Circles are interesting shapes. With no beginning, end or breaks, they beautifully portray the concept of connectivity. All points on a circle are linked together. This idea is helpful when thinking about how we make progress toward a goal. Just as the points on a circle are linked, our experiences influence our thoughts and beliefs, which ultimately drive our choices.
As we move into the second month of a new year, you may already be regretting some missteps or abandoned resolutions. It is easy to become discouraged when we fail to follow through on a goal. However, rather than fall into self-recrimination, it is helpful instead to discover where the “weak link” in our chain may be.
As an analogy, think about the way water moves throughout the atmosphere. Water vapor evaporates into the atmosphere, condenses into clouds, eventually becomes heavy enough to fall as snow or rain and then the process begins again. If any one of these systems were to fail, the entire cycle would come to a halt.
Similarly, what we think, feel and do is all connected. All these factors come into play when we seek to pursue positive change.
Have a look at the image below:
Let’s look at each of the four pieces:
>> INTAKE >>
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
Each day we are exposed to an assault of images, messages and opinions. Some of these we control (e.g. what we watch on TV), while others we do not (e.g. the opinions of friends and coworkers). Often, we are unaware of how much we are being influenced by external forces. For better or worse, we are likely to internalize messages to which we are repeatedly exposed.
>> THOUGHTS >>
“Keep your mind on the great and splendid thing you would like to do; and then, as the days go gliding by, you will find yourself unconsciously seizing the opportunities that are required for the fulfillment of your desire.”
~Dr. E.G. Hubbard, The 4-Hour Wisdom
Thoughts provide a connection between our external world and our internal world. They are the way we process what our senses have experienced. We cannot control what thoughts pop into our head, but we can manage the time and energy we allot to them. Not all thoughts deserve equal attention, as some are untruths that need to be mindfully dismissed.
>> BELIEFS >>
“The thing always happens that you really believe in; and the belief in a thing makes it happen.”
~Frank Lloyd Wright
What we repeatedly think about eventually “hardens” into our beliefs. All of us have a worldview that includes our values, morals and self-perceptions. Beliefs connect our thoughts to our plans. We are driven to pursue goals that we believe are both desirable and possible. Consider any great historical figure and you are likely to find strong convictions that undergirded the achievement for which he or she is known.
>> ACTIONS >>
“Do it, and then you will feel motivated to do it.”
Progress ultimately comes down to taking actions that aligns with our beliefs. For instance, if I am unhappy and work and believe I can get a new job, I will cultivate a plan to get one (e.g. write a resume, network, attend a job fair, etc.). In contrast, if I believe myself incapable of securing alternative employment, I will avoid dealing with the issue, distract myself from my professional unhappiness and succumb to self-pity over my lousy situation.
By definition, taking action results in change. We go new places, hear new messages, see new things and encounter new challenges. These become our new sources of “intake,” and keep us moving around the circle. Sometimes we will encounter difficulties, and often we will need to try a new approach or secure a different resource. Nevertheless, a re-oriented trajectory exposes us to new options which, when aligned with our beliefs, can keep us motivated and pressing forward.
* * * * *
Making progress isn’t easy. If you have been in a longtime struggle to achieve a goal, some aspect of your circle of progress may need adjusting. Have you been taking in negative messages? Are you allowing destructive thoughts to dampen your resolve? Are you believing lies about your situation or abilities? Is it time to take a leap and see where it leads you?
What goal would you like to make progress against this year?