In self improvement literature, there is a lot of talk about “going outside of your comfort zone.”
Your “comfort zone” is typically seen as playing it safe. It’s when you choose comfort, familiarity, and security rather than novelty, risk-taking, and challenging yourself.
In many ways, while it’s good to step outside of your “comfort zone” every now and then, it also has an unnecessarily bad reputation.
We are often told, “If you want to grow as a person, then you need to step outside of your comfort zone and try new things.” There is a great element of truth to this, but it’s also only one side of the coin.
Your “comfort zone” isn’t something that needs to be completely avoided. In fact, your “comfort zone” plays an integral role in your self improvement, because it gives you an opportunity to relax and recharge yourself.
Going outside of your “comfort zone” is costly – it takes a lot of physical and mental energy. If you are constantly pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone, then that can quickly lead to frustration and fatigue.
You need to give yourself permission to “take it easy” every now and then too. You don’t always need to push yourself forward. And this is where your “comfort zone” becomes a very valuable tool in self improvement.
Picture yourself in a classroom or at a meeting at work, and you want to impress your teacher or boss by showing them you are knowledgeable about a given topic or subject matter.
Which do you think would make you you seem smarter in the eyes of experts: 1) Rattling off as many facts as you know about the subject, or 2) Asking one insightful question that shows you have a grasp of the material and understand where key conflicts emerge.
Many of us are tempted to do the first. We falsely believe that if we show people how much we learn by reciting all the facts, then it’s clear we have a deep understanding of the subject. Naturally, the more facts you know about a subject the smarter you’re likely to be in it.
But asking one good question about a topic can often communicate a lot more information in a much simpler way. Asking good questions shows that not only do you understand the facts about a subject, but you also recognize the types of questions these facts will lead to.
We are often afraid to ask questions for fear of looking stupid, so it’s nice to know that one recent study shows that when individuals ask questions, they are actually seen as more competent and knowledgeable than those who don’t ask questions.
We all have a philosophy about life whether we realize it or not.
Your philosophy represents the beliefs you have about how the world works, as well as the values you strive to achieve and uphold. But philosophy isn’t just a set of ideas that live in your head, it also gives you a guide for how to act and make choices in the real world.
This is one of the main themes throughout the psychologist William James’ classic work Pragmatism. He emphasizes how our beliefs can often have consequences, and it is the measure of these consequences that ultimately shows us whether a belief is valid or not.
Philosophy can often become unnecessarily confusing, abstract, and complex. Many philosophers can get lost in their heads without considering how their ideas apply to their actual lives (if at all).
This is a big reason why I find William James’ version of pragmatism to be so refreshing. Unlike many other philosophers, James is surprisingly clear and simple. He doesn’t drift too far into abstract thought without pulling things back into the practical and concrete.
In this article I’m going to highlight some of the key ideas from William James, then do my best to give my interpretation of them and how they relate to the general philosophy of pragmatism.
Laptops, cellphones, television, video games, movies, iPads, and tablets. Nowadays there is no end to the amount of visual distractions we face on a daily basis.
While all of these technologies can greatly augment our lives, there is still a principle of moderation that we should consider at all times.
This is why I find it important to actively seek out ways to increase your “off screen” time. This is especially relevant if your job includes a lot of screen time, or you tend to spend the majority of your free time looking at devices in one form or another.
If this applies to you, then it may be a good idea to search for new opportunities to get away from those pixelated screens every now and then.
While all of the activities mentioned in this article are healthy and productive in their own ways, for the purposes of this article I see them as valuable reasons to just get away from screens, even if it’s just a short break.
Here we are – another year of self improvement has passed! How did it go for you?
This is always a great time of the year to step back and reflect a bit. Take a moment to ask yourself, “What have I learned this year? What have I accomplished? What could I have done better knowing what I know now?”
Then take a moment to step back and think about the upcoming year. Ask yourself, “What do I still need to work on in my life? What should my focus be on for next year? What are my goals?”
If you are anything like me then you ask yourself these types of questions each and every year. Because you realize that learning, growth, and improvement are processes that don’t truly end until the day you die.
As for this site, it has been a very successful year for The Emotion Machine. Each year gets better and better – and most of it just comes down to simple patience and dedication.
Most importantly, many new people have taken advantage of the free guides and workbooks from our self improvement toolkit. And our free confidence course was completed by hundreds of people this year. These are all really good signs, I’m really proud of both of these resources and what’s to come in the future.
But the main reason for this post is that I want to reflect on the “best articles” published here over the past year. So without further delay, here is a collection of my best self improvement articles of 2015!