Humans have survived so long, in part, because of mutual cooperation, because they learned to help each other. So, working together is definitely important for success. However, there will be times where you’ll need to rely on yourself and yourself alone. This can be hard because it’s hard to trust ourselves. When we rely only on ourselves, we can only blame ourselves if things go wrong. This, in turn, is difficult because taking responsibility for our decisions, especially the poor ones, is tough. Now, if you’re going to rely on someone you ought to trust them. So perhaps you don’t actually trust yourself to make good decisions. Maybe you don’t feel like you’re capable. You point to your mistakes and shortcomings as evidence that you aren’t to be trusted. Surely, it’s better for others to make decisions for you. Or not decide at all!
To quote the band Rush, “If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice.”
Everybody Makes Mistakes
Mistakes are part of being human. Just because you’ve made poor decisions doesn’t mean you should give up on making decisions. Decisiveness has been repeatedly shown to be a common trait between lots of successful people according to the Harvard Business Review. Simply being decisive was correlated with success: Not making specific decisions but being able to make decisions without suffering from paralysis by analysis. A big part of being self-reliant is learning to let yourself make mistakes without beating yourself up about it. Because otherwise you won’t trust yourself enough to be decisive. Consequently, you’ll be unable act independently.
Bestselling author Mark Manson states in his book, If Self Discipline Feels Difficult You’re Doing It Wrong. “Seeing self-discipline in terms of pure willpower fails because beating ourselves up for not trying hard enough doesn’t work. In fact, it backfires. And, as anyone who has ever tried to go on a diet will tell you, it usually only makes it worse.” The sort of perfectionism Manson alludes to hampers your ability to decisively and purposefully act of your own volition. Give yourself some grace and don’t be so hard on yourself for your mistakes or shortcomings.
Decide who you want to be
In James Clear’s book Atomic Habits, he connects behaviors to identity. He says, “1. Decide the type of person you want to be. 2. Prove it to yourself with small wins.” Clear goes on to say, “If you’re looking to make a change, then I say stop worrying about results and start worrying about your identity. Become the type of person who can achieve the things you want to achieve.” Doing so will make you more self-reliant. Because you’ll be more successful with whatever it is, you’re trying to achieve. You’ll need to do some introspection and figure out what kind of person you want to be. You’ll need to examine your values. Examine what’s important to you as a person.
A good exercise to help you figure this out is to think about things that make you really angry. Usually the things that make you angry are going against some core value of yours. So, thinking about things that make you upset can shine a light on what your key values are. For example, maybe you got angry when someone acted greedily. What’s the opposite of greed? Generosity. So, by recognizing that greed makes you angry, you discover generosity is a key value of yours.
Why Being Clear On Your Values Is For Self-Reliance
Because your values are the building blocks of identity. As such, they’ll essentially guide you towards self-reliance. When behaviors are linked to a value or an identity, those behaviors become much more resilient to outside influences. This means your habits, decisions, and behaviors will rely less on external factors and more on yourself.
You can’t depend on willpower for self-reliance. Instead rely on your identity that is shaped by your values. This involves getting really clear on what’s important to you and learning not to take mistakes so personally. Once you do those two things, you have the recipe for someone who’s self-reliant because they’re decisive, self-motivated, and able to deal with any obstacles that arise.