The importance of self-work

It's time for a diagnostics check

Instead of an article downplaying New Year's resolutions and intentions, let's consider how this type of work can be crucial for us. We tend to overlook the basic principle of personal growth and the impact it can have on how we view others and the world at large. Reflecting, changing and challenging ourselves allows us to look, listen and be with our own imperfections. From this deep understanding there can arise a heightened sense of compassion, not only for ourselves but for the entire planet. When we see our flaws in a humble way, we tend to be more mindful and less judgmental. Seeing the impact of our choices, thoughts and behaviors allows us to empathize more with others. From this awareness, we begin to understand that everything we do has a ripple effect and how we grow has an impact on the collective growth.

There can be two types of fear that come from challenging ourselves. The first is the type that pulls us back – the fear of failure, being excluded, exposed or worrying what others think. The second type of fear pushes us forward – into a connection with life, giving ourselves permission to be students, to be more vulnerable and open. This type of connection can allow us to experience a life of greater purpose and joy. This is refined through practice and personal experience. External changes happen over time, but internal changes can happen within us in an instant.

Simple steps

1.Wheel of balance. It's important to do a diagnostics check on your life. The start of a calendar year is a great opportunity. One way to do this is through a tool called the Wheel of Balance, which offers a view of where the balance of your personal and professional life currently sits. It's important to step back from our lives from time to time. On the diagram, review each category and compare to where you want to be in terms of satisfaction and achievement. Decide your degree of satisfaction and give yourself a score from 0 to 10 for each category: 0 is the lowest satisfaction score and 10 is the highest satisfaction score. It won't take long to go through it, but don't rush it. Give yourself a few minutes with each category and really feel your answers. Once complete, draw a line that connects all the points together and fill in the space to make a solid shape.

2. Creating a vision/purpose. Most likely once you complete your Wheel of Balance, you get an odd-shaped ball. That is because when we are not paying attention to something, it usually suffers. Like a boat with holes in it, the more leakage, the slower it moves and it eventually sinks. Where are you falling short in terms of satisfaction in your life? Start with these categories first and decide what you want them to be. Write a short description of what that would look and feel like. Getting things out in the open can get the wheels turning.

3. What are you doing well? Give yourself some credit and look at your growth. When we look at our past and see how our challenges have made us who we are today, our whole perception can change. It's important to honor growth. Seeing how far you have come can give you the extra motivation to keep pushing forward and review what needs to be adjusted. Progress over perfection.

4. Setting goals. What do you want to accomplish this year? Usually we give up on our goals or slack off because they seem too far away. Have a big goal for yourself (it should slightly scare you) and break it into 4-week to 8-week chunks. Set up a vision for the year and then set smaller goals to reach each couple weeks. Having a goal and vision and then putting it into smaller chunks of accomplishment can add excitement to the process.

5. Making this a lifestyle. Self-work or self-improvement should not be seen as a thing you do when you are failing, lost or broken. Self-work is essential like brushing your teeth. You don't brush your teeth only when you find out you have cavities. You brush your teeth every day because you want to take care of yourself and it's proven to work. It is inevitable that we will all die. What is not guaranteed is whether we will truly live while we are alive. Each day or week we should have some time set aside to review our lives and bask in the mystery of it all. Nature, meditation, breath-work, self-observation, music, dance, journaling, these are the languages of the heart. To open our heart is to open ourselves to life and connect in a deeper way.

Tim Hahn of Springfield is a business owner and coach. Contact him at

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