If you’ve been reading this blog, chances are that you know I’m all about self improvement. I’d like to take a moment to make what I think is an important distinction, which I don’t think is always clear.
By being an advocate of self-improvement, I’m not saying that the Celes of yesterday was so flawed that a new me is needed. There seems to be the theme among people who are into self improvement that you need to hate yourself to want to be better. I don’t think improvement works well this way, nor do I think that improvement is about being better each day, every day.
I try to improve myself and my life, but I do so with knowing I will never reach level 1000. Life if not like some games where you’re gaining all these experience points and leveling up and leveling up until you’re at level 1000+ by the time I’m seventy-eight years old. As much as I wish it were, life just isn’t like that, my friends. Everyone whose self improvement is a linear picture of reaching perfection will be sadly disappointed in the end.
We as people, and life itself, go in cycles. You can’t always be happy or healthy. The best you can do is try to extend the times you are and minimize the times you aren’t. If anything, learning to deal with the times when things are bad in the best way possible is self improvement. To try to reach a state where you never trip, never falter, and never stray from the best of the best is not only an impossible goal, it’s a step backwards. To improve you first have to realize that you’re not horrible the way you are now, you’re never going to suddenly morph into that butterfly or swan or whatever, and you’re going to make terrible mistakes and have horrible things happen to you on your journey.
You are you, with your own faults and particular qualities. To pledge to make slight changes is one thing, but to act like some day a Honda Civic is going to become a Hummer is delusional and sad (about as sad as that metaphor).
Today is as important as tomorrow, and as much as you should be working towards something, you need to realize, accept, and live in the moment of who you are today as well. Do it because there may not be tomorrow. Do it because to really improve you have to love and accept who you are now. Do it because tomorrow, whether or not you like it, you will still be you no matter what you tell yourself. Do it because even if right now sucks, it is part of you and your story, and only you can do something with it that makes it worth having happened.
I know some things about myself, others I’m sure I’m still learning. By knowing I am a certain way, I can embrace and express that in ways that I am increasingly more comfortable with. Faults are not always faults, and finer qualities not always so fine. To focus on ‘changing the bad things about yourself’ is to place a black and white value on a part of who you are and either try to cut it out or replace it like some kind of Frankenstein graft. To see both sides to a coin is to admit the world is flat on only has two sides. Consider the many sides to the tetrahedron, or other polyhedrons that are the building blocks of life, and try to find how each piece can fit together.
I try to be realistic. Combine slight tweaks with strategies and meet yourself somewhere in the middle before you fall off the edge. If you hate who you are now and set an impossible goal for tomorrow, you will fail in the worst way. Don’t kid yourself into thinking you’re not who you were, because you will always be some version of yourself. Accept it as everything you were has made you today, and will make you every day after until the end of this life. All things shape us, the best we can do is try to take some control over how they do and accept the things we cannot so we can move past them.
Acceptance is the biggest piece to the puzzle I think most people miss. You have to accept yourself, your life, and the general way of life, that it is not a perfect pearl or even an oyster, before you can move on.
And move on to what? What do you really want? Figuring is as much part of the journey and figuring out how to get it.
I want to be better than yesterday may seem like a the daily goal to strive for, but in the long term it makes little sense as it is a generalization, a judgment on the unquantifiable, and an impossibility.
More than self improvement, I think of this as learning to live by living. This involves thinking and introspection as much as it involves getting out there, taking chances, and doing.