You may have seen some version of this slogan: “Please be patient; God isn’t finished with me yet.” Yes, we remain a work in progress throughout our lives. We all have setbacks and relapses, false starts and blind alleys. Those who refuse to accept that truth, and who demand mistake-proof performance from themselves, are doomed to have a miserable time of it.
Even those who live in a rut or a chemical haze are works in progress; they’re just progressing in the wrong direction, toward becoming dull, purposeless “works” that serve primarily as bad examples. There is no standing still in life; you have no choice about being a work in progress. What you do have a say in is the sort of progress you will make and what the resulting “work” will look like.
Here are seven ways to be a good work in progress.
Set Real, Written Goals
So long as you only think about what you’d like to accomplish, it remains a dream. Once you write it down and assign it a deadline, it becomes a goal, and you have already improved your chances of achieving it by forty or fifty percent. Break it into steps and assign deadlines to each of those steps, and you’ve made another major leap forward. Show someone else your new “goal calendar” and ask them to hold you accountable, and it’s as good as done.
Remember the SMART principle of goal-setting. Definitions of what spells SMART vary somewhat—
- S = Specific
- M = Measurable
- A = Achievable or Action-oriented or Ambitious or Assignable or Attainable
- R = Realistic or Reasonable or Relevant
- T = Timely or Time-based or Time-bound or Time-sensitive or Time-specific
—but they all agree that an effective goal is well-defined, challenging but not impossibly so, and committed to a deadline. To “get in shape” is a weak goal; to “run a full marathon on June 1, 2017” is a specific and measurable one. To “have a bestseller published by the end of next month” is an unrealistic goal; to “finish a well-researched, well-edited manuscript within six months and submit it to the first agent/publisher on my list” is a reasonable yet challenging one.
“Work” Is the Keyword in the Phrase “Work in Progress”
A sense of entitlement and insistence on instant gratification are the world’s deadliest handicaps. Accept that it will take time and effort, combined with setbacks and interruptions and getting up again after falling, to achieve success.
Remember also: just “working hard” is not enough; real progress requires that work be purpose– and priority-oriented as well as steady and diligent. That means no chasing irrelevant-to-you goals just because they’re there; no saying “yes” to everything anybody asks of you; no whiling away your hours with television and video clips and then complaining that you “just don’t have time” to work on your goals. Effective work is a matter of mental as much as physical activity—if you don’t work to stay focused on your primary purpose, nothing else you work on matters much.
Be Incurably Positive and Chronically Grateful
Few things are as detrimental to progress as a constant diet of complaining. If your brain, lungs, eyes, arms, and/or legs are functioning; if you have a place to sleep and enough to eat; if there are flowers blooming alongside the path you take to work; if you have the literacy and computer access to be reading this—you have something to be thankful for, and you have potential to build a bright future.
It helps to remember that the world itself is a work in progress, no less than the people in it. Your own judgment of what’s “best” isn’t perfect, either; so make allowances for those truths and don’t demand complete satisfaction from others, from your car, or from the weather, any more than you should demand it from yourself. You’ll do much better, and be much happier, if you devote yourself to pitching in and helping meet others’ needs—and those of the larger world, as well.
Be Ready to Take Risks — Big Ones, if Necessary
That doesn’t mean you should quit your job with no plan or savings for the interim period ahead, or that you should charge your credit card to the limit on a “sure thing” investment without investigating it in advance. It does mean that you shouldn’t be afraid to take a lower-paying or less “secure” job, or to write a novel or plan a backpacking trip in Alaska, if that’s what genuinely calls to your spirit. Many great things are never accomplished because so many people accept the idea that the safest way (the one that seems to come closest to a 100% guarantee of lasting security and prosperity) is always best. Write this down: physical security and prosperity are worthless if you never find your soul’s unique purpose.
Believe in Yourself
Give yourself credit for what you do right and for what you plan to do in the future. Love yourself for the unique person you are. Speak of your goals in the present tense—let yourself believe they’re already as good as achieved—to propel yourself toward them. Never belittle your natural gifts; you wouldn’t have been given something that the world didn’t need.
Believe in others, too. Congratulate them on their achievements and talents; encourage them to be everything that they know deep down they were made to be.
Surround Yourself with Positive, Supportive People
As mentioned above, be positive and supportive yourself; but, when dealing with someone who is determined for the present to remain a chronic naysayer, it’s a waste of time to try to reform them. And you definitely shouldn’t give them the opportunity to influence you in the wrong direction. Send them your positive energy, but from a silent distance; devote the bulk of your person-to-person interactions to people who are ready to add their positive energy to yours.
Celebrate Small Victories
Large victories are great, but if you insist on waiting until one comes along before you celebrate anything, chances are discouragement will use that long waiting period to get a foothold in your brain. Parents make a big deal of it when their child takes a first tottering step or first voices a plausible imitation of “Mama”; why should we as adults treat ourselves any differently? You don’t have to throw a major party, or even go out to dinner, for every small piece of progress; but you rate at least a pat on the back, a triumphant post online, or an extra drop of scented oil in your evening bath.
Practice the above regularly, and people will soon be saying, “I can’t believe the change in you!” Yes, you’ll still be imperfect, still a work in progress. But you’ll be a work emphasizing your “progress” in every aspect of life.
Learn Relapse Prevention at Kemah Palms Recovery
While your own addiction recovery path may be a work in progress, Kemah Palms Recovery can help you stay on the right path. As part of our addiction therapy services, we offer all of our clients extensive relapse prevention therapy to ensure they thrive in post-treatment life. We also offer:
To learn more about Kemah Palms Recovery, call us today at 866.604.1873.