When I still had a regular 9-to-5 job, I dreamed of being a freelancer. I wanted to have control over my projects, be able to set my hours and, take days off if I wanted.
But I was in for a big surprise. That level of freedom is possible, but not without effort.
Right after I left my corporate job, I found myself without any income and almost no savings.
I knew I had to start hustling, but I had accumulated so many bad habits that it was a monumental task to even start looking for clients.
I learned about minimalism and personal development on the web and felt inspired by this newly found world. I decided to jump in without doubt and changed my life forever.
I consumed every self-help book, blog and personal development program I could find while trying to apply everything at the same time.
I was able to start a freelance practice, learned how to work from home and kept up with deadlines even if I had to work extra hours. But I was running on fumes trying to keep up with everything.
One day, I stopped. I wasn’t able to design or code or do anything productive. I felt depressed, completely burnt out and hopeless. I didn’t understand why I felt this way.
I took a break and reached out for help to start understanding what was going on. I had what I define as Personal Development Neurosis. Let me define this for you:
All my efforts to change my habits and form a new way of living came from the idea that I was broken, that there was something wrong with me and I had to make a huge effort to fix it.
I threw away every habit I was trying to build, and I devoted the next months to one single thing: Change my mindset from trying to fix myself to trying to become better and happier.
It may seem to you as a tiny change, or maybe it feels like both are the same thing, but believe me when I tell you that they are completely different mindsets.
Feeling that you need to fix yourself creates a lot of guilt and remorse, especially when you fail to keep up with your high expectations. If you are a perfectionist in recovery like me, that can spiral out of control.
It creates a self-defeat mentality. You become your worst enemy, just waiting to strike when you lower your guard. And on top of that, this mentality assumes you will perform at your best all the time, something completely insane.
Now, if you have a growth mindset, where you want to improve yourself and be happier, you immediately build a deeper connection with yourself because you are constantly checking your emotional state.
It’s easier to stick to your habit building efforts because you understand that not every day will be a perfect one, and you constantly measure how much you are improving.
You also remove guilt and shame from the process, allowing you to stay in a positive state of mind and to view the challenges as learning opportunities. This prevents a lot of the negative self-talk that can creep in when trying something new.
It’s all about building momentum that fuels your goals and reinforces the positive changes that you want to achieve.
The way I recommend to start this change in your mindset for personal development is to take some time in your day to be alone and in a relaxed environment. Make sure you are not going to be interrupted.
The first part of this exercise consists on forgiving yourself. I know it sounds “woo woo” but just trust me on this one.
Most of the time we think about forgiveness towards other people, but we avoid thinking about the ways we hurt ourselves.
Forgive yourself for all the unnecessary pressure and anxiety that you have caused yourself. Keep it simple. There is no need to feel guilty about it, just say: “I forgive myself for all the ways I have hurt myself in the past.”
Notice how you feel. If you are like me, you may notice your body relaxes a little bit.
Then, it’s time to recalibrate the reasons why you want to create this positive change. The meditation is not meant to stress you out. It’s all about making you happier and creating the life you want for yourself.
Write the reasons why you want to build new habits or create this change in your life. Writing will make it more tangible, not just some random dream, but a goal that you can achieve.
Realize that this will take effort and that you understand the consequences of not taking action.
It’s important to note that you shouldn’t tackle 50 different habits or changes at the same time. Go for one and focus your energy on it. A small step towards your goals every day will turn your life around within a year.
Remember to return to this exercise whenever you need to. Reinforcing your commitment to yourself is a massive sign of self-care. I find that doing this every month or so helps me balance my crazy life as a freelancer.
And just to make sure you got it:
You are not broken, there is no need to fix you.
Personal development is a way to create a happy life for yourself. Put your heart forward and seek happiness within all areas of your life. You can do it, I believe in you.