”
Just like an affirmation you need to read that goal card over and over, at least twelve times a day. Continue physically taking your goal card out of your pocket and reading it to yourself, even after you’ve memorized your goal card completely. Feel free to change or reword your goals or desires as you see fit, there is nothing wrong with changing your mind about what you want. But once you decide on a goal, write it on your goal card and then treat your goal card like a sacred document.
Tool #4 - Vision Boards
Vision boards are a popular self growth tool right now, thanks to the movie “The Secret” and also to youtube.com. A vision board is simply a visual representation of your goal. It’s a physical image that, every time you see it, will remind you of your goal and cause you to focus, however momentarily, upon it. A vision board can be a simple picture of your dream home taped to your bathroom mirror; it can be a poster board sized collection of multiple images of all your goals and desires; or it can be a full-blown, computerized slide show complete with images, music, and special effects. Whatever the format, its purpose is to visually remind you of your goals and desires.
Tool #5 - Journaling / Diary
Journaling is an excellent way, not only to stay focused on your goals and desires, but also to track your progress towards your goals and desires. You can begin by writing down your goals, just like on a goal card. Get them down on paper and be as, say it with me now, be as specific as possible. Very good. Now, take your journal and spend a few minutes each day jotting down your thoughts and feelings about your goals. Record any ideas or inspirations you receive, no matter how far fetched they might seem at the time. An idea you have today could fit with an opportunity that presents itself tomorrow, or next month.
Write down any successes you have, both big and small. Write down any setbacks you experience too. Being able to look back and see what worked for you and what didn’t work for you will be an invaluable resource.
Tool #6 - Brainstorming
Brainstorming is a little different then the rest of the self improvement tools listed here. Meditation, affirmations, goal cards, vision boards, and journaling will all help you to learn to focus and to train your mind to move into a state of being that is congruent with that of your intended goals and desires.
Brainstorming is a creative process that allows you to discover ideas and connections between ideas. You can use brainstorming in two ways. You can use it to zero in on your wants and desires like a laser beam, defining and narrowing down your goals into specific statements that reflect your true desires and needs. It can also be used to create new approaches and new ways to achieve your goals that you might not have considered before.
Brainstorming is a useful technique because it allows you to make new associations between ideas and concepts. Sometimes a different way of looking at a situation is all that is needed to solve a problem or to move another step forward towards your goals.
Here’s how a brainstorming session works. Begin with a paper and pencil. Now take the main idea that you want to brainstorm and write it in the center of your paper. Let’s say that you want to define one of your goals. Perhaps you’re undecided about what career path you should follow. Write the word ‘career’ in the center of your paper and draw a circle around it. Now, begin to write down each and every job title that you might be interested in doing. Don’t think about whether or not you are qualified for that job. If it sounds interesting or fun write it down. Each time you write down a possible job, draw a circle around it and draw a line connecting it to the circle that contains the word ‘career’.
The objective is to allow a free flow of ideas from your mind to the paper. As you are writing each job title, something about that job that appeals to you might come to mind. Jot it down near the job it relates to, circle it and draw a line between it and the job it relates to. Not everything you think of will relate easily to anything else you’ve written... no problem, simply write it and circle it.
The key is to quickly write down your thoughts as they come. Don’t analyze them, don’t think about them, just get them onto the paper. Positive or negative, just get them down on paper. Do this for fifteen to twenty minutes and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at some of the ideas and connections you are able to make. Repeat this technique in a day or two and you’ll likely get different ideas and different connections.
Use brainstorming to really define your goals. Then use it to discover new and creative ways to reach those goals.
Your SELF Growth Tool Box
You now have a set of powerful tools to help you in both setting and achieving your goals, regardless of what they are. It bears repeating though, a tool, no matter how powerful it is, is useless unless it is used, and used correctly. If your goal is worth achieving, it is certainly worth a little mental effort.
Use as many of these tools as you like, but be sure to use them consistently. Your continued effort, your continued use of these tools is sure to bring you amazing results.
Bob Crawford is a spiritual teacher, inspirational speaker, and writer. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article may be copied and republished in full as long as this resource box is included in its entirety, and no monetary gain is derived from such use.
Copyright © 2007 by Robert Crawford