Maybe you’d like to move up in your company. Maybe you’d like to become more assertive. Maybe you’d like to become a better writer or runner. Maybe you’d like to start a photography business. Maybe you’d like to set stronger boundaries. Maybe you’re feeling stuck and would like to make a change. But you’re not sure about the specifics.
Whatever your aspiration or aspirations, the below strategies can help. These valuable tips come from Stephanie Kang, a coach and counselor who guides her clients toward greater self-acceptance and personal transformation.
Set meaningful aspirations.
First, make sure that the aspiration you’re setting is actually deeply meaningful and significant to you. “Our society heavily emphasizes doing, and productivity and achieving,” Kang said. In addition to setting action-oriented aspirations, she encouraged readers to create aspirations “about who they want to be, how they want to be, and what values are most important in their lives.”
For instance, Kang has worked with clients on developing a more compassionate relationship with themselves, being more present and living true-to-them lives. She’s also helped clients improve their relationships, process difficult emotions and pursue entrepreneurship.
Be strategic about support.
It’s essential to be honest with yourself about your limitations and to recognize that it’s OK to ask for help, Kang said. Which is often contrary to what we do, isn’t it? Often we feel terrible about our “flaws” or “weaknesses.” And instead of addressing them, we berate ourselves.
Kang suggested identifying the kind of help you need and the person that can provide it. For instance, you might want to take a more mindful approach to life, but you have no idea where to start. So you ask a friend who’s a yoga instructor for some pointers. Or you hire a coach who specializes in mindfulness.
“It’s important to realize that just because you don’t know how to do something, doesn’t mean it can’t be done.” Remember that you don’t need to figure everything out on your own. You don’t need to go it alone.
Acknowledge your stubborn self-doubt.
Self-doubt is the biggest obstacle that prevents individuals from achieving their aspirations, Kang said. Self-doubt includes everything from beating ourselves up to yearning for perfection. “[I]t seems we all have that voice inside telling us we aren’t good enough, or ‘should’ be doing something different or better than we are.”
Kang suggested creating intentional space for your doubts, because sometimes they simply need to be expressed. You could do this by journaling—or working with a therapist or coach.
Aim for 1 percent improvement.
According to Kang, “any small change that moves someone closer to their ultimate goal is progress.” Which is an important reminder not to set sky-high expectations.
She shared this example: If you’d like to speak up at your work meetings, it’s unrealistic to think that you’ll become the most vocal person in the room. Instead, your 1 percent improvement might look like noticing when you’d like to say something and jotting it down.
One of Kang’s clients wants to have a stronger relationship with his wife. For him a 1 percent improvement is an argument that doesn’t last as long or end as painfully, she said.
Focus on learning throughout the process.
Check in with yourself regularly, and reflect on any new insights you’ve learned, Kang said. For instance, one of her clients is working on overcoming fears at work. She’s learning everything from how she uniquely communicates to how to navigate her challenges. She’s also learning how present situations are related to past events.
Create a vision board.
Some of Kang’s clients are very visual and find it helpful to create a tangible illustration of their dreams. A vision board reminds you of the bigger picture and connects you to yourself.
To create your own vision board, Kang suggested gathering magazine clippings, photos, souvenirs and anything else that is inspiring or important to you. “[T]hese different pieces could represent your values, identity, important memories that have shaped who you are, your goals and aspirations, and so on.”
Use these images and objects to create a collage, or pin them to a board. As Kang said, “there’s no right or wrong way to do this.”
There’s also no right moment to start pursuing an aspiration. So if you’re waiting around, “know that now is the perfect time.”