Self-help and self-improvement have become something of cliches in recent years. Everyone and their grandmother seem to be ready to tell you how you can manifest millions or do what you love without any fear of failure.
Let's be realistic. You can– and should– work hard to become the kind of person that embraces your full potential. You deserve to be happy with what you're doing and feel a sense of pride about who you are as a person.
That's why we want to cut the BS out of the equation and focus on what that actually means. Consider this page a primer for ways you can make self-improvement work for you.
Self-Improvement Starts By Identifying Your Values
As broad as self-improvement is as a category, one of the trickiest parts is knowing where to start. Depending upon who you ask, self-improvement may include:
- Getting in shape
- Earning a million dollars
- Falling in love
- Reading more
... and so on and so forth.
On top of that, everyone seems to have a dozen paths to get to each of these outcomes– and for most businesses, that's going to mean you'll be paying a decent chunk of change for their insights.
We like to approach self-improvement from a standpoint of values and personal development. If you get clear on what is most important to you on an intimate, personal level, you're going to be better equipped to make decisions and seek opportunities that benefit who you are in the long-term. Broadly, the frame work that we recommend starting from involves taking the following steps:
This is something we write about a lot and you can find a plethora resources on the topic in the section labeled "Recent Posts from Our Blog."
Practice Insight and Active Self-Reflection
The first step in determining what's important to you is to engage in active self-reflection and to hone your sense of insight. Insight– or, the ability to understand why we do the things we do– is a unique strength that surprisingly few people possess. Most of us tend to operate on autopilot by default, following the path of least resistance from day-to-day.
As a result, it's not uncommon to feel like you're stuck in a rut, plateauing, frustrated, or burnt out.
Reflective journaling is a great starting point for assessing your actions. I recommend starting by taking a few minutes each evening to look back on your day and note what went well, what didn't go well, and any habits that you've observed emerging throughout your day.
Creating Growth-Based Habits
The stronger your sense of insight, the more likely you are to notice that you've developed a set of habits and behaviors that aren't actively serving you. For example, many of us have a tendency to turn on some background noise, such as a YouTube video or podcast, while we work. Even though we've become accustomed to working this way, we often end up dividing our attention and having a hard time focusing on taxing activities.
Another example may be that we sit with our feet up and our spine curved for most of the day. It feels like we don't have enough time in our schedule to go exercise or move around during the work day, and so we accept the temporary comfort of the way we sit at work. As a byproduct, we face the consequences: aches, pain, tightness, trouble sleeping.
The more you reflect on where you're at and how that differs from where you want to be, the more opportunities you'll have to integrate growth-based habits into your day. If you leap too quickly and try to make a dramatic change to your day all at once, you'll likely be setting yourself up for failure (and the sting that comes with failing). So, for creating growth-based habits, it's a good idea to make small changes as you go. Look to make a 1% increase in progress each day, building healthy new habits on top of your existing routines and autopilot actions.
This is one that I see a lot of folks struggling with– especially entrepreneurs and young men who are either starting new careers or looking to make a career change.
Often, we make the mistake of thinking that our progress is measured by how hard we work, and therefore all of our energy goes into our jobs, side projects, and personal development efforts. We refer to this as the "hustle-is-life" mentality. It's painfully common on Instagram and Reddit, where folks love to talk about how all you need to do to be successful is: wake up at five every morning, walk three miles a day, drink four bottles of Soylent, invest in a vending machine, put ten thousand dollars into real estate, and on and on and on and on. Somehow, the folks who make these posts are also under the impression that doing these things will not only make you rich, but it will also give you tremendous sex appeal.
To put it another way, there's a strong trend in the personal development community to completely miss the point of The Wolf of Wall Street and try to live like a Mad Men character.
That's just not healthy. It's also not nearly as profitable as those IG accounts would have you believe.
Instead, finding a way to make balance a key part of your personal development process is necessary. Doing so will help to stave off burnout and ensure that you're able to operate while you're at your best. Getting adequate sleep, stimulating your body, eating a well-balanced diet, and nurturing relationships with others are all necessary for creating a rewarding life that you can be proud of.