Self-development is an art.
It takes time. It requires patience. It asks you to step outside your comfort zone. It is challenging — and that’s the point.
However, the biggest challenge when it comes to self-development is the process itself. People really struggle with the path and all its twists and turns, much more than they do any single obstacle.
But should you learn how to walk that path of self-development, you will learn some tried truths to live by:
Self-development is a mindset.
To one person, a project going poorly or a relationship ending means they failed. To someone else, it is nothing more than another lesson on the path.
By reframing to see the lesson instead of the mistake, you will ultimately learn more and move on to what’s next faster.
The quest to become a better version of yourself often feels like a roller coaster ride. It’s hard. And it’s usually so uneven. You can end in failure. But life is a journey, not a marathon, so you always have another opportunity to restart and improve.
Many people practically look out for secrets, tricks, and hacks that will make EVERYTHING better right now. But unfortunately life doesn’t work that way. There are no “overnight successes”. Think of all the incredible people you truly admire. They didn’t succeed becasue of one giant move, but rather a series of small and consistent actions over time.
“Be patient with yourself. Self-growth is tender; it’s holy ground. There’s no greater investment.” — Stephen Covey
A magic bullet cannot save you! You’ve got to embrace the process and enjoy it. You can’t escape the hard work it takes to get better. Every incredibly successful person you know today has been through the boring, mundane, time-tested process that eventually brings success. So, stop looking for “quick hacks” that bring faster results.
Instead of reading every self-improvement post for the one golden tip that will make you superhumanly efficient, focus on doing the actual work that needs to be done. You can inspire yourself to take action. The hard, long process is the only way though. You can’t achieve tremendous life success with a quick fix. Nobody gets it that easy.
In fact, it was probably the most influential gift I’ve ever received.
It would help me find my true calling, become a writer at the Huffington Post, and go on a 5-month road trip across America by myself.
You know what it was?
One of these…
A freaking journal.
You’d think that sitting down and putting pen to paper wouldn’t be that life-changing of a practice.
In this article you’ll learn four things..
Think about it: The whole goal of improving your productivity is to reach the point where you never have to think about how to be more productive. The whole point of pursuing happiness is to reach the point where one no longer has to think about being happy. The whole point of improving your relationships is so that you can enjoy some drama-free cunnilingus in the McDonald’s drive-thru without almost crashing the car.
(Still working on that last one.)
Self-improvement is therefore, in a weird way, ultimately self-defeating.
The only way to truly achieve one’s potential, to become fully fulfilled, or to become “self-actualized” (whatever the fuck that means), is to, at some point, stop trying to be all of those things.
The people posing this question almost invariably feel terrible about themselves, and further, they assume that’s par for the course. It isn’t. In fact this whole “self-love vs self-improvement” thing is a false dilemma, one that badly misunderstands the role of self-love.
This equates loving yourself with thinking you’re just fine the way you are. It treats self-love as a reward for being the person you want to be. It assumes that your self-regard should be based, in some sense, on you being objectively “good.” And conversely, it equates wanting to change with disliking yourself. But ask yourself- is this true of your love for other people?
If you love someone else, surely that means you want the best for them? You want them to be healthy, happy and successful. If you have children, you want them to do well in school. If a friend is unhappy with their life, you want their life to change so they’ll be happy.
Apply the same standards to yourself that you do to others- love yourself the way you love your friends and family. Decide to be better because you deserve better; because you love yourself and want to enable yourself to live your ideal life.
We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.
Sure, that may not be the real reason we have two ears and one mouth, but it reveals a useful pattern that we see repeated in communication in general.
Communication essentially has two parts: transmission and reception. These will manifest differently depending on the medium, but the general scheme is the same.
If we expand Epictetus’s aphorism into a suggestion for how to more effectively communicate, we get something like the following:
When it comes to communication, you should work hard to receive twice as much as you transmit.
In other words, you should listen twice as much as you speak, read twice as much as you write, and pay twice as much attention as you receive. Let me unpack that last one a bit actually, as it’s a bit complex.
When around others, we can either be looking to get attention, or we can be paying attention to those around us. The difference between the two is just like the difference between talking and listening — though it expands far beyond the realm of verbal communication. It’s about your attitude as a communicator — your purpose for communicating. And a 2:1 ratio helps to remind us that we should be communicating in a way that helps to enrich us, and to build relationships.