Simple Self-Improvements

The internet is full of simple self-improvement content, most of which is either entirely obvious or impossibly optimistic. So I thought I’d jump into that topic and try to offer some ideas that are simpler and more meaningful than most.

Here are a few ideas intended to push you farther along the track toward becoming the best person you can be:

Think Twice

If you don’t already do this before you speak or act, you should start. Once you’ve said or done something hurtful, stupid, or destructive, you can’t take it back. That’s why it’s much better to avoid saying or doing it in the first place.

Just as carpenters learn to measure twice before they cut, the rest of us should learn to think twice before we say or do almost everything.

As part of your thinking, ask yourself:

  • Can this be interpreted as hurtful?
  • Is this coming from the person I want to be?
  • Will this cause – or set the stage for – any unwanted outcomes?

Once you’re pretty sure your remarks don’t fall afoul of these basic standards, just take another second and check again. A few mistakes may still get through these filters, but far fewer than if you don’t consider and then reconsider your words.

Say “Yes” to Some New Things

The world is rapidly changing, and if you don’t change with it, you’ll soon be left behind. Even worse, you’ll miss out on some wonderful new capabilities, experiences, technologies, information, and so forth. To better keep up with the pace of change, practice saying “yes” to some new things.

Of course, you’ll still want to exercise good judgment about what, and what not, to try. But when you open up the dampers, even just a little, you give yourself opportunities that can lead to major improvements in your productivity, success, and quality of life.

Pay More Attention

The human brain is all about heuristics: the “mental shortcuts” we all use to deal with problems and choices more easily. The problem is this: the human brain far too quickly jumps to conclusions about which heuristic to apply. That’s why optical illusions work so well, and why you so often ignore what would seem to be obvious elements of a situation.  

The better approach is to consciously pay more attention to what’s going on around you. Focus more closely on details. Think about meaning and motivation – your own as well as other people’s. Stop now and then to smell the roses.

You’ll not only make fewer mistakes and miss fewer opportunities, you’ll get more satisfaction from your work and your life.

Cultivate Curiosity

The world is an amazing place, and it contains much to learn and enjoy. But if you’re not curious enough, you’ll miss a great deal of it. A lot of people will tell you to think outside the box, but I’m here to tell you to experience outside the box, as well.

Start by looking up from your own immediate concerns. Continue by asking questions: Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How? are some good ones to begin with. The answers may be illuminating and surprising.

Even better, learning about what’s going on in the world will help you understand and operate more effectively when you inevitably return your attention to your own immediate concerns.

Share Yourself

Although there are billions of us on this planet, each of us is unique. It’s not just our DNA that’s special, it’s our whole self. That’s why we all benefit when each of us allows others to see who we really are, what we really care about, as well as what we think and feel about what’s going on around us.

This is true about every aspect of ourselves. But the more openly you share the positive side of your personality with others, the better. Sharing your positive thoughts and feelings will also help to weaken the negative thoughts and feelings that too often creep into your consciousness.

Cut Some Extra Slack

The world is not a perfect place, and everyone deserves a degree of tolerance – including you. Setting too high a bar for yourself and others leads to frustration, disappointment, dissatisfaction, and perhaps even depression.

It’s far better to assume that everyone has good intentions, is trying to do a good job, is basically fair-minded, and isn’t actively trying to irritate you.

Just as leaving a little slack in a rope makes it less likely to break, leaving a little more slack in your judgments of others will help you endure life’s tribulations with less wear and tear on your body and your spirit.

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