Self Improvement Is a Puzzle: We Need All the Pieces to Fit Together

self improvement

Self improvement is a lot like a puzzle – it requires that we work on many different pieces in our lives and find a way to get them to all come together harmoniously. Focusing on one area in your life can be helpful, but in the long term we need to consider this “complete picture” mindset if we want to become the best person we can be.

Gorilla Mindset is a great book that provides this “complete picture” view of self improvement. It covers all the different areas of self improvement (including our awareness, thinking, habits, relationships, and health) and shows you how each piece feeds into the next.

In the book, Mike Cernovich shares a wealth of tips, advice, and life lessons based on his own experiences and struggles with self improvement. Despite growing up poor, fat, and being a constant source of bullying and failure – Cernovich had to take an active stance in his self growth to become the person he is today.

While self improvement is a long and never-ending process, this guide provides a wonderful breakdown of the many things you’ll want to focus on to make yourself a better person. By the time you’ve finished this book, you’ll have a much clearer idea of the things you’ll need to work on in your life.

In this article, I’ll share the key pieces behind this “self improvement puzzle” and how they all fit together and work off of each other.

Piece #1: Being aware of the present moment

Awareness is essentially the bedrock of all self improvement.

You can’t change something in your life if you aren’t aware of it. So paying more attention to your life in the moment is the first step toward giving yourself the power to change yourself no matter what area in your life needs improvement – your thoughts, your habits, your relationships, your health, etc.

Technically, all self improvement unfolds in the present moment. We can’t go back in time and change our past, and we can’t travel forward and change our future. If you want to make any change in your life, it has to happen now and you have to focus your awareness on the now.

Even while reading books and articles like this, you are taking an active role in the now to make a change in your life. You’re learning new things. You’re engaging yourself. And that already puts you ahead of most other people.

Mike Cernovich does a great job in the book describing how to pay more attention to your thoughts and feelings in the moment, and how this awareness can guide you to change any area in your life.

Awareness is an important piece of the “self improvement puzzle” that feeds into all other areas of your life, especially the other pieces of self improvement that will be described in the rest of this article.

Piece #2: Talking to yourself like a friend, not an enemy

“If you talked to your friends like you talk to yourself, you wouldn’t have any friends.”

Mike Cernovich

This quote touches on the importance of how you talk to yourself inside your head.

If your friend came to you discussing how they didn’t get that new job, or their spouse wants a divorce, or they lost a bunch of money in a new investment, you’d probably tell them how everything will be alright and things will work out in the future.

Yet if those same things happened to you, you’d think to yourself, “This is the end of the world. I’m such a loser!”

The truth is we are often our own worst enemies. We beat ourselves up over everything and never cut ourselves any slack when things go wrong. What if we could be our own best friends instead?

In Gorilla Mindset, Cernovich writes about the importance of self-talk and learning how to reframe your destructive beliefs about yourself. Positive and constructive self-talk isn’t some “new age magic” that will cure you of all your problems, but it is a necessary piece of the “self improvement puzzle.”

It’s a common practice among professional athletes, actors, and CEOS to believe in themselves deep-down and think of themselves in a positive light. Without that attitude toward themselves, it’s unlikely they would find the success that they have in life.

Self-talk can very often become a type of “self-fulfilling prophecy” – because it feeds into how we act in any given situation. Whether you believe you can overcome something or not, you’re probably right.

Be your own best friend.

self improvement is a puzzle

Gorilla Mindset: How to Dominate and Unleash the Animal Inside You to Live a Life of Health, Wealth, and Freedom is an excellent book on self improvement by Mike Cernovich. It gives you a “complete picture” view of self improvement that covers all the key areas, including how to improve our awareness, thinking, habits, relationships, and health. The book is rich with practical tips and advice, and also includes self improvement “worksheets” at the end of each chapter to help get your life moving in a better direction.

Piece #3: Become a producer, not just a consumer

In today’s world, it’s very easy to fall into the “consumer mindset.” We want to watch the best movies, listen to the best music, and eat at the best restaurants. But isn’t there more to life than just keeping ourselves entertained?

If you want to improve yourself, it’s important to adopt a “producer mindset.” Life isn’t just about taking, but also giving. Ask yourself, “What do I give to the world? What value do I add to people’s lives?”

This is perspective that helps for your job, your family, and your community as a whole. You should take pride in your efforts and what you do in life, especially if it’s something that you believe is valuable and makes the world a better place (even if it’s only within your small circle of influence).

From a mental standpoint, it’s also much more empowering to be a producer. When you see yourself adding to the world, it boosts your self-esteem and self-worth. It makes you feel good.

On the other hand, if you’re someone who just likes sitting on the couch, eating junk food, and watching TV – that literally eats away at your self-esteem. It just doesn’t feel good to only take what you can out of life without ever giving anything in return. It makes you feel like a parasite.

Of course, it’s perfectly fine to consume and enjoy life, but we have to balance that with being valuable and productive as well. In fact, becoming a producer often allows you to enjoy the fruits of life more without feeling lazy, guilty, or undeserving.

Don’t just think of yourself as a consumer, think of yourself as a producer as well.

Piece #4: Finding people who inspire and motivate

As important as it is to get our thinking and attitude right, it can be very difficult to maintain a positive mental state without finding the right people in our lives.

Our relationships are another important piece of the “self improvement puzzle” that can’t be ignored. We need people to inspire us, motivate us, and support us in time of need if we want to be the best self we can be.

For a long time, I ignored the importance of relationships and had the attitude that “I’ll do it all myself – I don’t need anyone else!” But this was a faulty belief. In truth, I needed people who had my back and helped empower me to help bring me to the next level of my self growth.

In my recent article hive mind, I describe how being around other smart and motivated people can often bring out a side of us that we can’t get all by ourselves.

For example, often going to the gym with a friend can help keep you accountable to your goals and motivate you to work harder so that you keep up with your friend and not let them down. It can also provide some friendly competition that drives you forward.

In the same way, being surrounded by negative and toxic people can also bring us down and hurt our self improvement goals. It’s tough to bring out your best self if you’re always around people who criticize you, insult you, or bully you.

We like to think of ourselves as completely independent, so we often ignore this important piece of the “self improvement puzzle” and underestimate the influence people have on our goals and well-being.

Pay attention to the types of people you have in your life: are they helping or hurting you?

Piece #5: Taking care of your body

Another important piece of the “self improvement puzzle” is the importance of taking care of your body.

Our bodies and minds are interconnected, so if your physical health isn’t at its best that means your mental health isn’t going to be at its best either.

Nowadays people are more physically inactive than ever before. We go extended periods of time staying inside, sitting at our computers, or just watching Netflix. Research shows that these long periods of physical inactivity cause many different health problems including a greater risk of obesity, heart disease, and even mental problems like stress and anxiety.

To combat this epidemic of inactivity, it’s important we make it a point to stand up and move around more. This includes commonsense exercise like going for a a run in the morning, lifting weights at the gym, or playing sports. But even simpler solutions like going for a walk or doing daily push ups and jumping jacks can be a much needed push in the right direction.

Our diet and eating habits also play a major role in our health. Most of us know it’s not good to eat junk food, sweets, and processed foods, yet we stock our kitchens with these convenient snacks and that feeds into our deteriorating health, both physically and mentally.

One of the best pieces of advice Cernovich offers in regards to diet is to create daily vegetable/fruit smoothies. This often makes it far easier to get our daily servings of vegetables and fruits, as well as provide the necessary vitamins and minerals to get our physical and mental health at their optimal levels.

Gorilla Mindset includes several important chapters on these various aspects of our health, as well as some very practical and useful tips on supplements, intermittent fasting, and nootropics (drugs that are considered “cognitive enhancers” to reduce stress and improve focus and memory).

Due to Cernovich’s history with obesity, his advice on how to turn our health around is very thorough and comprehensive. As someone who has also lived a long time being unhealthy, this is still an area in my life that requires constant work, though I’ve recently been exercising everyday and cutting out most of my fast food intake.

In our quest for self improvement, it’s very easy to neglect our bodies and put our health on the back-burner, because we’re more focused on our family or work or personal goals.

However, paying attention to this piece of the “self improvement puzzle” can have a nice spillover effect into other areas of your life. When your body is taken care of, it gives you more focus, energy, and motivation throughout the day that can really enhance the pursuit of other goals in your life.


As someone who has always taken a “complete picture” view of self improvement, the Gorilla Mindset is a book that I could easily have seen myself writing in the future.

Our awareness, thinking, habits, relationships, and health are all indispensable pieces of the “self improvement puzzle.” Improving any one of these areas can improve your self improvement overall, but having all of these pieces working together will really take your self growth to the next level.

The book also shares a lot of other practical advice that I didn’t get a chance to cover in this article, such as tips on body language, visualization, money, and job searching. These too represent smaller pieces of the “self improvement puzzle,” but for the sake of this article I only focused on the bigger pieces.

On a final note, it’s always important to remember to be patient with yourself while you try to improve these various areas of your life. Change rarely happens overnight, it’s a long-term commitment to self growth.

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