The Illusion of Constant Self-Improvement

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Image from Flickr by Enokson

First of all, what I’m gonna write here are my own thoughts regarding my own experience in life, the insight given here may not actually apply to you, but if it makes you think, then I guess it’s a good thing (gee that sounds like a disclaimer).

I believe that improving oneself, whether it’s just a single area of our life can make our future lives a lot better. (I know … that sentence could have been shortened too ‘Self-Improvement works wonders!’)

If you’re reading this post, then most probably you’re into self-improvement, or maybe google or some random link sent you here and now you’re wondering why you’re reading this post, hold on — I’ll get to the point.

Here it is: I’ve observed in the past that I have this ‘illusion of constant self-improvement,’ by definition, it’s when we think our personal development efforts — like losing weight, reading more books, being smarter, collecting more seashells, etc. — will continue to go on an upward trend.

The reality is there are times that I have regained 10 or more pounds, have read less books in a month, play games instead of learning new things, and no I don’t really collect seashells — meaning that, instead of improving more, we (or should it be just I) actually become less better (I’m sorry, I don’t want to use the word ‘worse’ —- oh, I have already typed it haven’t I).

Hey wait a minute — this post is starting to sound like a rant (a post where the blogger whines about something irrelevant to the reader). It has been said that bloggers should try to add value to readers of his/her blog (which is you). So here are some useful insights:

  1. We need regular feedback to be aware of where we currently are.In the case above where I regained weight; that could have simply been avoided if I weighed myself regularly (which I’m doing now). We must have a threshold that when reached, will compel us to implement the appropriate action immediately, like when I reached 180 pounds — I started to eat less again for a while.
  2. Follow a routine, and make it a habit.Having routine means that we schedule certain day(s)-of-the-week and/or time-of-the-day when we do what we are supposed to do — whether it’s going to the gym, reading a book, or learning to play that musical instrument.

    They say it takes 30 days to make something a habit. While I don’t believe that it is a fixed rule (we humans are different from each other); it’s something to look forward to if you like counting days.

  3. Have a minimum threshold (or it’s acceptable to do less).When we are already successful at following habitual patterns, sometimes when we miss-out just a little bit (e.g., when we miss a training session) — we might feel bad at ourselves.

    That’s not a productive way of thinking. Instead, we must accept the fact that we cannot change the past, but the future, which is still to come, is under our control.

    An easier alternative to setting a fixed number of sessions or number of tasks done, though, is to have a bare minimum threshold — which means we set an acceptable lower limit. In that case, we’ll still feel quite happy even if we don’t reach our target. Remember that doing a little or less is a lot better than doing nothing.

I found out that just by applying item number 3 that I’m a lot better now at maintaining productive habits. Maybe, it’s because I’ve started to become comfortable in doing less — it gives me flexibility. When you are flexible, you can adapt to anything.

How about you? Have you noticed a similar pattern in your road to self-improvement?

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