I often make the point that the methods we have been relying on for self-improvement are not getting us as far as we think…but let’s confirm that before we abandon anything.
Emotional issues can be very slippery and measuring them is not always easy. The key is to be as objective and scientific as possible. Make sure you are comparing apples to apples before you evaluate progress.
If we’re trying to improve sales, income, or weight loss there are very definite things to measure like the productivity of sales calls, the size of the weekly check, or the number on the scale. If those are your targets and your measurements show the progress you want, then whatever you’re doing is effective. Keep it up!
If we’re trying to improve an emotional issue like self-esteem, measuring progress takes more skill. Let’s assume you could simply rate your self-esteem from 0-10 each day and look for improvements based on your mindfulness practice. You might see some nice changes on the days you do your mindfulness practice and maybe some reversals on the days that you don’t. In that case, the conclusion would be that a continual mindfulness practice will provide some improvement for your self-esteem.
Does the daily mindfulness ever boost the self-esteem to a solid 10? Or instead, does it sit at 3 or 4 without any effort, then rise to a 7 or 8 on the days you practice, but never quite reaches the 10? If that improvement is what you wanted and you don’t mind a daily mindfulness practice, then your solution is matching your goals and we consider that a success.
It gets tricky when the self-esteem seems to respond to the mindfulness some days and not on others. What we need to recognize is that self-esteem (and many other emotional issues) can be situational. You may feel more comfortable around friends, but less comfortable at work, and really uncomfortable around family. If you can identify a few different situations and apply your 0-10 rating to each one individually, then you have a lot more information.
You can measure relationship progress in a similar way by tracking frequency of arguments, accumulations of quality time, 0-10 levels of resentment or irritation, or whatever specific complaints you seem to have about each other.
Being more specific about your progress will make a huge difference in how far you can get on your own. My guess is that once you see the evidence, you will want more growth out of your growth process. In that case, my answer will always be to dig deeper, and resolve the problem in the past where it started.
Honestly, no one likes to look at results and find that they have not succeeded as brilliantly as they had hoped. This brings back all the memories of failed exams and embarrassing displays in PE class – which can all be resolved with deeper work, by the way. Keep in mind that personal growth is also about humility, so see the failures as opportunities instead and be grateful for little changes that last.
If you really want to supercharge your process and get results that you can count on, then I ask you to accept that DIY is not the only option. With the right professional help, you can clear pain and distress from the events in your past, you can measure that progress as you go, and end up with the freedom you want!