Self improvement is the study and practice of improving one’s life, especially our career, education, relationships, health, happiness, productivity, spirituality, and other personal goals. Common aspects of self improvement include goal setting, motivation, changing habits, improving awareness, identifying one’s values and beliefs, and self-actualization.
Self improvement has a rich history that includes influences from Ancient Greek philosophy, Eastern and Western religions, Existentialism, Psychoanalysis, Hypnotherapy, Gestalt Therapy, and Humanistic Psychology.
Today many concepts and theories in self improvement have begun to be tested scientifically in domains of Clinical Psychology (especially therapies like Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy), as well as research in Positive Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, and Neuroscience.
Self improvement has never been more alive than today. Ever since humans first became conscious they have been in pursuit of happiness and satisfaction. And throughout our written history we have learned a lot about different ways we can improve our lives. Now equipped with the science of modern psychology, humans have more resources and information available than ever before on how to live a better life.
But even with all this great information, many are probably confused on where they should get started. That is a big reason why I write on this blog. I want to filter out the ideas that are no longer relevant and highlight the ones that have persisted and proven to be effective. Here are some of the most common theories in self improvement to help get you started:
Common theories in self improvement:
- You are responsible for how you live your life. People who are on the self improvement path understand that their thoughts and actions play a big role in what they get out of life.
- You need to define what you want before you can achieve it. Many people go through life aimlessly, without a clear destination in mind. Ultimately, however, we need to identify our values in life before we can achieve them.
- Short-term costs can lead to long-term benefits. Actively trying to change one’s life is not a walk in the park; it often requires effort, and even failure. There are no magic pills or blueprints for you to follow. You need to be willing to invest yourself, which requires short-term costs that lead to long-term benefits.
- You are always changing. The truth is that whether we play an active role in our self improvement or not, we are always changing and developing as individuals. We are all on some kind of self improvement path, but some take more control over their destiny than others.
- Your thoughts matter. We sometimes think of our thoughts as immaterial and inconsequential, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. How you think strongly influences how you act. And how you act will determine the results you get out of life.
- Your habits matter. Just as we should focus on changing our thoughts, we should also focus on exploring new habits. As the saying goes, “If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got.” Sometimes we won’t know what the correct course of action is until we have experimented with different things.
- The present moment is your place of power. Every conscious decision we make and every action we do unfolds in the present moment. The more attuned you are to the present, the greater control you have over your day-to-day actions.
- Learn from the past. While we can’t change our past, but we can often look back on it and learn from our past mistakes and past successes.
- Be optimistic about the future. We don’t always know what the future may bring, but if we remain optimistic and hopeful we allow ourselves to act in ways that help create that fact. Often times, it can become a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy.
Obviously I cannot adequately sum up the whole self improvement movement in just a few bullet-points, but I think these are some of the key concepts that you will learn about throughout your development. If you’re new, keep these ideas in mind for now, and over time you will learn about them with greater depth.
Self improvement is not something that can be learned and absorbed over night. In my mind, it is a never-ending process. Our lives are always changing, and thus there are always new and better ways for us to think and act. Everything is in a constant state of flux, and there is always progress to be made. It’s not a bad thing – it keeps life interesting.
Keep in mind, however, that self improvement isn’t necessarily for everyone. Some people don’t need this kind of material. And some people just actively refuse it. I like to respect everyone’s values and goals no matter what they may be (even if it is to have no values or goals).
Discover more tools to daily growth in the digital guide The Science of Self Improvement