Ways to Become Your Best Self
In this blog I write mostly about productivity and success. But unlike some others, I define success along the lines of: The good feeling that comes with knowing you did your best when it counted.
This idea is the core of a set of values and priorities that I believe contribute to feeling good about your work and your life, even if you aren’t as rich and famous as you’d like to be, even if you’ve made some mistakes or bad choices, even if you’ve faced some bad luck and tragedies.
Naturally, part of doing your best involves being your best. So this attitude toward success inevitably drives us toward self-development.
That’s why I’m happy to provide some suggestions for developing yourself in ways that help you realize as much of your potential as you can. They include:
Step One in trying to develop yourself is to know yourself as fully and accurately as you can.
You’ll never know yourself completely, of course, as new layers of motivation and personality, as well as new attributes, steadily emerge and develop as you grow. But you can know yourself well enough to recognize your strengths and weaknesses, your preferences and fears, your values and your goals.
The continual process of knowing yourself involves:
- Thinking. Think about what’s going on around you, what others are doing and saying, what you’d like to be doing and saying, and what you care about.
- Reading. Read widely, not only technical and non-fiction material in your fields of interest, but interesting materials outside of your specialty. It’s also helpful to read good fiction – here I’ll include non-reading experiences such as films, quality TV shows, and live stage plays.
- Writing. There’s something intrinsic to the process of writing – even if no one else will ever read it – that helps you clarify what you think and what you know, and also unearth more thoughts and feelings than you otherwise would.
- Talking. Open-ended conversations are helpful with people you care about – trusted friends, colleagues, and family – focused on ideas, values, choices, feelings, and experiences.
All these are great ways to learn more about yourself.
Many of us get through most of the days, weeks, and months we have on Earth without much focus. We follow our impulses, act on the basis of instinct, make choices off the top of our heads, and generally allow too many events and experiences to come our way with little conscious attention.
However, there are better alternatives that help with self-development: We can try to fully engage our brains as we move through life. This involves:
- Controlling our impulses,
- Substituting logical thought in place of instincts,
- Making decisions according to sensible, appropriate, and careful processes, and
- Steering ourselves toward experiences and opportunities that we will enjoy, or benefit from.
Work and Play Hard
“Just about anything worth doing is worth doing better,” according to Seth Godin. I agree, and I take him to mean that you benefit by fully engaging in whatever you’re doing, and by doing it to the best of your ability.
This doesn’t mean you have to strain to win every game, contest, or activity. But it does mean you develop into a better person when you apply all your ability, skills, talent, knowledge, and experience to whatever you do.
Working and playing hard is a valuable habit that tends to build on itself: the more often you do it, the easier and more comfortable it becomes.
I don’t know whether I was born with the tendency to persevere, or whether I developed perseverance as I grew up. But at some point, I realized I was almost never a “loser” until I stopped trying.
As a result, when I don’t succeed right away at a task, project, or goal, I’m quickly ready to try again. To be fair, I usually take time to review and recharge. But once that’s done I begin another attempt.
Yes, I have chalked up some failures in my past, but not for lack of trying. Sure, some of the events and situations I have yet to encounter may be too much for me to handle, but they will have to prove it.
Strive to Get Better
As a pathway to self-development, it’s important to set rising standards for yourself. You don’t have to be better than everyone else at everything you attempt. But you should strive for steady improvement.
As you’re working and playing hard, and persevering, use what you learn about yourself to gain strength – through practice, study, and training – where you need it. Then make better use of your increasing strengths to deliver improving results on your most important tasks, projects, and goals.
You will find that a steady, upward climb toward becoming the best person you can be is both a source of pride and an extremely satisfying strategy in your work and your life.
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