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How To Build Self Esteem With Small Wins And Daily Goals

Updated on May 6, 2016

There are all kinds of exercises and tactics that experts recommend for improving self esteem.

You can speak positive affirmations for self esteem every day in an effort to reprogram your subconscious mind for success and energize your thoughts.

You can also practice visualization techniques for self esteem, where you imagine that you are strong, successful and confident, and that you have already achieved all your goals in your financial life, in your career or in your relationships. You feel what it's like to be at that point in your life. You imagine that it's already happened for you.

And all of that stuff makes you feel fantastic. All of that is good, and all of that can help you achieve more than you ever thought possible.

But those techniques by themselves do absolutely nothing for you.

Why Do You Have Low Self Esteem?

The key to solving any problem is to get to the root of it -- to dig below the surface and get to what is really causing the problem.

And figuring out how to build self esteem works the same way. You've got to look closely and see what really caused you to feel like a failure in the first place.

Did verbalizing negative affirmations cause your low self esteem? If so, then saying positive affirmations would solve your problems. But negative self-talk is not the cause of your problems.

Did negative visualizations -- imagining that you'd fail at everything -- cause you to fail and begin this downward spiral? If so, then visualizing yourself as a winner and an overachiever will solve everything for you. But that's not really the root of the problem.

Yes, it's true that negative self-talk and negative visualizations came into play at some point to exacerbate your condition and push you deeper into depression (and keep you there), but most likely what caused you to have low self esteem in the first place were actions that you took or actions that you failed to take.

When you feel like a failure, it's probably because you failed at something at some point -- or likely several points -- in your life. That's what started the downward spiral. Then you started to think negatively about yourself and your abilities, and then you started to imagine that you'd always fail at things, and then you started to retreat into a little bubble of despair, where you've been trapped ever since.

Now you're afraid to fail, so you don't really try anymore.

But failing is the key to success...

Failure Is Not A Bad Thing

The only people who never, ever fail in life are the people who never, ever try. You can't achieve any real success in life without taking chances and going for it. And you won't always succeed. Does that make you a failure?

Only if you give up.

But those who try, fail and try again are the ones who eventually succeed. Failure is not final. As Henry Ford once said, "Failure is simply an opportunity to begin again more intelligently."

If you're feeling down in the dumps and your fear of failure is causing you to hold back, then you need to shake it off and take action. Even successfully completing small actions will work wonders for you.

You need a win.

Build Momentum With Small Victories

Success itself is actually the solution for low self esteem.

But setting huge goals that will take months or years to accomplish can make you feel overwhelmed at this point. What you need is small wins. Little victories. Baby steps.

These minor wins aren't life-changing events. They're just little daily accomplishments that give you a little boost in self esteem, a little bit of self-respect, a little bit of progress toward larger, far off goals.

These small steps lift you out of that pit you've dug yourself into and gradually start building some momentum into your life.

Goal Setting Using Baby Steps

Okay, if your self-confidence is in the toilet and you're stuck in a funky depression and not getting anything done, here's a quick little exercise that is guaranteed to improve your self esteem...just a little. The more closely you follow what is laid out here, the more benefit you'll get out of it.

Mini Goal Setting Activity: Step 1

First, think about some tasks that you've been procrastinating on for the past several weeks or months. They could be some little cleaning jobs or repairs around the house. We're talking scrub the bathtub -- not add an extension to the master bedroom.

These are mini goals, not big bomboocha goals.

At work, it might be a cleaning project too, or it may be rearranging a shelf or weeding out and shredding old obsolete files. Or maybe it's calling up a former client and asking if there's anything you can do for them. Stuff that's been on your mind for a long time, but you've just been putting it off for forever.

Again...small stuff. Come up with tasks that can be accomplished in less than an hour -- and less than 5 minutes is even better!

Mini Goal Setting Activity: Step 2

Now get those mini goals down on paper. There's no need to write out whole sentences and deadlines and all that crap. Just write them down as fast as you can, and write down as many as you can think of in the next 60 seconds.

Mini Goal Setting Activity: Step 3

Now comes the good part. Look over that little list and find an item that can be done right away. What can you do right this instant?

Whatever it is...do it. Right now. Put the pen down and do it.

If you're not at work right now, then you'll have to choose something else that you can do immediately. Do you need to call up somebody? Do you need to clean that dusty filter screen on the air conditioning unit? Is there a basket of laundry that's been sitting in the hallway all week, mocking you?

Find something RIGHT NOW and DO IT!!!

Mini Goal Setting Activity: Step 4

Now that you've accomplished something that you've been putting off all day/week/month...how do you feel?

Kinda good, right?

That wasn't so hard. And look. It's done.

Now look at that list again. Now that you've done the one item that could be accomplished the soonest, it's time to focus on the one that is the most important. If there was only one more item on that list that you could accomplish today, what would it be? Which one item on there would give you some relief, would make your spouse or your boss happy, or which one is acting as a roadblock, preventing you from accomplishing other tasks.

Identify that next task, and resolve to get it done today. Don't put it off. Do it.

Do it, and feel good about it.

What's Next?

Keep going...

Failed Personal Goals Fueled My Depression For Years

For several years I was really into goal-setting.

I had read a book titled, “Goals!” by author and motivational speaker Brian Tracy, and it really got me into writing down my goals every single day. I loved that book. He talked about how to set goals and how to make plans to achieve them and how to act on those plans every day.

Basic stuff.

Good stuff.

But goals are not always good. Sometimes goals are bad. Sometimes your goals can hurt you. I know this because that is what happened to me for many years as I battled depression.

Unrealistic Goals Set Me Up For Failure

Now, all of the goals that I set were realistic and attainable. We’re talking about goals that are not just humanly possible, but were the kinds of goals that many people have been able to achieve throughout history. All of them were realistic for somebody. But the problem was that they were not all realistic for me.

I was not a high achiever. I mean, I was intelligent enough, talented enough. But I wasn’t someone who had a track record of success. I wasn’t there yet. So I would look at other people who were living the kind of life that I wanted to have for me and my family, and I would try to do the kinds of things that they were doing.

But I was not them.

Sure, I could accomplish some goals here and there, but I couldn’t keep on going and going and going with a string of progressively more difficult goals. I didn’t have the inner strength and consistency needed to get myself from Point A to Point Z. I could get to B and C and maybe D, but then I’d start running out of steam.

So eventually I would start failing to achieve some of my goals. Then some more, and the some more. As the years went by, I would look back at some of the countless lists of goals and plans that I had written out for myself in notebooks, and it was just embarrassing and depressing to see all those failed goals…page after page of failed goals.

I eventually threw them all away.

Failing One Goal After Another Made Me More Depressed

You can’t help but feel depressed when you focus on your failures. And when you’re already depressed, you can’t help but focus on your failures. Know what I mean?

So for several years, I just kept beating myself up about being X years old and never really accomplishing anything with my life. I even avoided making contact with old friends, like on Facebook or whatever. Maybe I’d get some friend requests or friend suggestions of people from high school, so I’d go look at their profiles. And then I’d see all these folks with college degrees and good jobs and…well…achievements, and I’d just get even more depressed.

So looking back, it’s obvious that being overly ambitious with my goal-setting really just set me up for more failure and more depression. I understood not to come up with ridiculous goals, stuff that was so far beyond my abilities. Like, I never wrote down a goal like trying to come up with the cure for cancer within 12 months, or building my own spaceship and traveling to Mars by age 40.

You know, I set what I thought were realistic goals like get an entry level job at this company, and then make supervisor within 12 months, and then transfer to this department within another 12 months and then get promoted to assistant manager within another 24 months…stuff like that.

These goals are very realistic for millions of people. But again…I wasn’t them. Sure, I’d have many goals that – individually – might not have been too far-fetched for me. But to accomplish one after another after another in a smooth, steady progression and schedule? That was not realistic for me.

Or maybe I’d set a series of small goals that were easy in themselves, but there was just a mountain of them to achieve in X number of days or months. And it was the sheer volume of all those little goals that would overwhelm me and send me right back down in the dumps.

So it took me many years, but I finally started to figure out what kind of goals are realistic for me…what kind of goals are realistic for someone struggling with low self-esteem, low self-confidence, and struggling with anxiety and depression.

Set Goals That Are Realistic FOR YOU

So it’s not enough to focus on the individual goals when trying to determine what is realistic for you. You also have to look at the overall volume of goals and the work that you are thinking about trying to accomplish.

When you’re trying to deal with depression and other mental health issues like I was, you can’t just look at what is realistic for other people. You can’t even look at what’s realistic for most people. Hell, you can’t even look at what USED TO BE realistic for you. You’ve got to look at where you are right now in your life and what you’re capable of today. And then you’ve got to try to push yourself just a tiny bit, to stretch yourself to the boundaries of your comfort zone.

I made the mistake of setting goals just outside my comfort zone and then setting goals beyond that and beyond that and beyond that. But you can’t do that. At least, I couldn’t. One little slip and I’d be getting slapped in the head with depression and self-doubt and negative thoughts. And then I’d just fall further behind in my plans.

So you’ve got to stretch yourself just beyond your comfort zone, yes, but then you’ve also got to pull yourself back a little and give yourself some time to adjust to that new level of comfort before charging full steam ahead into bigger and more difficult goals.

So start out small. Not just with small individual goals, but with a small overall volume of goals too. Push yourself to new limits, but then give yourself time to adjust to that new level and get comfortable there. Don’t be in too big of a hurry to keep pushing for the next big thing.

Because if you fail or just get worn out, you’ll end up sinking right back into that depression again.

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    • gsidley profile image

      Dr. Gary L. Sidley 4 years ago from Lancashire, England

      Some practical, sensible advice for esteem building - doing is always more potent than thinking.

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image

      Marilyn L Davis 4 years ago from Georgia

      Thank you for this Hub. I like the way you framed sub-goals and expanded on their importance with, " setting huge goals that will take months or years to accomplish can make you feel overwhelmed at this point. What you need is small wins. Little victories. Baby steps."

      You will help so many people be encouraged to reach their larger goals with your step by step examples.

      Voted Up

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 4 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      What a wonderful read my friend. I know a lot of people who spend so much time concentrating on the bug stuff in their lives and forget the small victories that are worth cherishing.

    • YouGet1Shot profile image
      Author

      Chris Desatoff 4 years ago from USA

      =) I'm glad you like it! It's pretty hard to succeed at something without failing at it first. Thanks for commenting

    • howcurecancer profile image

      Elena@LessIsHealthy 4 years ago

      I like this: failure is not a bad thing....indeed...