Constantly seeking self-improvement, maturity, wisdom, and just better ways to live your life should be the goal of a person living a full life. In fact your life will not be as full as possible if you are not seeking self-improvement.
People need a set of core values to approach life with, but how to apply those core values can always be improved on. Even core values should be reevaluated from time to time. As an example I’ll paraphrase something I remember from the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. When you are a dependent person and we all start that way because babies can’t fend for themselves, your “ultimate goal” may be to be independent. Independence may be seen as the pinnacle of success. However, once you become completely independent if you fiercely hold on to independence as the highest state of being, you miss out on interdependence; when two independent people voluntarily form a bond, a trusting relationship and, depend on each other. Interdependence can and will result in a fuller life. You can’t jump from being dependent to interdependent, you have to become independent first. You can’t form an interdependent relationship with a dependent person, or an independent person who still sees independence as the pinnacle of living. Interdependence is a complicated relationship and it takes two mature and secure people for that type of relationship work.
Before I talk about how to approach self-improvement I’ll talk about a couple barriers to becoming a better you; stagnation and burnout.
Stagnation is the worst rut you can ever get into. Stagnation can be brought on by stubbornness, “This is who I am and I’m not changing!”, apathy “I’m an old dog, too old to change” or overconfidence “I’ve got this stuff down”. Once you think you “know it all” or “have mastered living” or have reached the pinnacle of whatever you have also reached stagnation guaranteeing that you will not stay on the pinnacle. The world around you is changing, the people you know and love are changing, if you stop changing you will be left behind.
Burnout is another enemy of seeking self-improvement. The hotter the fire, the sooner the fuel is gone. So you have to refill your tank, no not just eat right, live a balanced life. If you are selling vacation back or losing vacation days in an effort to be a better employee you are just speeding toward burnout. If you are relentlessly pursuing the perfect home-life, the perfect house, the perfect “relationship”, the perfect kids, be careful because not only will you burnout, but so will your family. Accept that there is no “perfect life”, accept the imperfection and focus on living a full and happy life surrounded by (at least a little) imperfection.
The first step in seeking self-improvement is to know who you want to be. What are your core values. If you’ve always just tried to live a good life but never really thought about it, take some time, do some research and better define who you want to be. The second step is to do an honest evaluation of who you are. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? How open are you to change? Then match up who you want to be versus who you are and figure out what you would like to change. The last step is truly the hardest. Change! Don’t try to change everything all at once. Set priorities, figure out ways to motivate yourself, and don’t be surprised if it is harder than you thought it would be. Remember we are all imperfect so don’t expect perfection and don’t give up if you don’t immediately become your ideal person.
It is not possible to live a full life if you are not seeking self-improvement. We are all capable of improving. You will be happier and live a fuller life when who you are is more in line with who you want to be.