The best place to find a helping hand is at the end of your own arm

Many people lack self-reliance. By self-reliance I merely mean the ability to rely on ourselves to do whatever we feel should be done. As children we depended on others. We turned to our parents, teachers, and other adults for support. Later, when we tried to assert ourselves by making our own decisions, we were often criticized and punished for making mistakes. The result? We lost confidence in our ability to take charge of our own lives. Wishing to please others, we follow their wishes instead of doing what we think is right. A heavy price is paid whenever we do so, for we can easily become slaves to the whims of others instead of the master of our destiny.

We cannot be happy unless we are in control of our own lives. For this reason, the roughly 2,000-year old Hindu text called The Laws of Manu states, “Depend not on another, but lean instead on thyself. True happiness is born of self-reliance.” Some choose to rely on God whenever they’re in a jam. But I agree with the Greek Dramatist Aeschylus, who wrote about 2,500 years ago, “God loves to help him who strives to help himself.”

We can no longer turn to mommy and daddy for help. No point in asking God for assistance either, since He already gave us a helping hand (it’s attached to our arm). So, it’s time to admit we are responsible for our own lives. We have to put our house in order. We’ve got to stop ducking our responsibilities and avoiding our duties. Running away from unpleasant tasks may give temporary relief, but for every chore avoided, we accumulate more guilt and stress. In a word, the road to irresponsibility leads to unhappiness. The road to self-reliance leads to confidence, high self-esteem, and happiness. So, what are we waiting for? Let’s review techniques for developing or improving self-reliance.

How to Develop Self-Reliance

Baby steps. Let’s say your desk is a mess. Piles of documents occupy too much space and the clutter makes it hard to quickly find what you’re looking for. What to do? Take baby steps. Promise yourself to spend five minutes cleaning up. Anyone can work on an unpleasant task for five minutes, so do so. Spend five minutes, first thing in the morning, organizing the documents. Do this for a week. The result? You are now (slightly) better off then you were earlier; you’re improving! What’s more, you’re developing a good habit.

In the second week, clean up for five minutes after you arrive in the morning and another five minutes after you get back from lunch. Wow! Now you’re even better than you were last week. In the third week, add another five minutes at the end of the day. By now, you’ve got the picture. Before long, you’ll have the cleanest desk in the office and be feeling mighty good about yourself. On July 20, 1969, how did Neil Armstrong get his footprints on the surface of the moon? You may be tempted to say, “By stepping out of the ‘Eagle’ lunar landing module.” But the real answer is “By taking a long series of baby steps.” Let your baby steps take you to new heights in self-reliance.

Promise yourself. Here’s a powerful technique that can change your life. Make a promise to yourself; write it down; show a time period, and honor your promise, no matter what. For instance, if you’re wasting too much time “hanging out in malls” or watching too much TV every day, you can promise yourself to cut your idle time by one hour a day. Once you’ve made a decision, write it down, complete with a time period. For example, “I will cut back my TV viewing by one hour a day for one week.” Next, no matter what happens, honor your pledge. A simple exercise like this will boost your self-confidence and prove to you that you can control your own life.

With practice, you can soon be converting wasted time to time spent on bettering yourself. For instance you can use the freed time to work out in the gym, attend a school, read a book, learn how to dance, join a club, catch up on letters that should be written or chores that should be done, study a foreign language, or practice mastering a computer program, such as Microsoft Word and Excel. A word of warning, if you break you own promise, you’ll reinforce your own lack of confidence. So, don’t try to bite off more than you can chew. Make a promise that is attainable. Later, with practice, and after experiencing success, you can go on to bigger and better things.

Collect inspirational material. Whenever you come across an inspiring story or motivational quote, clip or copy it, and add it your collection. Spend five or ten minutes a day flipping through your collection to let the ideas sink in and become a part of you. An excellent place to begin may be with Emerson’s essay, Self-Reliance.

Build your own defense system.
How do we fight the negative thoughts that crop up in our minds so often? The best defense is to be prepared. Gather some favorite quotes and quips from your collection and copy them onto to small blank cards that you can carry with you. The next time a negative thought rears its ugly head, pull out a card and focus on the positive thought instead. For example, the following thought flashes through your mind, “I can’t do this; it’s too difficult.” So, you pull out a card and absorb its message, which may be, “If it is to be, it is up to me.”

Keep a journal.
Another valuable technique is to keep a journal. At the end of the day record every success you experienced before you forget them. Your successes will inspire you to do more and lift you when you’re feeling discouraged. Also analyze setbacks you’re facing, looking for ways to change “defeat” into victory. The advantage of the journal is as you enter your notes and mull over them, they’ll sink into your subconscious mind, which will then work on your behalf, as a silent partner. One day, out of the blue, solutions to problems may suddenly appear, or you may find that your self-reliance is grower stronger and stronger with less and less effort, all thanks to your subconscious.