Self improvement is the process of creating a better version of yourself. However, the self-improvement journey may not always be a smooth and forward ride. While at times it could be exhilarating, at other times it could be disappointing or frustrating. In spite of this, one has to go on learning from the experiences and stay on the path of self-improvement. Here are some tips that may help you understand the process of self-improvement so that you’re prepared for the bumpy and rough ride ahead. ~ Ed.
The world of self-improvement is a funny one at times.
You can have all of the self-help tips, hacks and strategies in the world but like with anything, you learn the real lessons further down the line with some degree of experience.
Here are five lessons that everyone should know about the world of self-improvement.
An Overview of Contents
5 Things Everyone Experiences on their Self-Improvement Journey
You may expect the unexpected, your plans may go haywire; but if you’re determined, you’ll reach your destination. Your self-improvement journey may not always be a smooth ride. Know how it is really going to be and what helps you to prepare for the bumps on the way.
Sometimes to move forward, you need to accept moving backward
One of the most common misconceptions about self-improvement is that we will always be travelling in a straight line. We imagine ourselves as the driver of our life’s car, getting it into gear, setting our destination and cruising along the path until we finally arrive.
Some of us are quick to realise that the road is never as smooth or as straight as we first imagined it. There are plenty of bumps, a few bends, a couple of moments feeling lost about where we are but nothing too serious. These things are to be expected in any walk of life but ultimately, we are always moving forward.
What very few people are aware of is that there are more than just bumps and bends in the road to where we want to be. Sometimes the car breaks down, sometimes we have to refuel at gas stations for longer than we expected, sometimes we have to pull a few U-turns after we realise we have been driving along the wrong road for the last forty miles.
Just like with any form of progress, the process is never linear. Take a look at global trends as an example. Crime rates, terrorist attacks, the number of wars, the number of people with access to healthcare for the past 100 years, 1000 years or however far you want to go back.
Most of these indicators show clear patterns of progress, and yet the line is always very jagged. There are always periods of two or three years where the trends reverse, but only for a small period of time where progress once again resumes.
This is almost always true on a large scale and almost always true at the individual level. Downward trends, pause in progress and backward movement are inevitable for anything that is worth moving forward on the whole.
Don’t let your temporary backward movement distract you from the real progress that you are making.
Improving is easier when done with others
Humans and the community are inseparable. We have evolved to know and rely on around 150 members of our tribe. Although that mileage may vary with the recent emergence of technology, our intimacy possibilities are still limited.
While we have our larger-scale tribes such as our political affiliations, our sports team, our fellow countrymen and women, it is our smaller-scale tribes that we are closest to on an emotional and spiritual level. Our friends, our family.
Because of this, anyone who has gone against what their parents want them to do for a career faces some serious resistance. The same happens if one is obsessed with self-improvement when their friends are happy to experience atrophy day-by-day. We are wired to please our parents and fit in with our friends.
Therefore, it is no surprise that when our friends or family do not enroll on the same journey of becoming better people, it is much easier to slip back into old habits or to adopt theirs. On the other hand, finding a friend or family member that will not only support you on your path but ideally, wants to join you on it, is the best motivation we can obtain.
Much of the success or failure in self-improvement comes down to your environment and the people you spend the most time with. Choose to spend more time with those that are going to a similar place to you.
Some days you are going to be exceptional, other days you are going to suck
Enrolling yourself onto the self-improvement journey means that naturally, you start to become better than you were before. On an average day, you are much closer to your potential than you ever have been and are always seeking new ways to get even closer to it.
In my opinion, there is no better feeling and situation to be in than this. However, as with the vast majority of things in our lives, the ‘bad’ often has a hidden upside and the ‘good’ has a hidden downside.
When we are hitting it out of the park, staying hydrated, hitting personal bests in the gym or doing whatever self-improvement we are doing, we are on top of the world. Not only do we get a satisfying and well-deserved rush, but we are also exposed to our own potential. And that can be frightening.
It’s frightening because now we know what we are truly capable of, it feels like there is nowhere to hide. The inevitable bad days come around and we can’t stop comparing ourselves to our best, our peak performance, and it eats away at us. We get a three-day sickness bug and we feel completely useless.
Both unfortunately and fortunately, that’s just how it is.
Unfortunate because we can’t be at our scintillating best all of the time. Fortunate because we can cut ourselves some slack for being perfectly human, not a fictional superhero.
Attaching things like our productivity and output to our identity is a very dangerous game to play. The highs may be a bit higher but the lows are certainly lower. As with many things, the solution is a balance.
Some days you are going to be exceptional. Love those days. Some days you are going to suck at everything that you do. Love those days even more. Once we realise that even the best have their off days, we might finally accept that we are going to have them too.
Habits are far more important than results
This is one of the most important points about self-improvement, especially in an increasingly results-based world. Focus on habits rather than immediate results. Period.
Here’s the thing about results: they are often unreliable feedback mechanisms. Sure if you prepare well and build up good habits over the long-term you are likely to see positive results. However, in isolated incidents, results don’t usually tend to tell the whole story.
If you follow sports, how many times has your team managed to scrape a victory despite being far worse on the day than the opponent? Or how many times have they dominated an opponent only to lose to a last-minute score?
If we were working entirely with results, we would say that the first instance deserves praise and the second instance deserves criticism when in fact, it should be the other way round. Building good habits always win in the long term, but not always in the short term. Building bad habits can win in the short term, but never in the long term.
I would much rather be the person who focuses on the writing process and getting better at it than the person who focuses on the viewers they get for each post and gets overconfident when it’s high and insecure when it’s low.
I would much rather be the person who builds a habit to workout three times a week, no matter how they are feeling, than the person who only goes once a week when they are feeling great.
Habits are the key to long-term success. Results can come immediately, but they usually take time.
Accountability will drag you through those unmotivated days
Motivation is as unreliable as old-fashioned buses. When we are in desperate need of them, they never show up. When we are uninterested, they show up by the numbers. There is no real, reliable way to manipulate motivation or buses and they only show up when they want. So, what is the best way to stay on the path of self-improvement?
I have found accountability to be a much stronger and more reliable force.
Having ‘skin-in-the-game’ has proven to be one of the most effective methods of doing what we say that we are going to do. It is one thing privately deciding that we are going to start our own cupcake business this year, it is quite another to announce it to our closest friends and family.
Accountability is so effective because we are social creatures. As mentioned in one of the earlier points, we have deep-rooted drives to fit in, be accepted and receive the social status that we desire.
As soon as we tell someone about our big plans, about how we are going to change ourselves or some other thing that is important to us, then our social status is on the line. We wouldn’t like anyone to call us a liar. We don’t want to be asked about our new business three months down the line when we haven’t gotten around to starting it.
If you really want to take your self-improvement to the next level, let someone else know about your big plans. You might just find that unreliable source of motivation becomes a bit more reliable.
So there you have it; five ways that have helped me and many others to stay on the path of self-improvement when the road begins to get a bit bumpy.
Self-improvement and becoming a better version of yourself is one of the most worthwhile endeavours that you can ever embark on. When progress is steady and the benefits tangible, it is easy to coast through and build momentum.
Difficulties on the path will inevitably arise though, and that is why it is important to have tools in your arsenal that will help you navigate those tough periods in a much smoother way.
Over to you
What is your favourite lesson from this post that you want to try out? Be sure to let me and others know down below in the comments!
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