If you want to excel in your sobriety efforts then you need to make a plan and live purposefully. You need to set goals and push yourself to get to that next level. But how do you do this when you are not sure if you are pursuing the right goals?
One way is by asking for help. Get guidance. This is a fundamental principle of early sobriety. You can’t do it alone. You need help and assistance just to find your way into recovery in the first place. So the idea is that you can take this a step further in long term sobriety and continue to get new ideas and suggestions from people who would guide you.
Who do you ask for help? Sponsors, therapists, people at AA and NA meetings that you trust. Find people who have significant clean time, people who are living the sort of life that you want for yourself, and ask them for advice.
This is a very simple principle based on the idea of modeling. Find an example and then model that example. Find a person who is living your dream life, then ask them questions about how they achieved that dream life.
You will tell yourself all sorts of things about why you should not ask them questions. This is wrong. You have nothing to fear, as most people love to talk about their own success. It doesn’t hurt to cater to their ego a bit and ask them how they achieved such an awesome life for themselves. But then when they give you advice and suggestions, you can’t just take it and smile and think nice thoughts. You have to actually go put that advice into action. You have to actually take their suggestions and implement them into your everyday life.
I like the idea of the 30 day trial. If someone gives you a suggestion then I would argue that you should test that suggestion using a 30 day trial format.
Example: Someone tells you to meditate. Don’t just go home and meditate for 8 minutes and then decide “eh, it’s not really for me.” That is not a fair trial. Give it 30 days. Meditate every single day for 30 days straight, and then make a decision. For almost every behavior that you might want to test out in your life, 30 days gives a fair assessment of the true benefits of that behavior. You certainly will not get the maximum benefit from meditating after your first 8 minutes without ever trying it again.
Another great example would be exercise. If you exercise for a week and then give up, arguing that it isn’t getting any easier, then you are cheating yourself. Give it a full 30 days. Push yourself hard through that 30 day trial and by the end of it you will notice a huge difference. You will feel so much better, you will be falling asleep faster, you will notice the emotional benefits of exercise, and so on. But after just one week or one day you will not be able to notice all of the massive benefits of regular exercise. You have to give it a chance.
So that is my suggestion to you: Ask for help, ask for advice, and then take action. Try to put every suggestion that you get into a 30 day trial format. That way you give yourself a real chance when testing new ideas.
The ideas and the suggestions themselves are nothing. They are meaningless until you put them to the test and find out if they help you or not. And the way to do this is to test them. You cannot use a mere thought experiment in order to test out advice.
Advice doesn’t work that way. It does you no good to think about a suggestion and try to determine if it will help you or not. For years I did this with the idea of exercise. I was out of shape and I thought “Oh sure, regular exercise may help me a little.” But I had no idea of the true impact that exercise would have on my life, and I could not know until I actually did the 30 day trial and felt the full benefits of it. Because if you are out of shape and you go jog 3 miles it is going to feel awful. But if you jog 3 miles every day for 30 days, then at the end of that struggle, you are going to start feeling good. You are going to feel energized from the jog rather than tired. And that is the difference between struggling or being in great shape. Once you are in great shape it makes it easy, of course. The hard part is getting into great shape. And the only way to get there involves struggle. Effort. Discipline.
At one point in my recovery I learned the art of discipline. And after I learned this new level of intense discipline in my life through getting into shape, I was able to translate that into other areas. I was able to take that level of intensity and discipline and apply it to my recovery effort, to my schooling, to my relationships. Learning the art of discipline was like having a volume knob for all of the other areas of my life. I had learned how to exact more control on myself and my life after I mastered it in one area (exercise). Thus, getting into shape taught me how to whip other areas of my life into shape. Or rather, it showed me the level of effort that it would take to succeed in other areas of my life. And because I had got into good physical shape, I knew just how hard I could push myself if I had to. I knew what my limits were, and they were much greater than I had once imagined.
If you want to succeed in recovery then you have to be open to new ideas. After being open to new idea you also need to be willing to test those ideas in your life. That takes a serious level of willingness. You have to trust in the process. You have to believe that people want to help you, that they have your best interests at heart. And that trust can be difficult.
In order to be successful in recovery you need to push yourself, you need to adopt a growth mindset, and you need to be willing to try new things. Humble yourself and realize that you do not have all the answers yet. Listen to advice and apply that advice in your life. Test out new ideas and give them a real chance to succeed by giving them 30 days. There is plenty of time to keep testing that next idea out. There is plenty of time to find the perfect answers in terms of your personal growth. But in order to find those perfect answers you have to be willing to test out all of the suggestions, including some ideas that may seem silly at first.