Forge
Published in

Forge

How to Use Self-Help Strategies Like Tools in a Toolkit

It’s not just about knowing what to use, but also when

Photo: Jonathan Kitchen/Getty Images

If you are in a hole, feeling acutely down and at a loss of meaning, it is probably not helpful to reflect on your purpose, engage in positive visualization, or write in a gratitude journal. A better bet is to accept what is happening in a non judgmental manner, practice self-compassion, and reach out for help. If, on the other hand, everything is clicking and you are on a roll, leaning into your purpose (or other sources of motivation) and being actively grateful for your lot is a pretty good idea.

A striking theme that has come up time and time again over the last five years in my coaching practice and my research and writing of The Practice of Groundedness is this: Many of the concepts used for mental health and productivity are like tools. They are only powerful when applied in the right circumstances.

This has two important implications:

  1. Develop a big and diverse toolkit helps.
  2. Cultivate the self-awareness to see clearly and know where you are right now — and then understand what tools are most likely to work. What works today might not work tomorrow and what worked yesterday might not work today.

Another way to think about it goes something like this: Level one is knowing some tools. Level two is knowing a lot of tools and how to use them. Level three is knowing a lot of tools, how to use them, and when to use them. Level one and level two you can learn predominantly from others. Level three you got to learn from experience. It is the wisdom level, and it is constantly changing as you and your situation are. This is why it’s so important to pay attention to what tool you use when, and what you get from it. Over time, just like a craftsperson, you refine and gain precision.

Also, a paradox is this: As you keep learning and practicing tools for mental health and productivity you may find that some seem at odds with each other. Here are a few particularly striking examples from The Practice of Groundedness:

  • Resting your way out of a rut versus getting up and going
  • Self-discipline versus self-compassion
  • Facing your fears versus taking it easy on yourself
  • Reflecting on your purpose and finding meaning in the struggle versus showing up and getting through even if it feels meaningless

Yet these seemingly contradictory tools are actually complementary. They are yin and yang, most powerful when considered equally and applied with discernment. Sometimes you yourself can figure out what makes sense when, other times you may need the help of thoughtful friend or a book, and still other times you may need the help of a coach or therapist. Here, I simply want you take away that there is rarely a this or that but often some version of this and that.

A publication from Medium on personal development.

Recommended from Medium

Perfect Is The Enemy of Done

And when the night comes…

From Book Launch to Support Group — A Tale of Coronavirus Priorities

11 Questions Self-Aware Leaders Should Ask Themselves Daily

The Important Lesson I Learned From a Childhood Journal

6 Ways To Stay Mentally Strong After Failure

The Danger of Not Being Authentically ‘You’

A Quarantined Life Part 5: A Lovely Moment of Humanity This Morning from Hoda Kotb…

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Brad Stulberg

Brad Stulberg

Bestselling author of The Practice of Groundedness (https://buff.ly/3zgpxLa). Co-Creator of The Growth Equation. Coach to executives, entrepreneurs, and MDs.

More from Medium

The Question to Ask to Find Inner Peace with Yourself

Why Your Way of Thinking is Ruining Your Life and What to Do About It

Why Defining Events Don’t Define Your Life

Image of disabled person illustrating the transition point of reaching their goals

For a Happier Life, Satisfice

Woman multitasking in an art studio