Working on yourself is the single most important thing that you can do in life. Where your body goes, your mind will always follow. If you have to spend your entire life with yourself, it seems like a worthwhile investment. Furthermore, everything in life stems from within. No matter what your goals or desires are, everything YOU want in life starts with a decision that YOU make. Having a strong desire to improve yourself will make you better at anything you do. Take a moment to let that sink in.
Self-development feels like riding a seesaw or a giant pendulum. One day you start to progress, then you slip up, then you have a great day only to fall back into your old ways. The end result is to inevitably give up and stick to what you already know. Over the span of your life, this cycle repeats over and over again. Sound familiar?
So many people go through life without trying to improve because they don’t know where to start. Working on yourself is like a full-time job that starts the day you’re born and ends when you leave this earth. Although this seems like a daunting task, there are ways to alleviate this process. In fact, if you do it right, you might even enjoy the struggle!
There are tried and true methods to break down personal development into steps. Following these steps is a lot like following a recipe. You need to do step 1 before you can get to step 2, otherwise you won’t get your desired results. There are no shortcuts in life.
If you stick with the prescribed methodology, you will see tremendous personal growth over time.
What areas of life would you like to work on?
In order to create change, you need to know where to look. Start by coming up with a list of ideas that answer this simple question.
Reflection is probably the most powerful way to figure out what you want to improve. Try free-writing in a quiet area where you won’t be interrupted from your thoughts. In order to reveal your deepest wants and desires, you really need to focus with no distractions. Looking back at your life, you might notice that you have certain character traits that need to be refined. It could also be that you want to harness the energy of something you’re already good at and continue to get better in that field as well. Each person has different wants and needs, so this will be unique to your personality. The important thing is that you reflect and create a list of areas you believe require improvement.
Another powerful method for building self-awareness is to ask people you trust for feedback. Reach out to friends who you know will tell you the truth and won’t sugar coat it. Hearing what they have to say can be eye-opening. Most people have a hard time giving themselves credit for the good things, but will be overly critical when it comes to areas they need to improve. Here are some questions you can ask your friends and family to gather further insight.
This exercise requires thick skin, but can be enlightening. Make sure that you put all the answers together so that you can find trends or commonalities. Next, cross-reference the list you wrote for yourself with this one. Try to pick up on any trends and keep tallies for more frequently occurring themes. Some things might come up more often than others–this is a good sign. Try to narrow your list to a top 3, these should be things you want to work on most.
Finally, choose 1 thing to work on. Trying to do all 3 at the same time might sound like a good idea, but you will end up scattering your energy and losing steam. Stay focused on the most important one. When weighing the various options, it might also be wise to think about the one that would have the greatest impact one your life, then work backwards from there.
Once you have a starting point, you’re ready to move on to the next step.
The research phase will prepare you for carrying out your desired outcome. Everyone wants to skip this part, but if you do, you’ll miss out on so many opportunities for growth.
Pretend that you went back to school and needed to study for an important exam. To get the best results, you need to figure out what study techniques are most effective. Well, going back to the school analogy there are two resources that give you the highest quality results. Each can also serve as a complementary piece for the other. Collectively, both media and interviewing people will give you all the knowledge you need to get started on your journey.
Consuming various types of media will get you acquainted with experts in the personal development field. Think about how you learn best, then pick forms of media that match your style. If you enjoy reading, blogs and books probably make a bunch of sense. If you prefer listening or watching videos, then Youtube, podcasts, and audio books might be better options. If you don’t know where to get started, use Google or ask for recommendations. Once you get on a roll, each book that follows will be easier to come by. Over time, you’ll have an arsenal of authors and speakers you like most. Then, they’ll bring on guests or refer to other books and the list will continue to grow infinitely.
During the first step of this process, you reached out to people you trust for feedback. Dig deep into the feedback they gave you to see if they gave you any insight for how to improve. You can also ask them for further elaboration or even ask others for feedback. Take the criticism as a sign that they care about you, take notes on what you need to work on and how you can work on it. There’s a good chance that you have loved ones who are already good at what you want to be good at, just ask them for advice or try to model what they do.
First lady Eleanor Roosevelt once said “it takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.”
Having a plan gives you direction in your daily life. Obviously you know what you need to improve and you also have a good idea for what needs to be done based on your research. Now you need to think about what this looks like on a day-to-day, weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis.
Instead of thinking of these as goals, think of them as systems. If you can do ____ (action) on a day-to-day basis, then you will eventually get ______(desired result). These are milestones that you can build off of, they don’t always have to remain constant. If you feel like you’ve hit a certain point in your growth, look for the next milestone. Think about how these daily actions build to something over the course of time.
It’s way easier than setting SMART goals.
At this point in the process, it’s time to start taking action.
The most important part of execution is making a present and conscious effort to work towards progress every day. Set aside part of the day, or plan certain moments to practice. This is like working out at the gym, the more practice, the stronger you will be over time. It needs to also be conscious so that you don’t forget to do it. Force yourself to do something to work on improvement regularly. If this gets hard and you want to quit, remind yourself why you started this journey in the first place.
Keeping a journal is a great way to hold yourself accountable. People do this in a variety of ways, but the Best Self Journal is very comprehensive in this regard. It asks you what tasks you are going to work on during the day and also leaves space for reflection. You want to have something like this where you can diagnose what went well and what went wrong regularly. This will help you get back on track when you mess up and make you proud when you achieve something great. Having accountability will make progress far easier to follow.
Lastly, don’t forget to celebrate the little things. Each time you do something great, be sure to reinforce your accomplishment. This can be one day where you really made strides in the right direction or it could be bouncing back after facing adversity. These small victories will keep you motivated and make you happy each step of the way.
We all want to be the best version of ourselves, but sometimes it isn’t clear how. If you’re willing to put in the work and follow the prescribed steps, your life will greatly improve.