self improvement

As we approach the New Year, many people will be considering ways to improve their lives, and how to make the changes necessary to live a better life – often, focusing around weight loss and physique, but also business, career, money, relationships and being a better mom.

The New Year is the time of year people think about what they want to achieve, and feel empowered to look into vehicles that can help them get where they want – such as a computer engineering online masters course or a particular diet or workout program, yet there are some fundamental and more emotional concepts that need to be considered if you want to improve your life in the New Year.

1Face your Fears

The book “Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway” encourages us all to embrace the fear in our lives, and to see it as a motivating challenge that we embrace rather than run away from.  Indeed, so many people find themselves fearing fear itself rather than the actual thing they fear – we build things up to the point we feel irrationally afraid, and the more we build things up, the less willing or able we are to take the necessary action required to face our fears.

This vicious cycle is like a downward spiral or snowball, that gets bigger and bigger the more we think about.  Therefore, sometimes, the best advice is to think less and do more.

It sounds incredibly simplistic, but if there’s something you fear the best way to break through your fear is to think less and do more.

2Stop Being a Perfectionist

Perfectionism is one of the most chronic emotional states and mental patterns people face, in the modern world, rooted in the fear of not being good enough.  The challenge is that perfectionism is like a prison that paralyzes you from taking the necessary action required to change your life – it keeps you stuck.

Often, you’ll find perfectionists are very intelligent people that feel an insatiable, almost obsessive, need to produce such ridiculously high-quality outputs that they end up never getting anything done; often leading to a state of  despair and low self-confidence, they start to see themselves as incapable, which adds to the downward spiral of perfectionism.

The antidote to perfectionism is to realize that nothing in life is ‘perfect’ there’s always room for improvement… and to free yourself from the shackles of trying to create the finished article by adopting more Japanese like the philosophy of Kaizen, which is the idea of never-ending improvement.

Indeed, when you consider something like the iPhone, once upon a time, that was viewed by people as a miraculous solution – whereas, in reality, it wasn’t finished, it was never complete as it remains improving through various stages of iteration.  The point is that perfectionism is a myth, and it’s like chasing the bottom of the rainbow – you’re going to live a life full of frustration.

It’s much better to adopt the approach of something being “good enough for now” and to then work at making it even better.  The trick is, as Nike says, to “just do it”… otherwise, you’ll look back on your life and think about all the things that could have been but never were.

3Redefine your Rules

In life, we all invent rules – for instance, we all have a number of “shoulds” and “musts” that shape the way we see the world, yet these are often inherited from childhood or society at large.  They are rarely challenged, and whilst many rules are beneficial, such as we feel we “should” clean our teeth in the morning upon waking – some rules are unnecessarily restrictive and burdensome.

The challenge is that we often tell ourselves that we should be doing a number of things, which make us feel guilty and not good enough – they stress us out, for no good reason.  Therefore, spend a little time reconsidering the “shoulds” in your life, as this can free up a lot of mental energy to focus on creating a better life for yourself.

4Consider Where is “there” for You

Many people live their life as a boat, drifting on the ocean, where rather than directing their boat to a specific destination and following a plan to get them where they want to be, they focus on making ends meet, and have such a short-term focus that they coast through life and never get very far.  

In essence, this comes down to goal setting and planning your life to achieve what you desire the most.  Of course, for some people, their dreams are not very ambitious, in that they don’t need to be a world champion or a successful business owner, they just want to keep a roof over their head, be loved, and have fun along the way.  

Interestingly, research has demonstrated that people with lower aspirations are often more content, fulfilled and happy in their lives than those with huge goals – as often, people set massive goals with a view to feeling the need to prove themselves.  In fact, overachievers can find themselves somewhat deflated when reaching a goal, and so set themselves an even bigger goal, where they become almost addicted to success.

The reality is that you need to work out what makes you the happiest and plan a route that gets you to that place.  It doesn’t matter if it’s big or small – what matters is that is works for you, and that you actively move toward your goal, rather than let the tide of life take you and deliver you onto shores that you never wished to visit.

5Believe it’s Possible

A lot of people struggle to believe in themselves, and the art of believing in yourself can take a long time to master – so let’s start off with something easier.  That is, to believe in something being possible, as in, let’s say you want to become a rock star – you need to believe it’s possible, for you… just that first initial shift from focusing down on all the reasons why something is unlikely to happen, to looking up to see that it’s a possibility.

Perhaps, it’s not a probability (unless you follow a specific plan in which case, almost all possibilities can become probabilities) but the fact it is definitely possible is an encouraging way to think about your future.

The more we tend to believe something is possible, the more we tend to take action towards it — if you don’t feel something is possible, it’s rare people will take action to work towards that goal.

6Ask for Help

Many people limit themselves by thinking they need to do everything on their own when there’s a whole world of people out there, many of whom would love to help you achieve your vision.  The trick is to get around positive people that can support you and help you grow.

All too often, we find ourselves surrounded by negative people that are “dream stealers” who don’t want to help you – because they feel jealous or resentful that you are pursuing your dream. Therefore, you want to get around people that are positive and living their life to the fullest, as often, it’s these people that are abler and willing to help others.

7Focus on the Best Case Scenario

Many people automatically think of the worst case scenario, indeed, we all have a tendency to think of the worst case scenario. Imagine, you get an email from your boss that states “we need to talk, come to my office at 1pm”… do your thoughts go to the possibility of being promoted and given a huge bonus, or the possibility of being fired or told off.

We are conditioned to see the worst case scenario, as our brain tries to protect us from anything that can hurt us  – so it intensifies the worst case scenarios, bringing them to our attention, flagging them up to us as a “risk”.

Yet, living in this way of picturing the worst case scenarios causes a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety.  Indeed, it can be nice to feel relief after facing something that it wasn’t as bad as you expected – but for the past week, or so, you might have been living in a state of fear and anxiety.

It’s therefore helpful to focus more on the ‘best case’ scenario – focusing on what could go right rather than what could go wrong.

8Build your Confidence

We could all do with more confidence and self-esteem yet many people don’t know where to begin when it comes to this aspect.  The thing is, confidence is like a muscle – in the sense of it’s not something you either have or don’t have… to grow your confidence, you need to exercise, just like how to grow your biceps you need to lift weights, the same is true of confidence.

Many people avoid situations where they might have to use their confidence muscles, as they feel too weak to lift that particular weight, yet it’s only through lifting the weights that we develop strength.  Therefore, you need to stretch beyond your comfort zone in order to build your confidence and self-esteem.

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