Nearly every human being, at least once in their life, will think, “How can I improve myself?”
From this simple question, we will each come up with different ideas as to the things we can do to help us better ourselves: as a sibling, a leader, a co-worker, an employee or employer, or as a friend. These thoughts and observations will change for each of us as we move through different stages in our lives.
In our 20’s for example, improving ourselves as a leader may be to go out and learn from the best out there. While in our 50’s, improving ourselves as a leader may be taking on a mentee or two.
Although our objectives and paths to self-improvement may vary throughout our life, ONE thing will remain true: we struggle to get out of our own way.
Setting the goal of greatness is the same as spontaneous speaking situations (you know, when the groom asks you to give a short toast at his wedding and you didn’t prepare anything). We need to dare to be dull because we tend to over-evaluate, over-analyze, or get choked up. We also tend to overlook the small, simple things we could do that can lead to significant improvement.
Why does this happen? Because we are thinking too hard about being great instead of doing the actions we need to, in order to BE the greatness we seek.
Top 3 Reasons We Struggle with Making a Self-Improvement Plan
1. We are RE-acting instead of responding.
We are RE-acting (putting pressure on yourself to get it right. You are acting out your thoughts, instead of responding, which is more genuine and authentic).
As the maxim for improv comedy states, “Dare to be Dull”.
We shouldn’t look to RE-Act – but to respond. For when we respond, we do so without thought. It’s our natural knee-jerk reaction. It is THIS that will help as truly improve ourselves, as we are going with what we know to be true deep inside our hearts, without worrying about impressing others.
2. We make it a challenge instead of an opportunity.
Part of our problem stems from the fact that in our society, we tend to make the action or the thing we want to accomplish a “Challenge”. While this may not seem like a bad idea, it can put us in a defensive mentality.
When we are challenged, we tend to react (see what I did there?) differently than when it is presented as an opportunity for us to become that which we seek.
When we look at things as an opportunity, instead of a challenge, we won’t just do the bare minimum to protect ourselves and defend our position. Rather, we will see it as a way to put forth our best effort. It’s because we believe it may turn into something else, or expand our abilities for what we are or want to become.
Think about it: the expert whom you follow or like the most is looking for a mentee, and has put out an open call for everyone who wants to apply – but ONLY for the next 45 minutes.
Do you see this as a CHALLENGE to get the application done in 45 minutes, OR do you see it as an OPPORTUNITY to work for the expert whom you have learned so much from?
This is the same obstacle that we have when we seek to improve ourselves by creating a self-improvement plan.
When we see it as a CHALLENGE, we give a good, hard look at ourselves and where we could improve. We tend to get defensive about things.
“I could improve my response time to all emails to 2 hours, but why should I go out of my way to work hard on that, when the emails get done anyway?”
But when we see it as an OPPORTUNITY, we tend to jump at the task, as it’s an experience where we can quickly grow from.
“I can improve my email response time to 2 hours or less, because I would then be able to have more interactions with the sender ‘in the moment’. Thus, this increases the productivity of the exchange and helps more people.”
This may seem like a trivial item, but it makes a BIG difference.
Imagine if I say “I love you!” with my hands out for a hug, and my head tilted to the side a little. You would FEEL the love. As opposed to if I said “I love you!” and had my arms folded across my chest, my shoulders pointed at a 45-degree angle away from you. You would feel that it is a forced or fake statement.
3. We overthink and/or suffer from thinking we “got lucky” or WILL “get lucky”.
As Steve Chandler points out in his book “Wealth Warrior”:
“Everyone has skills they should share with the world, but the problem is they are frozen in the face of making a decision: which road to take?”
I can tell you from my own experiences that it is NOT easy to decide. But once you do, you need to STICK WITH IT.
You need to block out all the other garbage, and figure out who YOU ARE. The REAL you. Or as Steve says in Wealth Warrior, “Access your Higher Self”.
What’s the higher self?
For the athletes and executives I coach, it’s those flashes of when they do something phenomenal when they surprise even themselves. “Hey, I didn’t know I could do that!”
That IS the REAL YOU. That’s a sparkle of the greatness that you have within you!
The problem arises when the individual writes it off as a fluke, a happenstance, or even worse “Luck”.
I hate that word “Luck”.
No other word in the English language creates such a sense of discomfort and unease in my body like “luck”. Just hearing someone say “He got lucky” makes me want to jump out of my chair and yell “They didn’t get lucky! They put themselves in a position for good things to happen!”
Guy down the street won the lottery? He bought the ticket.
Old High School friend is now the head of a multi-national corporation that he founded? He worked his ass off!
“Luck” comes to those who are willing to sit down, do the work, and keep grinding. Just as you need to with your self-improvement plan.
When you can focus and settle on the one or two things that will have the biggest impact on your life, and truly FOCUS on getting them done, you’ll get what others call “lucky”.
But you need to do the hard work of turning your thoughts into action, receiving cold, hard feedback from those you trust, and be able to sit down and look at yourself in a true light.
NOT what’s true to others, but true for YOURSELF.
Are you being the best version of YOU possible?
This is where the big struggle of creating a self-improvement plan comes: admitting to yourself WHO your HIGHER SELF really is, accepting it, and going after it.
As Byron Katie said:
“You could have ANYTHING in the world you wanted if you were willing to ask 1,000 people for it.”
The 1,000 people you ask needs to begin with your biggest fan and your biggest critic: yourself.
Now go after it, and let your Higher Self out!