Insufficient intensity and continuity of personal development work are common reasons why many people feel that their efforts do not produce results. At the first glance, this might look like a simple problem and that the solution is just some more will power (or the latest fad).
The underlying issues, however, might be one or more of the following:
- fear of confronting unpleasant or unconscious beliefs or emotions
- fear of endangering important relationships (many of our toxic beliefs were created so that we could maintain important relationships in toxic circumstances)
- fear of change and of the unknown;
- rebellious feelings that might make any attempt at discipline feel hostile and imposed. This is usually connected to previous experiences of being disciplined;
- following rigid schedules increases suppression and resistance (as opposed to feeling our natural rhythms);
- unconscious attachment to suffering.
Attachment to suffering is a complex and interesting idea, described by Eva Pierrakos in her book “Creating Union”. The author wrote that, as children, to defend ourselves from pain, we can learn to take subtle pleasure in suffering. In extreme cases, the result can be masochism (or sadism, when pleasure is projected onto the suffering of others).
To some extent, this pattern is present in everyone and is manifested through finding pleasure in complaining, retelling unpleasant events, playing victim roles, etc. Note that much humor is about other people’s pain. We may unconsciously fear that if we give up suffering, we will also lose whatever pleasure we gain from it (such as the pleasure many people find in complaining).
You might want to resolve some of these issues by searching for their causes – possible unpleasant experiences that triggered those patterns. However, some of them are so normal (e.g. resisting pressure and discipline) that it might make little sense to search for specific situations in which those patterns originated.
Apart from those emotional obstacles, there are simpler ones, e.g. forgetting, lack of time or focus due to the external circumstances. These, however, can also be ways to rationalize your unconscious self-sabotage. You might feel guilty or ashamed if you take time for yourself by saying, “No” to others (who afterwards can comment about your personal development). If you would not feel guilty or shameful, you could schedule some time for yourself, and explain to your family why this is important to you. Mention some benefits for them, too. People will be most tolerant to changes in your behavior, if they perceive how they can benefit from them. Strange, isn’t it?
We can gradually lose motivation to improve ourselves if we don’t know what the reward is – we may not be familiar enough with feelings of freedom, ease, love and other life changes that we could achieve. If you do not have a good idea of your reward, your motivation can suffer.
Some ways you can motivate yourself are:
basic and most important: remind yourself over and over again, and try to imagine yourself with all the great results and feelings you could achieve with persistent practice;
- use “negative motivation”: imagine how your life and health would look like in five or ten years if nothing changes; choose the approach and exercises that you enjoy most, which will motivate you because of the process itself, not only because of results;
- if you feel resistance, admit it and take time to explore it;
- practice daily. Some people prefer schedules, others are more motivated by flexibility (although this won’t be practical for very busy people);
- list the ideas you find most important and the exercises you like. Remind yourself by regularly rereading the list
- reward yourself after predetermined periods of committed practice, perhaps two weeks or a month (avoid rewards like junk food or things that you know are not good for you); remind yourself that the more you learn from any situation and the more effort you invest every day, there is less chance of a serious crisis or disease