So you want to lose weight.
Or maybe you want to get that promotion at work.
You want to write a book or quit smoking.
Maybe you want to learn more about politics or investing.
You want to complete a triathlon or just stop swearing.
Or you might be trying to become more kind and generous to others.
We all have a longing to become a better version of ourselves. There is always some part of us that we think could use a little improvement. I think some people tend to focus on self development more than others, but deep down, if we’re honest with ourselves, becoming our best self is an incredibly common goal.
And yet for most people, life just moves at the speed of light and year after year we find ourselves in the same circumstances, living the same kind of life, with the same knowledge, and the longing just remains, slightly buried, dusty, and forgotten in the recesses of our mind. But that nagging thought occasionally pops up, “What if I made some changes, what if I tried something new and different, what if I grew into a better me?”
A casual stroll through your local book story is an easy reminder that self improvement is a common desire. The self-help section is one of the largest sections of any bookstore. Year after year, people make resolutions and plans to change their life and year after year, most people remain largely the same.
Except, some people don’t. Some people actually make the decision to change, do the work, and become a massively better, different, or more successful person. Why is it that so many people strive to become a better person, but so few actually make significant progress toward this common goal?
Self development takes a decision and a commitment.
Simply wanting to be a better person doesn’t change anything. Everyone wants to be better at something. But in order to change, you have to take the desire a step further and decide that push come to shove, for better or worse, I’m choosing to change. If I desire to be more generous, I have to decide to actually be more generous. And then make a commitment to myself to continue being generous and keep deciding over and over and over again until it becomes second nature to give generously.
Think about the types of changes that you want to make in your life. Decide today that you are going to choose to do things differently and commit to yourself that you will continue to decide to make that different choice and live differently. Decide and commit, today. Decide and commit, tomorrow. Decide and commit, the next day. Sometimes the decision and commitment needs to be made more often. You might decide that for this hour, I will not swear. And then work on the next hour when the time comes.
Once you’ve made the decision and commitment, will you fail? Yes, guaranteed, absolutely, without a doubt. If you don’t fail, then you had nothing to change in the first place. If it isn’t hard, you’re not improving anything. Accept the fact that you will fail. Decide and commit again.
Self development takes time.
The Oxford dictionary definition of self-development is ” the process by which a person’s character or abilities are gradually developed.” A process that occurs gradually. You will not become a better person by tomorrow. You can make better decisions right now, but to actually change and improve yourself, it is going to take some time, and some work.
Most of us have heard the theory that it takes 30 days to form a habit, or maybe you’ve heard 28 days, others will say 21 days. So which is it? The truth? None of the above. You see habit formation is highly individual and more importantly, habit formation is a continual process. Sure, if you complete a task for 30 consecutive days it will probably become second nature and completing that task will be a heck of a lot easier on day 31. But what if you really, really, don’t want to complete the task on day 65? You tell yourself that you’ve had 64 good days, one day off won’t be a big deal and you give yourself a break. Then on day 66, you realize the world didn’t end when you didn’t complete your task yesterday, maybe I can do it again today, just a few days off won’t be a big deal. Until you find yourself weeks later at the same place you were on day 1 of this whole project. Sound familiar?
The reality is that habit formation is a continual process. There is no magic 30 day cure. It’s a constant, daily decision and commitment to put in the work, do the thing, and reap the results, and then do it again tomorrow. Highly successful people are most certainly people of habits, but the way they keep their habits is by consistently deciding to show up, day after day, failure after failure, exhaustion after exhaustion, many times over until they reap the reward they are looking for. And then, they show up again. Self development and improvement doesn’t have an ending point. It’s just making the decisions day in and day out that lead to becoming one step better, one step closer to the person we want to become.
Self development requires failure.
I recently heard Brooke Castillo describe action toward a goal by using a trip to the grocery store as an example. When you decide to the grocery store, you get in your car and start driving to the grocery store. Your intention is entirely focused on getting to the store and getting your shopping done. That is the goal. When you’re driving to the store and you come across a red light, you stop and wait and then proceed as planned. You don’t call it a failure and turn around and go back home because you’ve come across an obstacle in getting to the store. You understand that red lights are a part of the process of getting to the store. You’ve learned that eventually the light will turn green and you can proceed on your way to the grocery store. Before you even started out for the store, you left with the understanding that there would be red lights along the way. It’s no big deal.
It’s the same way when we’re trying to develop habits and take steps to improve ourselves. We will encounter obstacles along the way. These obstacles will annoy us, waste our time, delay our efforts, and keep us from reaching our goals in the most efficient manner, but you can’t just turn around and go home simply because you hit a red light. When you’re driving to the grocery store and you come across some unexpected road construction. Do you say “forget it” and turn around and go home? Not likely, your family still needs to eat. You just stop and think about a new path to get to the store and get your shopping done.
When you come across obstacles to improving yourself, you have to keep going. When your original plan doesn’t work out the way you expected, regroup and come up with a new plan. When you have a bad day and make terrible decisions that go against all your goals, take a deep breath, remember what you’re aiming for and why and then make the next right decision.
Self development requires hard work.
You will not earn that promotion at work by putting in an average day’s work. You won’t run a marathon by sitting on your couch eating Twinkies. You’re not going to get your finances in order by swiping your credit card every time you find something neat to buy. In order to become a better person, you have to put in the work. You have to think differently, act differently, talk differently, and often, spend time with different people doing different things. If you want to quit smoking it’s going to be really hard to quit if your evenings consist of hanging out with your buddies at the local pub surrounded by clouds of smoke. Quitting smoking is only one of the habits that you would need to change in this scenario in order to have the most success.
When deciding to become a better person, you’re going to have to make hard decisions. You’ll have to do things that you don’t necessarily consider fun. You will have to make sacrifices on things that you enjoy. You’ll need to reexamine and adjust your priorities. You will have to get up off the couch and put in some hard work.
But here’s the truth, you can do hard things. And hard work breeds success. Uncommon effort leads to goal attainment. Putting in the time, the effort, the energy, and making the sacrifices today can lead to a life of abundance beyond your wildest dreams.
The decisions, the commitment, the time, the frustration, and the effort that you put in today leads to a better tomorrow. Whatever it is that you are dreaming of, the life that you wish to someday obtain, can be yours. But are you willing to put in the work to get there?
I’ll be digging into self improvement and development all month long. I hope you’ll come back throughout the month of August as we dig a little deeper into what self improvement is, why we should strive to improve ourselves, how on earth do busy moms fit in self improvement, and some resources and options to consider to develop ourselves into the person we want to become.