A River Worth Riding: Lesson Seven
Using the Power of Process to Boost Your Self-Esteem

A wise old man spent each morning walking along the river’s edge. Every few feet, he would stoop down, scoop up some water, and then softly pour the contents of his hand onto a rock near the shore. Curious at the old man’s odd behavior, a youth rowed over to the man one day and asked what he was doing.

“I’m saving lives,” the old man answered. “The wind blows many living things into the river and unless they can dry their wings they will die.”

“This river goes on forever,” the young man laughed. “There must be a thousand insects falling into it every time you catch a breath. You can’t think that you’re making a difference.”

In answer, the old man simply stooped down and scooped a small honeybee into his hand. Gently, he placed the honeybee on a warm, dry stone. “I just made a difference to that life, didn’t I?”

The only significant differences that humans have ever made on this planet have always begun with the small, consistent efforts of an individual who is willing to work as long as it takes to make that difference.

If you don’t believe me, then ask any overnight success how long they worked at becoming successful. Ask anyone who has a fulfilling relationship, how much energy and time went into building that relationship. Ask anyone who has come to terms with who they are, exactly how long it took them to cultivate their sense of self-worth. Or ask anyone who has achieved their dream, how long they worked at accomplishing that dream.

We all know that success takes time. We all know that success isn’t easy. But if that is true, then why do so many people give up before they’ve even begun? Why do so many people look at a challenge, begin to feel overwhelmed, and immediately say that the challenge is too hard?

Perhaps, people have forgotten the power of process.

The power of process states that even mountains can be moved one rock at a time. When you learn to understand and cultivate the power of process, you’ll develop the courage to take new paths. You’ll start to feel less overwhelmed. You’ll gain a perspective that can help you to conquer procrastination, doubt and fear. You will even be able to raise your self-esteem.

Do you know anyone who suffers from low self-esteem? Do you know anyone who wants to feel better about themselves but doesn’t know where to begin? Process can give people a place to begin. When people learn to follow a process called image modification, they can actually begin to feel better about themselves. Let me explain.

We all have a self-concept, or an opinion about who we are and what we are capable of achieving. Every self-concept is comprised of three main parts: our self-ideal, our self-image and our self-esteem.

Our self-ideal is that part of ourselves that knows what we are capable of becoming. It encompasses the person that we dream of being and the life we dream of living. It is our perfect future self. It’s our mission accomplished and our happily ever after. It’s how we define our ideals.

Our self-image encompasses both how we currently see ourselves, and how we currently judge ourselves. It’s the image that greets us in the mirror each morning.

Our self-esteem is how we feel about ourselves. Do we feel valuable and worthwhile? Do we actually like that person who greets us in the mirror each morning?

The three parts of our self-concept are linked. Whenever we see our self-image moving towards our self-ideal, our self-esteem rises accordingly. Whenever we see our self-image moving away from our self-ideal, our self-esteem suffers.

Now, all self-concepts tend to be bound up in comfort zones. Take money, for example. We all have a relationship with money that tends to fall within a comfort zone. We all know how much money we need to make in order to feel comfortable. If we suddenly find ourselves making less money than we need, we scramble to make more. We take odd jobs. We sell our stuff. We do whatever it takes to be comfortable again. Once we feel secure and comfortable, we tend to relax.

But what happens to our comfort zones when we receive a financial windfall? Well, have you ever purchased a lottery ticket, imagined that you’ve won, envisioned all the problems regarding the money and gone bankrupt in your mind before you’ve even left the store? For some people, having too much money is almost as scary as not having enough money. Too much money can cause problems that, if having money is new to you, you probably haven’t considered. You may feel that you don’t have the skills to adequately handle all that money.

When people unexpectedly have more money than they feel comfortable with, they tend to overspend until they are back at a level where they feel comfortable.

Most people like to stay planted happily in their comfort zones and never strive for more. Why else would people keep falling into the same abusive relationships? Could it be that their comfort zones have made them comfortable with the abuse? Some people feel so comfortable with yelling that they never develop the skills of effective interaction. Some people confuse fighting with communicating, manipulating with motivating, and hitting with teaching discipline. When you try to show these people alternatives, especially alternatives that require them to expand their comfort zones, their self-concepts begin to feel awkward and threatened.

Most people do not like discomfort, and new things are usually uncomfortable. So, instead of getting used to the discomfort and expanding their comfort zones, people often stick with what they know—even when they don’t like what they know.

When people stay in the same comfort zones too long, they begin to lose sight of their self-ideals. And unless people have their self-ideals to keep them striving, their self-esteem plummets.

So how can the power of process help you to change this pattern?

One: You must remember your self-ideal. You need to imagine the ideal you and remind yourself of who you want to be. You must ask your right-brained explorer to recall what you wanted as a child, when you still had faith in yourself and believed that you mattered.

Two: You must take a clear look at your self-image and ask your left-brained navigator to pick one or two habits that are keeping you from growing into your ideal.

Three: You must create a strategy where you can do one thing daily to move your self-image towards your self-ideal. The steps should be MASTERed; measurable, accountable, specific, timely, exciting and realistic. Do not create an overwhelming goal that you cannot achieve. You must prove to yourself that you are capable of keeping the promises that you make to yourself.

Slowly, as you accomplish each MASTERed goal, your self-image will begin to move towards your self-ideal and your comfort zone will gradually expand. As you continue to move towards your ideal, you will begin to feel capable of making a difference in your life. Once you begin to feel capable, your self-esteem will rise.

People do not change overnight. People improve with the tiniest of baby steps. Steps that keep them moving progressively towards their ideals. So, if you do one tiny thing each day to bring your self-image in alignment with your self-ideal, your self-esteem will grow.

The power of process is explained and examined further in our companion book A River Worth Riding: Fourteen Rules for Navigating Life. Click here for ordering information.

 What’s the bottom line on process? Your life is built of nothing but moments. Millions of moments, exactly like the moment you’re experiencing now. You can use those moments to move mountains. You just need the courage to begin, so don’t give up before you start.

Learn to honor the power of process.

A River Worth Riding: Fourteen Rules for Navigating Life
Copyright: Lynn Marie Sager 2005

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