There are many great words of wisdom about the foolishness of comparing yourself to others – a comparison that rarely goes well, of course – but the one I like most is: “The only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday.”
To make following this advice easier for you, here are some helpful tips and techniques:
Know yourself. It’s hard to improve on a vague notion of who you are, yet relatively easy to make one skill, one trait, one habit, or one aspect of your “knowledge base” slightly better or stronger. The more precisely you know who you are, the simpler it becomes to identify and work to improve a single line item in your self-description.
Bring your knowledge up to date. Engineers and other specialists often talk of the “half-life” of their specialized knowledge. They are calculating how long it will take for half of the professional information they possess right now to become obsolete or useless. This concept is relevant much more broadly than for narrow technical or professional know-how. Regularly upgrading what you know, about anything from your work to your activities of daily living, makes your “knowledge base” more useful and is an important way to improve yourself.
Boost your core skills. Communication, perception, memory, learning – these are a few of the core skills everyone needs in order to make their way in the world. A great technique to improve yourself is to boost your ability to perform any or all of them. You can do this by such methods as taking courses, reading books and how-to materials, asking for help from a skilled friend, colleague, or mentor, or even just by solo practicing.
Let loose your creativity. Kids all have it, but as we grow to adulthood many of us let our creative “muscle” atrophy. That’s a shame, because creativity is a trail-breaking kind of attribute that helps you cope with problems, enjoy your work and your life, and feel better about yourself and your situation. Fortunately, you can rebuild any lost creative strength by targeted exercise: working with puzzles, lowering some of your intellectual and emotional inhibitions, giving in to curiosity, exploring alternatives, taking prudent risks with your ideas or thought-experiments, and so forth.
Explore mentorship. Mentorship is a two-way street that helps both parties improve themselves. You’ll find more on this idea in a previous post, here: https://organizeyourworkandlife.com/on-mentoring/
Acquire more formal education. A good deal of information today is available on the internet, in books and magazines, and informally by talking to knowledgeable people. But you can gain some special benefits from more formal educational efforts. For one thing, a capable teacher can inspire you to care more about the topic. In addition, most good courses will helpfully lay out the most important information in the most helpful sequence, making it easier for you to distinguish what’s most useful from what’s least useful. Also, when you learn on your own, you may get stuck on or confused by a concept through which a formal educational course would guide you easily. Finally, going all the way through to earn a degree or credential can open new career and personal doors for you.
Acquire a skill or competence. This is probably the most obvious way to improve yourself. Any new skill or competence that you learn will mark a definite improvement, and if you intentionally target the new skills or competencies you learn, you can remake yourself rather significantly. For example, you can purposefully acquire new skills that strengthen your weaknesses, or you can aim to add entirely new competencies that broaden your capabilities in any direction you please.
Try your hardest. The harder you work at anything you do, the better you will be able to do it next time. So consistently trying your hardest is a powerful way to improve. There’s more about this in a previous blog, here: https://organizeyourworkandlife.com/build-your-reputation/