By Soksambath Pichny
“Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how slow.” Plato
Most of the time, I believe that it’s not other people who discourage us, but ourselves. We are the ones who criticize and demotivate ourselves from making progress.
I am not different. Personally, I mostly feel like I’ve never accomplished anything good enough to satisfy my own mind and expectations. Even if I put a lot of effort into doing something, at the end, I still feel like there’s no improvement.
Also, by achievement or progress, I don’t mean the ground-breaking stuff like discovering how to teleport (but that’d be very cool too actually). I mean the simple things, like finishing a conversation with a stranger smoothly without mumbling and looking for my mom. It can also be completing an assignment (or this blog), or getting accepted for social work like volunteering.
So, in this blog I will be listing down a few tips that I have been trying out (instead of having a mental breakdown) in order to encourage myself whenever I feel like I’ve made no progress, or a very slow one.
Remind yourself that at least you learnt something
It’s totally okay to be angry or grieve over your failures. But it’s not okay to let that traumatize or stop you from trying again. Get over your failures! Trial and error is part of the process. Although your progress might be slower than others, or you might not succeed on your first try, at least you get some knowledge back.
I still remember the time when I didn’t get accepted as a volunteer to an event. Since it was my very first volunteer experience, I put a lot of time and effort in filling the application. I asked my friends and researched to know more about the event. But in the end, I still didn’t get accepted. A few new volunteer announcements later, I still hadn’t got over it and told myself, “Well, I wouldn’t pass anyways, why bother?”
However, after a lot of thinking and mental breakdowns, I’ve come to a conclusion. Rather than telling myself not to do it, I just do it! (yes, just like Nike). Whatever the result may be, at least I have learnt something new and gained a few more experiences, such as knowing what the event is about, the questions or requirements for a volunteer or how the selection process is like.
As Sansa Stark from Game of Thrones famously said (and it is one of my favorite quotes from the series), “I’m a slow learner, it’s true. But, I learn.” As long as you find the lessons in your failure, it’s still a useful experience. Studies also show that people who still try after their failures are more prepared and flexible to deal with new challenges. They would try different tactics to solve problems. So, how could you know what you’re capable of if you don’t try, right?
© Andy Sedg/2015/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Do NOT compare
Comparing my progress to others’ is a self-destructive activity that tears down my almost non-existent self-esteem even more. I believe that everybody has different pictures of what their achievement and goal look like. Other people might experience a success very differently from you, or they might have other ways of achieving it. You can’t simply just start the game and compare your level 1 to others’ level 10. There are always people who will be better than you in different ways, and I don’t think we can change or shape them to not be better than us.
So, to change this kind of destructive habit, rather than compare my achievement to others, I instead compare my past self to the present one. I can always try changing myself to be better. I would ask myself what my mistakes were, so that I can correct them.
It’s better to keep track of your own progress. What improvements have you made, how much have you learnt comparing to yesterday, last month or even last year. Look at how much you have achieved and how far you have come. Be the better you without comparing your progress to others!
Limit the scope of your goals
I know, I know… this sounds easier said than done. The goals that I’m talking about can be simple everyday goals, like studying for the exams, preparing for your presentations, or finishing that 2000-word assignment in one night (very painful). Oftentimes, I get so stressed out because I set those goals too high.
Say, I wish to memorize 10 lessons in one night. This is a big goal that gets my stress levels up. So, instead of worrying about how to cram those lessons in such a short period of time, I think, “Maybe I’ll just have to finish the first 2 chapters first and see how it goes…” And just repeat the process. At the end it’s still 10 chapters, but when I break the big goal down into smaller steps like this, it appears to be less frightening and pressuring.
This is how I limit the scope of my goals, and I feel like they are easier to achieve this way. You might be slow but you would at least get a portion of your work done. Something is still better than nothing, isn’t it?
So, that’s all for my tips. I hope that they somehow can help encourage you to progressively keep going and continually improve yourself. Remember that slow progress is still progress! Thank you for reading this! See you in the upcoming blogs and have a very nice day!
Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.