Real self-improvement takes endurance, discipline, patience and a lot of forgiveness. Often, the process requires undoing years of bad habits and unlearning a lifetime of perceived truths that only serve to keep us small.
Self-improvement is a vast subject, a topic that sages over centuries have expounded upon in books, treatises, sermons and poems. Our goal here isn’t to summarize thousands of years of wisdom. Rather, we want to provide practical places to start and everyday wisdom to keep you moving forward.
Self-improvement means something different to everyone. We are all born with unique strengths and not-quite-strengths, so we can’t possibly need to set out improving upon the same things.
However, there are some areas that nearly everyone can improve upon to make their own day a little easier, a little more enjoyable, and at the same time may communicate respect or validate someone else. For instance:
Good posture allows your spine to retake its natural shape, which has a host of health benefits:
And in addition to these physiological benefits, good posture has a healthy effect on your mood and self-confidence. Even if you don’t feel great about yourself, throwing your shoulders back and holding your head high gives the appearance of self-confidence, and just the appearance of self-confidence can generate real self-confidence.
Like yawns, good posture can be catching. When you see someone stride down the office hallway looking triumphant, do the same! And then you’ll inspire someone else to straighten up.
Effective time management isn’t about finding ways to cram more stuff into your day or to multitask in new and inventive ways. That just adds stress, and research is showing more and more the human brain’s limitations when it comes to divided attention. Rather, effective time management is about clarifying priorities, setting realistic goals and establishing firm boundaries.
Out of the, say, 12 errands you “need” to get done today, how many really need to get done today? How many need to be completed by you? Prioritize those.
With those tasks in mind, what else can you realistically accomplish without compromising your physical, mental, spiritual or family’s well-being? Stop there.
What activities are time suckers? Checking Facebook? Answering emails? Establish time limits for when and how long you will engage in those activities and stick to them. This may be the hardest part of effective time management because just pinpointing where your minutes escape you will take some work.
The benefits of your time management aren’t just experienced by you. When you get to where you need to be and you carve out free time to really be with your loved ones, others benefit from your presence. You communicate to others that you value their time when you’re on time. You nonverbally communicate how important your friends and family are when you can devote your undivided attention to them.
Improving your manners is as simple as making “Please” and “Thank You” a well-used part of your vocabulary. While we may think these phrases are commonplace to the point of being meaningless, when used intentionally, that’s not the case.
“Please” attached to a request reminds us that we are speaking to someone who is worthy of our respect just by virtue of being alive, just as we are. “Please” helps us recognize that we have no authority to command, only to request.
Making a conscious effort to say “Thank You” when someone has done something we requested, whether because they were obliged to or as an act of kindness, helps us become conscious of all the little things that go right. Paying attention to those small bright spots is the beginning of profound shift in perspective that allows us to genuinely be hopeful and optimistic, which, too, has health benefits.
Like time management, manners communicate respect to others. And like good posture, that can be catching.
There is no one designated ideal to which everyone should aspire, and there’s no one right way to go about becoming your ideal you. Sometimes, it’s intimidating to start something you’re so unsure of, but when it comes to self-improvement, what’s really important is that you start at all.