The Problem with Self-Improvement.

 
 
 

Truth be told, I am not a fan of the idea of self-improvement. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that striving for personal growth is a bad thing. It is most definitely not. In fact, striving for growth is what fills our lives with hope founded in possibility. To know that there is always more to come, untouched avenues of ourselves to explore, and endless opportunities to expand, is the fuel of life. It propels us forward, and inspires a sense of personal contentment grounded in the prospect of the sweet unknown.

The problem then, does not lie in the notion itself, but in the language we use around the concept personal development. Here’s why: to “improve oneself” implies that there is something that needs to be fixed. It implies a movement away from wholeness and into fragmentation. It implies lack, and can perpetuate thoughts like “I am not good enough until I ______________.” As a result, we can become easily transfixed by how far we still have to go. Feelings of disempowerment manifest, because the space between who we are, and who we want to be appears as far too vast and thus, impossible to cross.

Welcome self-judgment and criticism. Welcome hopelessness. Welcome perceived limitations. In other words, welcome all the things that keep us stagnant, and prevent us from going where we desire to be. You see, the problem with framing our personal growth as an act of “improvement” is that it places us behind the eight ball, because we start our journeys from a place of disadvantage.

Clearly then, the process of personal evolution requires a compassionate reframe- a movement from a mindset of lack and fragmentation to one of abundance and wholeness.

So, the question becomes: how can we engage in the process of personal growth more effectively?

By recognizing how far we’ve already come. By noting our successes and strengths. By celebrating our individual uniqueness. Ultimately, by recognizing that as human beings we are already whole, and perfectly imperfect, and that this perfect imperfection is enough.

Plain and simple: There is nothing about anyone us that requires improvement.

When we really and truly resonate with this notion- that we all start our personal journey as whole, and perfectly imperfect beings- pursuits of personal growth resound more deeply. We are better able to wrestle with and contemplate the various lessons available to us, because when we are starting from a foundation of personal empowerment, we are better able to weave these lessons into the patterns of our lives so that they effectively align with who we desire to be.

More simply put, our personal authenticity flourishes when we recognize that our job is to not improve but to evolve.

Self-evolution is not a timed process. It occurs naturally- when you’re ready to truly feel and absorb the lessons available to you. The pressure comes off.

Welcome self-compassion, kindness, and unconditional self-acceptance. Welcome graceful forward movement. Welcome contentment and fulfillment.

Welcome your best life.

Dream with Reckless Abandon.

 

Yesterday, I was rummaging through the drawer in my night table to find notes written to me by my great-grandmother. I do so every year on her birthday and on the anniversary of her death, just to have a moment to really connect with her. As I was searching to find these precious notes, I also found a list of goals I had written about three years ago as I was finishing my undergraduate degree. I literally had not seen this list since I had first written it. As I started to review it, I started to realize that almost everything I had written had either come into form or are well on their way to becoming a reality.

I have always been one to live in the realm of possibility and idealism. I am all for dreaming outside of the confines of reality its seemingly inherent limitations. I have always been a believer in living life in a big way, and just going for it, despite the many roadblocks my mind can conceive. I am driven by a ceaseless motivation to make the most of this life that I have been given, regardless of self-doubt I feel and the fears I experience about what others may think.

It’s about pushing past, and giving myself permission to live my life for me. My life is my gift. Your life is your gift. It is yours to do with as you wish. You are the creator, artist, author, and designer of your experience. There is no such thing as right or wrong, for life cannot be dichotomized in this way. Your experiences just are what they are… inherently valuable, and there to facilitate your personal expansion.

In life, I believe, we called. We are called to dig deep. To grow by way of risk. By way of dreaming big. The purpose of life is to chase your wildest dreams and passions. To devote your energy to that which lights you up, fulfills you and allows you to live in the space of your highest self, for it is in this space that we can be of highest service to others.

Listen to the voice inside you which speaks your dreams, and give yourself permission to trust it. It won’t lead you astray.

Take some time to get acquainted with the voice. Take some space and get quiet. (Or blast the tunes. For me, it is time spent in nature and with my iPod by my side that gets me into the magical space of dreaming about what’s possible… a little Van Halen anyone?)

And so, as you sit and get more and more comfortable sitting in this mental space, you may want to follow these steps:

Visualize. Just let go. Do away with the limits of the realistic and just go for it.

  • If your perceived limits of what’s possible were no longer a factor, what would you be doing?
  • How do you feel doing these things?
  • Who do you want to be in this world?
  • What do you want your legacy to be?

Write. Commit your dreams to paper. There is something about writing our dreams down that makes them more real. Write down every detail, so you can start to feel how you will feel once your dreams have come into form. Go wild. These notes are usually chalk full of inspiration and motivation, so make copies of what you have written and post it where you can reflect on it every day. Stay saturated in the feeling behind each word…it’ll drive you.

Prioritize. All your dreams are of equal importance, but it’s crucial to figure out which dream(s) are most pressing for you right now, so that your vision can translate into doable steps.

  • What are you just itching to get out into the world right now?
  • What does your soul need to liberate today?

Identify actionable steps. Here’s where the ideal becomes transformed into the real. Break down your dreams so they remain big, but not overwhelming, as being overwhelmed breeds inaction and keeps you stuck. Set timelines…they’ll push you into action.

Make it happen.  Just execute. Even if you don’t feel ready. Don’t wait for perfection, it doesn’t exist.

It is without a doubt terrifying to put yourself out there, especially when you have invested your heart and soul into a particular pursuit. But, to me, the prospect of getting to the end of my life and sitting with the notion that I didn’t allow myself the opportunity to try is far scarier.

Launch. The world needs what you have to offer.