Marcus Hedahl spoke about the role of the Progressor in our most recent conversation. The progressor is someone who is not yet a sage, that is everyone. I have yet to meet a sage. Everyone is on the path of becoming more virtuous. How should we then think about ourselves?
Strive towards the ideal
There is always more we can be doing. There is always more to strive for. The sage is an asymptotic ideal.
You might think that that striving towards becoming a sage is demotivating, because it is unrealistic. However, the idea isn't to become a sage on day one. It's to take incremental steps forward, day by day.
The risk of taking the "realistic" option and feeling that we've made it far enough is that we fall short of what we could be. Our fullest potential will only be realized if we get better ever day.
Be hard on yourself
Getting better every day demands drive and objective reflection. Sometimes you'll miss the mark. This is expected. You need to be honest about this. Don't let it slip you by.
High standards are the key to success in a lot of domains. If you want to strive towards the ideal, then a diligent attention to detail, trying one's best, and taking full responsibility is necessary for success.
Only you are responsible for your virtue. No one else.
But not too hard
Being hard on yourself doesn't mean wallowing in self-criticism. The purpose of it, is to help you get better. If it isn't helping you get better, you may be too hard on yourself.
People can be too hard on themselves in two ways.
First, they may turn to negative self-judgement. This negative self-judgement may feel bad and may kick of a negative thought spiral. This can lead to rumination and a lack of motivation.
Second, they may use self-judgement as a substitute for action. The act of being hard on oneself may come to feel like work and because of that, it may feel productive. Like you're accomplishing something by being hard on yourself. But you aren't. What matters is what comes after reflection and high standards.
Track your progress
Pause daily or weekly to track how far you've come. Set realistic and measurable goals.
If you don't take time to record, to some extent you'll be flying blind, hostile to your memory.
If you don't take time to think hard about your goals, where you'd like to improve, to some extent you'll be hostile to making sudden decisions, decisions that may be influenced by others and made for the wrong reasons.
Taking an hour outside of your week, 5 minutes a day to note what you did well, where you missed the mark, and what you'd like to do next.
Good luck progressing. Reach out if you have questions or need anything.