Whether you want to be a writer, a teacher, a speaker, or an entrepreneur, you’ll struggle through a period of not actually being that thing while trying to fulfill the expectations of your role. It’s gut wrenching. It’s embarrassing. It’s totally exposed. And it’s absolutely necessary on your road to self improvement.
But it doesn’t have to last forever.
If you’re beginning to master something new (aren’t we all?), here are 7 tips to fly through the awkward phase of self improvement fast:
You gotta visualize if you want to get the prize. When you haven’t done something before, your only frame of reference will be the mental images you hold in your mind. So if you aim to be published as a writer, see yourself acing every step of the process: from the pen, to the query, to the wowed editors, to the inspired audience. The more vividly you construct a process in your mind, the more comfortable you’ll feel transitioning from awkwardness to mastery of self improvement.
Consistency is key: spend at least five minutes every day. Work your way up from there.
“I knew there would be rejection, but I didn’t know just how much.” Louis L’amour, America’s greatest storyteller.
The most painful part of the awkward phase self improvement is rejection. And if you’re doing it right, if you’re daring, if you’re doing something relevant, you will be rejected—it comes with the cards. You’ll be told that you shouldn’t even try to do what you’re doing. You’ll be called a poser, or a fraud. You’ll be implored to quit to save the embarrassment. And your sincerest efforts will be flatly denied. But these are all good things, because they will serve to refine your efforts; to keep going back to the drawing board; to keep improving whatever it is that you are offering.
Rejection also separates the innovators who need to make the world a better place from the people who just want to make a quick buck. So persist. Persist, persist, persist! Always persist. To get through doldrums of rejection, you must have a positive attitude:
Positivity isn’t the only thing when it comes to being what you want to be, but you really can’t do without it. And you really can’t rely on anyone besides you for it.
Many people stay stuck in the awkward phase of self improvement because they expected more positivity from friends and family, or more receptivity from the world in general. They counted on the world to fill their sails and push them through, but they got stuck because that wasn’t reality. In the real world, ambitious people make little people feel threatened, which provokes criticism. They want you to be little, too.
So get in the habit of flooding yourself with positivity, from the moment you wake till your head hits the pillow. Reject negative self talk. Reject negative self talk. Reject negative self talk. Reject negative self talk. Reject negative self talk with affirmations of your capability and competence.
Try setting goals for self-encouragement. 10 simple checkboxes in your daily planner can change your life, reminding you of your own need to support your self improvement journey.
Think of a 5 year old reading a book aloud. There are pauses, malapropisms, stutters, botches, and cringeworthy flubs—it’s the paragon of awkwardness. But what do five year olds do? They laugh it off and keep learning. They dive into nouns and vowel sounds and rhymes and anything they can to read better, because reading is awesome.
So when you have an awesome goal that demands proficiency, just keep learning. Read books on relevant topics every single day. Set learning goals every day. Stay hungry for more knowledge and never assume to know enough. Fill the gaps in your mind with useful experience from people who have been there and succeeded. Then do.
Have you ever seen a PGA golfer pure a drive 335 yards down the fairway? The professional golf swing is a work of art, and it is the result of repetition. Every golfer starts out with awkward little hitches and twerks, but when they study the best and repeat the action with their goal in mind, they improve by increments until, one day, they have mastered the stroke.
In order to blast your way through the awkward phase, you’ll need equal parts learning and doing. Read about your craft, but don’t settle for the awesome feeling of an expanded brain—go out there and practice what you’ve learned. Make a habit of immediately transferring your knowledge to applied effort. Watch the pros do it by reading, listening to audiotapes, and watching youtube videos; then do it yourself. Stay disciplined. Commit to doing that thing every single day, and to improving step by step.
When it comes to others’ opinions of you, the quantity of effs you give is proportional to the success you achieve. If you’re scared of other people thinking you look awkward, you won’t try as hard, you won’t try as often, and you’ll never make it out of the awkward phase.
The solution to this problem is to take back all of the f%@$ you’ve ever given, and to never give them again. Do what you love, do it frequently, have fun while you’re doing it, do it for others, and do NOT give a flip about what others think or say.
Mastery is the result of knowledge and consistent effort. Don’t let your effort be influenced by anything other than the voice in your head. The one that says, “Go get it.”
The most important part of transitioning out of the awkward phase is doing, so you must eliminate anything that distracts you from doing. That means turning off your phone unless you need it for an essential communication, and scheduling your phone checks. It means keeping your television off between 8 am and 5pm. It means accomplishing several hours of work before checking your email or facebook. It means growing a backbone and having discipline—and it’s never too late to do that. (I was a 24 year old living off of his parents not too long ago, I should know).
If something helps you do the thing you need to master, get more of that thing. If something prevents you from doing, cut that shit out before it kills your spark.
The difference between a remarkable life and couldashouldawoulda life is your willingness to pass through the awkward stage of self improvement. You can do that with a minimum of pain and a maximum of fun if you follow the seven steps in this article. So be disciplined, encourage yourself with positive thinking, learn, do, stop giving a fuck about what others think of you, and cut out the distractions that keep you from improving yourself. Start today.
And if you need support in mastering this process, or any other, see if my coaching program is the right fit for you.
I’m Dan, and I used to be a love addict. But after my last live-in relationship imploded, I jumped into the writing career I’d been too comfortable to tackle and started my self improvement journey. Now happily single, I write for the best sites (including Entrepreneur Magazine and Fast Company), and I own a coaching business here at MillennialSuccess where I transform lives, teach people how to eliminate their excuses, and help them live their purpose.
Originally published at millennialsuccess.io