There are not many things in this world we truly have to handle ourselves. We don’t have to hunt down our own food, build our own houses, or transport ourselves upon our own power. Instead, we have become tremendously reliant on having things done for us — from the person who washes the car to the waiter who brings the food. Yet, there is one thing that no one can do for us. And that is make us feel the way we want to feel. That, is an inside job. Sure, people can praise us, support us, rally behind us, and even prod us along, but they can’t airlift us into the world of happiness. The only way we reach the promised land of happiness — is through our own devices, through learning to turn to ourselves to know if we need a kickstart or a warm bed, and through learning to look within ourselves — and not the outside world — to find happiness. Happiness comes through becoming more emotionally self reliant.
So here are three ways to boost your emotional self-reliance:
Stop Asking Permission. It’s probably the first thing we all do when we think about making a big — or sometimes even small — decisions. We ask our family and friends. And while we may simply be asking for feedback, what we may really be hoping for is permission — for someone to say, It’s ok to do that. Yet, what we so often fail to remember is that no one in this life holds the final judgement on what is right — especially what we are talking about our lives. And more importantly, just the process of asking, for many of us, derails self reliance. As soon as we hear someone else’s objections, criticisms, doubt, we start to question ourselves. We wonder if maybe we aren’t making the right decision. Maybe we can’t be trusted. And down the tubes goes our self reliance. What we fail to realize is the self in self reliance. It means that we figure it out ourselves. We make our own decisions independent of what anyone else thinks, because we trust ourselves. Sure, we don’t have any guarantee that things will work out. In fact, we may fail miserably. But what we do have is trust. Trust in ourselves to pick up the pieces if they do fall.
Make A Decision and Stick With It. In what Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling On Happiness calls the “endowment effect” we rate enjoyment of the things we own — vs. those which we can return — as much higher. The reason, Gilbert explains, is that we seek to justify our decisions. And when we have a return policy, we don’t have to. Instead, we are stuck debating whether or not what we have is worth having. But when we are stuck with it, we find a way to boost the value we see in it. Decisions work just the same way. When we constantly change our minds, and don’t ever have to stick with our decisions, we never have to find a reason why they are worthwhile. On the other hand, when we can’t go back, we force ourselves to find reasons why going forward is a worthy venture. So if you want to build self-reliance, take the return label off of your decisions. Own your decisions, and you will begin to find reasons for them. You will begin to believe in them. You will become your own guide, therapist, and cheerleader. Why? Because you will have to.
Get Gritty. Grit is not something that you get. It’s something you earn. And the only way to earn grit — like anything else worth having — is to stay the course, put in the time, and fight the battle. Because the skills of grit come through the experience of knowing yourself, knowing how to dig deep, how to find just a little more when you think there is nothing left, and how to turn defeats into opportunities to hone your skills, strengthen your resolve, and awaken your inner warrior. Because what grit is really about is finding a way when there seems to be no way.
Emotional self reliance isn’t about never failing, never admitting defeat, or never needing anybody. It’s about knowing that the answers you need to create the life you want are inside of you. And while others may help you to see them, the rest is up to you.
For more information on emotional strength, self reliance, and turning life’s defeats into opportunities, visit www.leverageadversity.net
References: Gilbert, D. (2007). Stumbling On Happiness. New York, Vintage Books.