When I first started getting interested in self-improvement (over half a decade ago), I quickly found that I had more control over my mind and thoughts than I originally believed.
Before I knew anything, I actually had no idea that our minds could be reprogrammed and modified to better serve our needs.
Instead, I used to just believe: “this is the brain I have, and this is the brain I will always have.” It was a passive thing – something I had no control over. It just was.
But the more I learned about self-improvement, the more I learned our mind is actually very flexible and very capable of changing itself.
In fact, our mind is always changing. Every new experience we have, and every new thing we learn, changes the neural pathways and structures in our brain. Today, scientists call it “neuroplasticity.”
The key to self-improvement is to actively change the structure of our brains by conditioning and reprogramming our mind in new ways. And we can actually achieve this using a variety of different strategies. Here are some things you can start working on right away:
Change your perspective. Try having more solution-oriented thinking instead of problem-oriented thinking. When you think only about the stuff that sucks in your life, it’ll often make you feel worse. But when you start feeling capable of finding solutions and overcoming obstacles, you condition your mind to find the answers you need.
Modify your self-talk. We all talk to ourselves inside our heads – that’s what thinking is. The problem is some of us talk negatively about ourselves, while others talk positively about themselves. The more you tell yourself something, the more likely you are to believe it and act on that belief. So the more you feed yourself healthy and motivating thoughts, the more those thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes can have a positive effect on your life.
Take risks. Sometimes the best way to learn something is to step outside of our heads and experience it. You might be used to getting a cheeseburger at every restaurant you go, but until you take a risk and try something new you’ll never know what else life might have to offer. Will you fail and make mistakes sometimes? Sure, but it’s a part of the growing process.
Use your imagination as practice. Studies show that imagining yourself taking a course of action is a really good way to motivate yourself to take that action in the future. So by practicing visualization techniques on a regular basis we can actually reprogram our thoughts and behaviors. One great example of this is professional athletes mentally rehearsing before a game or match.
Stop victimizing yourself. One of the most common traps our culture teaches us is that we are helpless victims of circumstance. In other words, we have no control over our destiny; instead, reality rears its ugly head and we get whatever we get. As a result, we become programmed to shift blame to external factors and never seek responsibility for our lives.
Stay present with your goals. By taking small and gradual steps on a daily basis, we can end up covering a lot of ground in the long-run. The most important thing to remember, however, is that the only real power you have is in the present moment. Only in the “now” can you think, decide, act, and make changes to your life. Don’t dwell on the past or wait for the future – start making progress today.
By applying these things in my own life, I have improved myself dramatically over the years. I now have a different perspective about life, I think and talk to myself differently, I take smart risks more often, I visualize my future more clearly, I take responsibility for the direction of my life, and I stay focused on what matters the most to me in each and every moment.
And in return – I’m happier because of it.
The only person that your happiness is dependent upon is you. You have to start being happy from within, and not look toward externals things or people to make you happy. Even when you’re in a relationship you want to be a whole person instead of this ‘you complete me’ thing. External things may make you happy for a little while, but it often doesn’t last. People and things can be taken away from you in a moment – but if you are happy from within then that is a very hard thing to take away.
You have to remember that your happiness can only be achieved by you and you alone. No one else can take control of your mind and make you happy.
Program yourself for happiness
Every great thinker from Buddha to William James to Marcus Aurelius understood that we synthesize our own happiness by reprogramming how we think about ourselves and our world.
If you understand this simple fact, then you are halfway down the path to self-improvement. The other half is now taking action and making it all happen. Just know that it’s possible.
Learn tools to daily growth in The Science of Self Improvement