When it comes to self-improvement, I have learned that it can be painful but that discomfort shouldn’t be looked at as a bad thing. Within that pain is a seed of hope.
The reason is simple. If you are pushing yourself to change in a positive way, you will have to go against the current systems and habits in your life.
These structures tend to assure life moves along consistently. It dictates how we react in various situations. It determines our general frame of mind. It creates the path forward for us.
This means that the reality around us is ultimately of our own doing. We are the ones controlling the most crucial structures. It isn’t some outside force alone working to drive our lives.
For some people this is difficult to accept. We go through life assuming that difficulties are the result of something external, not due to our own choices.
With this external focus we can easily blame others when things get tough. When we are in pain and we are suffering we can find a scapegoat and then play the victim.
But doing this has consequences. The biggest consequence is that it strips us of any real control. If it is someone else causing this state of being, then it is them who will determine future states of being.
In 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson, the author talks about this. He says, “The desire for vengeance, however justified, also bars the way to other productive thoughts. The American/English poet T. S. Elliot explained why, in his play The Cocktail Party. One of his characters is not having a good time of it. She speaks to a psychiatrist. She says she hopes that all her suffering is her own fault. The psychiatrist is taken aback. He asks why. She has thought long and hard about this, she says, and has come to the following conclusion: if it’s her fault, she might be able to do something about it. If it’s God’s fault, however – if reality itself is flawed, hell-bent on ensuring her misery – then she is doomed. She couldn’t change the structure of reality itself. But maybe she could change her own life.”
In other words, the character Elliot is describing has uncovered this principle about improvement. She has realized that if we always blame others (or reality/God, etc.) then we give away our control. We abandon our own responsibility, which is what it will take to move past the current hardships that we are facing.
Feeling uncomfortable during the improvement process is natural but we have to make sure we take it in stride. This might not feel good but it also gives us control. We are breaking apart the current structures in place and will need to have a bit of resolve as we do.
The structures and systems in life tend to dislike change. They want things to be consistent, regardless of how good or bad that is. Therefore, when we see things aren’t going well and want to change, we will push against these systems and structures in order to change them.
It often feels like hitting a brick wall. The more we push the more the system pushes back. We have to learn how to get past the brick wall.
Most people push and push and ultimately turn away defeated. But if we explore other options we may just find another path that avoids the brick wall. Or we may realize that we can climb it or dig under it. But if we simply stick to the tactic of trying to push through it, we will likely continue to fail.
This is where the systems and habits approach to improvement is valuable. It provides ways to get past the brick wall. It usually involves starting so small and working consistently so that we build up our own positive systems and structures in life. We do this by reinforcing positive habits.
Over time we can create all new structures that will help us to grow and improve. We can finally understand the control we have over the reality of our life because we can have visual proof of our ability to change things for our own benefit. So when it is your fault that you are unhappy, realize the seed of hope that it provides knowing that means that you also have the ability to change and improve your situation.