post written by: Angel Chernoff
30 Practical Ways to Improve Yourself
Today is our blog’s sixth birthday. Over the past six years we have touched on hundreds of tips, tricks and lessons that have the potential to improve your life. So to celebrate this milestone, we’re going to take a stroll down memory lane and review some of the best tips from our previous articles. Together, we believe the 30 tips below are the cornerstone of practical self improvement advice. Each tip links back to its original corresponding article, so you can read more at your leisure. Enjoy…
- Maintain a positive attitude. – Positive thinking is at the forefront of every great success story. The mind must believe it can do something before it is capable of actually doing it. So be aware of your mental self-talk. We all talk silently to ourselves in our heads, but we aren’t always conscious of what we’re saying or how it’s affecting us. Start listening to your thoughts. If you hear negative thoughts, stop for a second and replace them with positive thoughts. As the Dalai Lama once said, “The way to overcome negative thoughts and destructive emotions is to develop opposing, positive emotions that are stronger and more powerful.” For some practical positive thinking guidance, I recommend reading The Power of Positive Thinking.
- Be kind to yourself. – If you had a friend who spoke to you in the same way that you sometimes speak to yourself, how long would you allow that person to be your friend? The way you treat yourself sets the standard for others. You must love who you are or no one else will.
- Embrace problems as a natural part of growing. – Part of living and growing up is experiencing unexpected troubles in life. People lose jobs, get sick, and sometimes die in car accidents. When you are younger, and things are going pretty well, this harsh reality can be hard to visualize. The smartest, and oftentimes hardest, thing we can do in these kinds of situations is to be tempered in our reactions. To want to scream obscenities, but to be wiser and more disciplined than that. To remember that emotional rage only makes matters worse. And to remember that tragedies are rarely as bad as they seem, and even when they are, they give us an opportunity to grow stronger.
- Create your mission statement. – Mine was simply “To translate what gives me joy, fulfillment and makes me genuinely happy into a career that will allow me to work for myself and spend more time with my family.” This meant starting my own business as a coach to help individuals and small business owners get what they want out of their life and business. Formulating this sentence allows us to create a short mission statement that summarizes exactly what we want from life, which will help to keep it in the forefront of our minds when we’re making important decisions.
- Exploit the resources you do have access to. – It’s not about having access to countless resources; it’s about exploiting the resources you do have access to. Stevie Wonder couldn’t see, so he exploited his sense of hearing into a passion for music, and he now has 25 Grammy Awards to prove it. What resources do you have access to that you are not using?
- Help others when you are able. – In life, you get what you put in. When you make a positive impact in someone else’s life, you also make a positive impact in your own life. The more you help others, the more they will want to help you. Love and kindness begets love and kindness.
- Narrow your focus. – Concentrate your efforts on smaller and smaller areas. When your efforts are diffused over a wide area they won’t have much of an impact. So focus on smaller areas and your efforts will be felt more fully. It could take time for change to happen, but keep that focus narrow.
- Stretch your comfort zone by trying new things. – Doing the same exact thing every day hinders self growth. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting. Growth happens when you change things – when you try new things – when you stretch beyond your comfort zone.
- Create and pursue S.M.A.R.T. goals. – Successful people are objective. They have realistic targets in mind. They know what they are looking for and why they are fighting for it. Successful people create and pursue S.M.A.R.T. goals. S.M.A.R.T. goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. When you identify S.M.A.R.T. goals that are truly important to you, you become motivated to figure out ways to attain them. You develop the necessary attitude, abilities, and skills. You can achieve almost any goal you set if you plan your steps wisely and establish a time frame that allows you to carry out those steps. Goals that once seemed far away and out of reach eventually move closer and become attainable, not because your goals shrink, but because you grow and expand to match them.
- Make your own needs a priority. – Stop putting your needs on the back burner. The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much, and forgetting that you are special too. Yes, help others; but help yourself too. If there was ever a moment to follow your passion and do something that matters to you, that moment is now.
- Learn and practice one new skill every week. – Self-reliance is a vital key to living a healthy, productive life. To be self-reliant one must master a basic set of skills, more or less making them a jack of all trades. Contrary to what you may have learned in school, a jack of all trades is far more equipped to deal with life than a specialized master of only one. And besides, learning new skills is fun. Check out this article, this article, and this book.
- Stop procrastinating. – Start taking action and making changes. Action and change are often resisted when they’re needed most. Get a hold of yourself and have discipline. Discipline is choosing what you really want over what you want right now. Putting something off makes it instantly harder and scarier. What we don’t start today won’t be finished by tomorrow. And there’s nothing more stressful than the perpetual lingering of an unfinished task.
- Forgive people and move forward. – Don’t live your life with hate in your heart. You will end up hurting yourself more than the people you hate. Forgiveness is not saying, “What you did to me is okay.” It is saying, “I’m not going to let what you did to me ruin my happiness forever.” Forgiveness is the remedy. It doesn’t mean you’re erasing the past, or forgetting what happened. It means you’re letting go of the resentment and pain, and instead choosing to learn from the incident and move on with your life. Remember, the less time you spend hating the people who hurt you, the more time you’ll have to love the people who love you.
- Excel at what you do. – People watch what you do more than they listen to what you say. Be someone worth emulating. Most people are inspired by GREAT musicians, writers, painters, speakers, entrepreneurs, engineers, mothers, fathers, athletes, etc. There’s only one thing they all have in common: They excel at what they do. There’s no point in doing something if you aren’t going to do it right. Excel at your work and excel at your hobbies. Develop a reputation for yourself, a reputation for consistent excellence.
- Identify the lesson in every situation. – Everything is a life lesson. Everyone you meet, everything you encounter, etc. They’re all part of the learning experience we call ‘life.’ Never forget to acknowledge the lesson, especially when things don’t go your way. If you don’t get a job you wanted or a relationship doesn’t work, it only means something better is out there waiting. And the lesson you just learned is the first step towards it.
- Express gratitude. – When you appreciate what you have, what you have appreciates in value. Kinda cool right? So basically, being grateful for the goodness that is already evident in your life will bring you a deeper sense of happiness. And that’s without having to go out and buy anything. It makes sense. We’re going to have a hard time ever being happy if we aren’t thankful for what we already have.
- Savor the joy of simple pleasures. – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the best things in life are free. They come in the form of simple pleasures and they appear right in front of you at various locations and arbitrary times. They are governed by Mother Nature and situational circumstance and captured by mindful awareness. It’s all about taking a moment to notice the orange and pink sunset reflecting off the pond water as you hold hands with someone you love. Noticing these moments and taking part in them regularly will bring unpredictable bursts of happiness into your life. Read The Happiness Project.
- Stop caring about what everyone else wants for you. – Unfortunately, just before you take your first step on the righteous journey to pursue your dreams, people around you, even the ones who deeply care for you, will usually give you awful advice. It’s not because they have evil intentions. It’s because they don’t understand the big picture – what your dreams, passions and life goals mean to you. They don’t understand that, to you, the reward is worth the risk. So they try to protect you by shielding you from the possibility of failure, which, in effect, also shields you from the possibility of making your dreams a reality.
- Make small, positive changes every day. – How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. The same philosophy holds true for making changes in your life. Making small, positive changes – eating a little healthier, exercising a little, creating some small productive habits, for example – is an amazing way to get excited about life.
- Read great books. – The Web is grand. With its fame for hosting informative, easy-to-skim textual snippets and collaborative written works, people are spending more and more time reading online. Nevertheless, the Web cannot replace the authoritative transmissions from certain classic books that have delivered (or will deliver) profound ideas around the globe for generations. Read books that are packed with wisdom capable of igniting a new understanding of the world.
- Keep an open mind. – Someone else doesn’t have to be wrong for you to be right. The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know. We all have our own unique path and feelings. When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself. It’s one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.
- Don’t rush intimate relationships. – Love is not about sex, going on fancy dates, or showing off. It’s about being with a person who makes you happy in a way nobody else can. You don’t need a perfect one, you just need someone who you can trust – who shows you that you’re the only one. If you haven’t found true love yet, don’t settle. There is someone out there who will love you unconditionally, even if it’s not the person you were initially hoping for.
- Embrace change. – If nothing ever changed there would be no sunrise the next morning. Most of us are comfortable where we are even though the whole universe is constantly changing around us. Learning to accept this is vital to our happiness and general success. Because only when we change, do we grow, and begin to see a world we never knew was possible. And don’t forget, however good or bad a situation is now, it will change. That’s the one thing you can count on. So embrace it, and realize that change happens for a reason. It won’t always be easy or obvious at first, but in the end it will be worth it.
- Choose to smile more often. – A smile is a choice, not a miracle. Don’t wait for people to smile. Show them how. A genuine smile makes you and everyone around you feel better. The simple act of smiling sends a message to your brain that you’re happy. And when you’re happy, your body pumps out all kinds of feel-good endorphins. This reaction has been studied since the 1980’s and has been proven a number of times. Bottom line: Smiling actually makes you happier.
- Let go of the past. – Don’t let the past steal your present and future from you. Accept the fact that the past in not today. You might not be proud of all the things you’ve done in the past, but that’s okay. The past is not today. The past cannot be changed, forgotten, or erased. It can only be accepted. We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past. But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future.
- Face your fear of failure. – You might fail. And that’s OK. Failures are simply stepping stones to success. No matter how it turns out, it always ends up just the way it should be. Either you succeed or you learn something. Win-Win. The biggest mistake you can make is doing nothing because you’re too scared to make a mistake. If you can’t handle failure, then you can’t handle success either.
- Be proud of yourself. – Being proud isn’t bragging about how great you are. It’s more like quietly knowing that you’re worth a lot. It’s not about thinking you’re perfect – because nobody is – but knowing that you’re worthy of being loved and accepted. Boost your self-esteem by recognizing your accomplishments and celebrating them. Acknowledge your positive qualities, and when you come across a quality in yourself that you aren’t proud of, don’t sulk in your sorrows, proactively work on correcting it. Read Today We Are Rich.
- Be attentive to your stress level. – Slow down. Breathe. Give yourself permission to pause, regroup and move forward with clarity and purpose. When you’re at your busiest, a brief recess can rejuvenate your mind and increase your productivity. These short breaks will help you regain your sanity and reflect on your recent actions so you can be sure they’re in line with your goals.
- Let go of regrets. – Follow your heart. Be true to yourself. Do what makes you happy. Be with who makes you smile. Laugh as much as you breathe. Love as long as you live. Say what you need to say. Offer a helping hand when you’re able. Appreciate all the things you do have. Smile. Celebrate your small victories. Learn from your mistakes. Realize that everything is a lesson in disguise. Forgive. And let go of the things you can’t control.
- Keep learning and nurturing your personal growth. – Achieving higher consciousness comes from your commitment to personal growth. You’re a totally different person compared to who you were at this time last year; next year will be no different. How much you grow and who you become is up to you. But remember, the acquisition of knowledge doesn’t mean you’re growing; growing happens when what you know changes how you live.
Photo by: Tony Armstrong