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How to know yourself and seek self improvement

How to know yourself and seek self improvement

My first encounter with the U.S. Navy’s leadership framework came when I was barely 18 years old. I was young and eager to do well as a new midshipman in Villanova University’s Navy ROTC program. Like everyone else starting at college, I was also trying to adjust to the basics of education and life away from home. Unlike our fellow freshmen, however, we midshipmen were also beginning our introduction to military service.

Part of that initial training involved memorizing numerous facts.

Facts about ranks, facts about weapons, facts about history.

And facts about leadership.

Quite a few useful models of leadership behaviors and traits exist across all of the U.S. military branches, but one that I’ve revisited lately is the U.S. Navy’s Leadership Principles. They’re virtually the same as principles claimed by other services (such as the U.S. Army), but given that I learned them from the Navy—in fact, I had to memorize all of them in order at some point during that first year—I’m attributing them to my particular branch of service.

I think you’ll find that they’re fairly universal and full of good advice—regardless of whether the context is the government, a non-profit or any part of the private sector.

Here are all 11:

Know yourself and seek self-improvement

Be technically and tactically proficient (read more)

Know your people and look out for their welfare (read more)

Keep your people informed (read more)

Set the example

Make sure the task is understood, supervised, and accomplished

Train your unit as a team

Make sound and timely decisions

Develop a sense of responsibility among your people

Employ your command in accordance with its capabilities

Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions

I appreciate the discipline and attention to detail that it takes to memorize 11 sentences, but doing so can come at the detriment of wrestling with what each one actually means.

So let’s focus for a moment on the first one—“Know yourself and seek self-improvement.”

For me, this principle is fundamental to leadership for three big reasons.

First, if you want others to follow you, you must have a sense for your strengths and your weaknesses.

You need to know when you can be fully confident in your own thought processes and decisions, and when you need to rely more on the counsel and input of others. You also need to know what types of people you need around you in order to complement what you can and cannot do well. Knowing yourself also involves understanding how other people might perceive you. This requires some honesty about your tendencies.

Second, seeking self-improvement is critical because any leader who thinks he or she knows it all is doomed to learn the truth the hard way.

Taking frequent, systematic steps to learn more about one’s area or practice one’s skills allows you to avoid the stagnancy of arrogance, and it keeps you informed about new and better ways to act. It also sets a great example for the people around you.

Third, both attempting to know yourself and seeking self-improvement require humility.

Both parts of this principle demand that you’re honest with yourself and that you open yourself up to the possibility that you don’t have it all figured out yet. For the past few semesters, I’ve taught a class on managerial skill development—and the students who benefit the most from the class are those who approach the class (or quickly acquire) a sense of humble curiosity.

Knowing yourself—or becoming self-aware—and seeking self-improvement are lifelong endeavors. There are no silver bullets. But for developing your self-awareness, assessments (valid personality questionnaires and multi-rater feedback instruments), coaching, and mentoring can help. For self-improvement? Read, read, read—and surround yourself with smart people from whom you can learn.

As I say to my students, when you find that you’re the smartest person in the room, it’s time to find a new room.

What else has worked for you regarding knowing yourself and seeking self-improvement?

Life is a journey, filled with ups and downs. With each challenge, each hurdle, we are presented with an opportunity to grow as a person. To choose to be passionate about improving yourself does not mean to say that you are not good enough as you are; it merely means to have a desire to expand into the greatest possible expression of ourselves in this lifetime. Here are 12 of The Greatest Ever Self Improvement Quotes To Inspire You

1- “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” ― Ernest Hemingway – Self Improvement Quotes

The greatest people do not seek to compete with others or be better than anyone else; they simply seek to be better than they were yesterday.

How to know yourself and seek self improvement

2- “Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” ― George Bernard Shaw – Self Improvement Quotes

In order to grow in life, we need to be able to accept that we do not know everything. When you become flexible in your beliefs, you become open to learning and receiving.

3- “Become addicted to constant and never-ending self-improvement.” ― Anthony J. D’Angelo – Self Improvement Quotes

The journey of self improvement never really ends, but why would you want it to? There is nothing more rewarding in life than self improvement, however you choose to do it.

4- “Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Do not bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.” ― William Faulkner – Self Improvement Quotes

Dare to dream big in this life. Dare to stretch your mind, body and spirit, beyond the limits you have assigned to them. You will never know your limits if you don’t test them!

5- “No matter who you are, no matter what you did, no matter where you’ve come from, you can always change, become a better version of yourself.” ― Madonna – Self Improvement Quotes

No matter your past or present circumstances, every day you have an opportunity to be a better version of yourself.

How to know yourself and seek self improvement

6- “Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.” ― Jim Rohn – Self Improvement Quotes

Knowing who you are, how you tick, what makes you YOU, is the most powerful education you could ever give to yourself.

7- “You are essentially who you create yourself to be, and all that occurs in your life is the result of your own making.” ― Stephen Richards – Self Improvement Quotes

You are who you decide to be. If you want to be a positive person, decide to be. If you want to be a successful person, decide to be. No one is coming to save you, you have to create the life you want.

8- “As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.” ― Mahatma Gandhi – Self Improvement Quotes

Your greatness lies in your capacity to choose the direction of your life, by adjusting and remaking yourself every single day.

9- “If you can see yourself as an artist, and you can see that your life is your own creation, then why not create the most beautiful story for yourself?” ― Miguel Ruiz – Self Improvement Quotes

Why not allow yourself to become the most wonderful version of YOU? Make your personal legacy a beautiful one.

10- “He who conquers himself is the mightiest warrior.” ― Confucius – Self Improvement Quotes

Understand your limits, so that you can overcome them.

How to know yourself and seek self improvement

11- “It is not as much about who you used to be, as it is about who you choose to be.” ― Sanhita Baruah – Self Improvement Quotes

Decide to overcome your challenges. Decide to live the life of your dreams. Decide to be great.

12- “Things do not grow better; they remain as they are. It is we who grow better, by the changes we make in ourselves.” ― Swami Vivekananda – Self Improvement Quotes

Every day that you wake up, you are given opportunity to become the greatest expression of yourself. Don’t waste another day being anything less than that.

How do you like to practice self improvement? Are there any particular books or films that have helped you to grow in your life? Share them in the comments!

Do you know yourself, the good, the bad, and the ugly?

Posted Jan 09, 2012

The first step in making meaningful changes in your life involves gaining a better understanding of yourself in essential areas that impact your life. This self-knowledge can provide you with direction as you try to maximize your efforts at change. Self-knowledge can also help you be more efficient and focused – and more effective – in producing change because you’ll know precisely what you need to work on.

In developing greater self-understanding, you must recognize both your strengths and your weaknesses. Most people love to talk about their strengths, but don’t like to admit that they have weaknesses. I disagree with Marcus Buckingham, the co-author of Now, Discover Your Strengths, who asserts that the way to achieve goals is to focus on your strengths. This approach may work for some parts of your life, for example, a job that involves one or two highly specialized skill sets, such as an accountant or a computer programmer. But most aspects of life require a constellation of competencies, so the “focus on your strengths” model will actually limit your ability to make substantial changes in your life.

Let me explain why. Most people think that the ability to achieve their goals will depend on their greatest strengths. For example, a man may believe that his outgoing personality and social skills will enable him to develop a healthy romantic relationship. The truth is, however, that you are only as good as your biggest weakness. If that man lacks the empathy and emotional openness to build an intimate relationship, his other abilities will only take him so far.

Additionally, focusing on your strengths doesn’t address the causes of your inability to make changes. To overcome the real obstacles to change, you need to acknowledge and understand them before you can remove those obstacles.

Think of your strengths and weaknesses for getting promoted in a new job in, say, banking, as a mathematical equation. On a scale of one to ten, where 1 is very poor and 10 is the best, if you have very good financial analysis skills (8), but you are quite poor at relationship building (2), then your over-all performance would be moderate (8+2=10 out of a possible 20). If you focused on and improve your analytical capabilities (say, from 8 to 9), you wouldn’t improve that much over all because you were already capable in that area of your work (9+2=11). But if you improve your relationship skills (say, from 2 to 6), then your over-all performance would rise significantly (8+6=14). Of course, you want to continue to build your strengths, but the more you improve your weaknesses, the better you’ll be able to make the changes you want.

Why Self-knowledge?

Nobody likes to admit, much less focus on, their weaknesses. Yet, when you gain self-knowledge – both appreciating your strengths and confronting your weaknesses – you are opening up new possibilities for personal growth and goal attainment. So be receptive to self-knowledge. Rather than being uncomfortable with facing your weaknesses, be willing to consider the information in a positive and constructive way. When weaknesses are identified, it doesn’t mean that you’re incapable of change. It may be that you haven’t had to use these skills in your life to date or you’ve been able to hide them with the strengths you have. And the great thing about self-knowledge is that it gives you the power to makes changes in those weaknesses. The information you gain from actively seeking self-knowledge will enable you to really understand both your strengths and weaknesses, and plot a course to maximally leverage both to produce meaningful change and accomplish your goals.

Gaining Self-knowledge

There is no magic to gaining self-knowledge. You must actively seek self-knowledge both within and outside of yourself. You can sit down and simply ponder your existence, examining your life to that point and looking for impactful experiences, seminal relationships, and persistent patterns.

You can learn about yourself by asking others, such as family, friends, and co-workers, for feedback about who you are. Often, other people can provide us with a mirror that best reflects our strengths and weaknesses. And life has a way of communicating powerful messages about what works and what doesn’t in our lives. Important lessons can be gained from life experiences, if we’re open to them.

Valuable self-knowledge can also be garnered from outside resources. Books, articles, and workshops by experts and laypeople alike may offer information, perspectives, and insights that prove to stimulate self-knowledge. Well-validated psychological assessments, either found on line or administered by an expert, can also be illuminating by making the ethereal nature of the “self” more tangible.

Finally, one-on-one work with a qualified psychotherapist can enable you to explore in greater depth the who, what, why, how, and where of your being. These trained professionals can help you clarify the specific changes that you would like to make in your life and act with you as detectives to help you uncover the obstacles that may be preventing you from the desired change.

Using Self-knowledge

Self-knowledge is a powerful tool for building the “infrastructure” necessary for change. With it, you have the information you need to focus your time and energy on exactly what you want to change and also have taken the initial step in identifying the process to facilitate that change.

Leadership author and speaker

Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn’t even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.
― Heraclitus

One of the most valuable lessons I learned as a new “fish” in the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets was I would never be a leader until I learned to follow first. Believe me, an Aggie Cadet follows like hell their first year. In addition to the academic demands of our coursework, we were required to join a club, and attend various sporting and University events. Our upperclassmen also led us in volunteer work and intramural sports.

What my upperclassmen were trying to give us the space and example to do, was to discover who we are as individuals, and to develop in us the desire for continuous self improvement. For people to grow into maturity, these skills are important–for leaders, they’re vital. You can’t lead anyone if you don’t know who you are or where you want to go.

Know Yourself

Getting to know yourself is a lifelong pursuit, and there are no shortcuts to the journey. You can go to seminars and read books, and those are helpful aids to discovery, but the only sure way to learn who you are is to step out and live life. As I told my Airmen many times, “Don’t be a cave dweller. You can’t live your life coming home to XBox and energy drinks–get outside and do something!” Experiencing life is the only sure way to learn who you are and what you’re capable of doing. Obviously, this approach involves risk–you might fail–but even those failures can illuminate our character and our aptitude. I’m not talking about living recklessly or violating your conscience. What I am talking about is living deliberately instead of allowing life to happen to you. Set goals, take (reasonable) chances, and be prepared to make mistakes. Thomas Edison famously spoke about the number of times he failed to make a light bulb before he succeeded.

Learning about yourself means knowing what you want and setting about getting to that destination. That means you do have to do some introspection, but once you’ve settled on a direction: move out. If you allow life to just happen instead of living each day deliberately, you’ll never get to the next step: seeking self improvement.

Continuous Self Improvement

One of the hallmarks of every great leader is each continued to seek to improve themselves. To do that, we need to understand the ways we see ourselves and can improve ourselves. I like to think of the human person in three facets: Mind, Body, and Spirit. In approaching your life as seeking balance between these three sides or facets of your person, you can take deliberate steps to improve yourself. I was privileged to attend several in-residence professional military education colleges, and I remember being awed by the very high quality of the guest speakers we heard. Each of them, man and woman, military and civilian, were high achievers: generals, military heroes, C-suite executives, statesmen, and professional athletes. All of them had a couple of things in common: they were early risers and they continued to improve themselves in each facet of their person. They were widely read and continued to keep up with current literature; they found time to exercise regularly, and they spent time attending to their human spirit.

As leaders, our commitment to continuous self improvement not makes us better people, it also increases our effectiveness. The sort of leader who is a life-long learner and always seeking to better himself is the same sort of person who sees opportunity when others see disaster. Indeed, a commitment to continuous self improvement usually translates to a leader whose eyes are on the horizon. Those men and women are people others want to follow, and better yet, they are leaders who know where to take their teams.

Summing Up

Leaders who know themselves and seek to improve themselves are exactly the sorts of people we love to follow.

Do you know yourself, the good, the bad, and the ugly?

Posted Jan 09, 2012

The first step in making meaningful changes in your life involves gaining a better understanding of yourself in essential areas that impact your life. This self-knowledge can provide you with direction as you try to maximize your efforts at change. Self-knowledge can also help you be more efficient and focused – and more effective – in producing change because you’ll know precisely what you need to work on.

In developing greater self-understanding, you must recognize both your strengths and your weaknesses. Most people love to talk about their strengths, but don’t like to admit that they have weaknesses. I disagree with Marcus Buckingham, the co-author of Now, Discover Your Strengths, who asserts that the way to achieve goals is to focus on your strengths. This approach may work for some parts of your life, for example, a job that involves one or two highly specialized skill sets, such as an accountant or a computer programmer. But most aspects of life require a constellation of competencies, so the “focus on your strengths” model will actually limit your ability to make substantial changes in your life.

Let me explain why. Most people think that the ability to achieve their goals will depend on their greatest strengths. For example, a man may believe that his outgoing personality and social skills will enable him to develop a healthy romantic relationship. The truth is, however, that you are only as good as your biggest weakness. If that man lacks the empathy and emotional openness to build an intimate relationship, his other abilities will only take him so far.

Additionally, focusing on your strengths doesn’t address the causes of your inability to make changes. To overcome the real obstacles to change, you need to acknowledge and understand them before you can remove those obstacles.

Think of your strengths and weaknesses for getting promoted in a new job in, say, banking, as a mathematical equation. On a scale of one to ten, where 1 is very poor and 10 is the best, if you have very good financial analysis skills (8), but you are quite poor at relationship building (2), then your over-all performance would be moderate (8+2=10 out of a possible 20). If you focused on and improve your analytical capabilities (say, from 8 to 9), you wouldn’t improve that much over all because you were already capable in that area of your work (9+2=11). But if you improve your relationship skills (say, from 2 to 6), then your over-all performance would rise significantly (8+6=14). Of course, you want to continue to build your strengths, but the more you improve your weaknesses, the better you’ll be able to make the changes you want.

Why Self-knowledge?

Nobody likes to admit, much less focus on, their weaknesses. Yet, when you gain self-knowledge – both appreciating your strengths and confronting your weaknesses – you are opening up new possibilities for personal growth and goal attainment. So be receptive to self-knowledge. Rather than being uncomfortable with facing your weaknesses, be willing to consider the information in a positive and constructive way. When weaknesses are identified, it doesn’t mean that you’re incapable of change. It may be that you haven’t had to use these skills in your life to date or you’ve been able to hide them with the strengths you have. And the great thing about self-knowledge is that it gives you the power to makes changes in those weaknesses. The information you gain from actively seeking self-knowledge will enable you to really understand both your strengths and weaknesses, and plot a course to maximally leverage both to produce meaningful change and accomplish your goals.

Gaining Self-knowledge

There is no magic to gaining self-knowledge. You must actively seek self-knowledge both within and outside of yourself. You can sit down and simply ponder your existence, examining your life to that point and looking for impactful experiences, seminal relationships, and persistent patterns.

You can learn about yourself by asking others, such as family, friends, and co-workers, for feedback about who you are. Often, other people can provide us with a mirror that best reflects our strengths and weaknesses. And life has a way of communicating powerful messages about what works and what doesn’t in our lives. Important lessons can be gained from life experiences, if we’re open to them.

Valuable self-knowledge can also be garnered from outside resources. Books, articles, and workshops by experts and laypeople alike may offer information, perspectives, and insights that prove to stimulate self-knowledge. Well-validated psychological assessments, either found on line or administered by an expert, can also be illuminating by making the ethereal nature of the “self” more tangible.

Finally, one-on-one work with a qualified psychotherapist can enable you to explore in greater depth the who, what, why, how, and where of your being. These trained professionals can help you clarify the specific changes that you would like to make in your life and act with you as detectives to help you uncover the obstacles that may be preventing you from the desired change.

Using Self-knowledge

Self-knowledge is a powerful tool for building the “infrastructure” necessary for change. With it, you have the information you need to focus your time and energy on exactly what you want to change and also have taken the initial step in identifying the process to facilitate that change.

Find yourself, find the way, and find the truth

Personal growth is a journey that never ends because we can always strive to become a better version of ourselves regardless of how great we already are. The desire to improve ourselves has been embedded in our genes since the day we were born.

We all want to get better in life. This pure desire shapes us into who we want to be at the end of the day—a better parent, an effective leader, or an independent thinker.

The real challenge is that most of us have to start with a blank slate. We don’t have a jumping off point, a system for making progress, and a model to repeat the process. We either get lost in our heads or our environment because there is just too much noise—both from within our mind and from our surroundings.

How to know yourself and seek self improvement

In this article, I’m going to show you three steps to personal growth. By understanding these, you’ll get a better idea of what self-improvement really is. And by knowing which stage you’re at, you’ll get to make the best decisions and take the most practical actions to maximize your growth.

Finding yourself

The first step in personal development is finding yourself. Most—but not all—people start here when they think about improving their life. It’s almost impossible to get from where you want to be if you don’t know where you want to go. Similarly, it’s impossible to get started if you’re not clear about where you currently are.I would break down finding yourself into two parts:

  1. Find out who you are and where you are right now.
  2. Find out who you want to be and where you want to go.

Clearly, these are easier said than done. The process of finding who and where you are requires that you ask yourself many difficult questions—which often, you don’t have an answer for right away. But ask yourself you must, because there is no other way.

The irony is that you—and I—could be individually nobody, at the same time, be anyone you want to be. It basically means two things: (1) no one can give you the answers but yourself, and (2) you could change your mind anytime.

We could share similar problems and challenges in life, yet have different identities and motivations. That’s the reason why I couldn’t tell you what your goals should be, and no one should tell you that your goals are not worthy.

The second part—you could change your mind anytime (and you should)—is where the beauty lies. That’s also the reason why finding yourself is never enough because the answers you find are often incorrect or incomplete. As you progress to later stages, you’ll realize that finding yourself is critical but the smallest element in your personal growth.

Finding the way

Most people get stuck at finding themselves. People who get past that arrive at the second step: finding the way. While many people think finding the way is the hardest of all, I believe it’s the simplest and most straightforward.

It only becomes difficult when your lizard brain (emotional and impulsive thinking) gets on top of your logical and rational thinking.

  • The way to become a writer is obvious: write, but people procrastinate doing the very thing they need to do the most because they think they can’t write.
  • As a student, you study and learn—yet many students get distracted by less important things around them.
  • To be an entrepreneur, create a solution to solve a problem people are willing to pay for. But most people got trapped in analysis paralysis before they even get started.

The solution is to repeat the process of finding the way. Instead of trapping yourself in your own head, zoom in closer to the challenge, break down what’s holding you back, and find the way to solve that first. It could be asking yourself why you do what you do, building supporting habits and networking, or optimizing your environment for better performance.

When you get rational about the challenges you face, you will find that most of them are not that different from the obstacles once faced by someone else. Thus, the easiest method for finding the way is to get people who have been where you are to show you the way.

Finding the truth

Everyone defines a successful and fulfilling life differently, so you first need to seek and know yourself. There are a thousand ways to accomplish a goal, all you need is to find a way that works for you. Then here comes the final and the trickiest step in the process of personal growth: finding the truth.

‍People who are truly successful are highly ambitious and at the same time highly practical.

‍Elon Musk was ambitious to bring electric cars to the mass market, but he wasn’t naive. He knew it would be hard and he was prepared to make sacrifices until he accomplished his goal.

He knew the market wouldn’t accept the Tesla if it was too expensive and looked dumb, and his wisdom about the reality reflects on Tesla’s master plan. There certainly remain tons of bumps waiting for the Tesla, but without a solid grounding in truth, Tesla would have failed right out of the gate.

Truth is the universal rule that works for both you and me (and everyone else in between), at the same time, it is set in stone and out of your control regardless of what you do.

  • A product without demand is a failed product regardless of what you do about it.
  • How the economy works for you will be how the economy works for me.
  • The physics that makes life possible for you are the physics that makes life possible for every human being on earth.

What makes truth-seeking a challenge is that it is often subtle. But most importantly, it takes great effort to see the realities because as human, we don’t see reality as it is, we see what we think it is. We see things the way we perceive them.

‍To ground yourself in truth, you need to be transparent and open-minded. Be transparent about what you do and why you do it so others can see through your motivation and avoid misunderstanding. At the same time, be open-minded to others’ opinions and feedback so that you can adjust your truth—and yourself—to get more right and less wrong.

Choose your struggles and struggle well

The thing is that you don’t necessarily have to start from step one—you could start from any place.  Mastery of one step doesn’t make another any easier. But when you master all three, there is nothing you can’t achieve.

Know Yourself + The Right Way + Truth = Personal Growth

Personal growth is a constant struggle because we might get things wrong:

  • We fit ourselves into the wrong molds we don’t belong.
  • We pursue a less efficient way to achieve our goals.
  • We believe in a version of reality for years only to find out it’s not true.

We’re going to make a lot of mistakes and experience a lot of pain throughout the process, but those mistakes and pain are what get ourselves closer to the right answers. So instead of avoiding struggle, choose your struggle, and then struggle well. That’s the way to growth.

Footnotes

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How to know yourself and seek self improvement

Some people who want self-improvement prefer deep dives into a particular technique. Others prefer quick-and-dirty. This article is for the latter.

As I think back on my 5,500 career and personal coaching clients, I believe these 10 items are most central to self-improvement:

  1. Put in the time. There’s no substitute for time-on-task. “Working smarter” takes you only so far and, chances are, if you’re reading an article on self-improvement, you’re probably already working as smart as you can yet still feel the need to significantly improve. Whether it’s building on a strength or remediating a weakness, your choice is to push harder or to be satisfied with modest growth. I don’t necessarily criticize the latter: It’s called “satisficing” and it can be a wise approach. Perhaps your time could be better spent getting better at something else, taking care of necessities, or simply having fun.
  2. Avoid time-sucks. That is what enables people to put in the time without working too many hours. Accomplishers avoid such time-sucks as excessive TV watching, chatting, clothes shopping when you already have more than enough clothes, video-game playing, time-consuming sports like golf, and going to a second cousin twice-removed’s third wedding in Kalamazoo.
  3. Focus on what you can control. Successful people spend little time jawboning about their illness, politics, or people they can’t stand. They focus on what’s in their sphere of influence.
  4. Specialize. In our ever more complicated world, it’s more difficult to be good enough as a generalist. You need to be at least relatively expert in some niche. For example, the generic marriage-and-family therapist could well be beset by the imposter syndrome because there’s so much science and especially art to marriage-and-family counseling. Unless you’re unusually brilliant and hard-working, it’s wiser to specialize in something: for example, interracial couples, transgender couples, intellectually gifted children, physically abusive parents, men with stay-at-home wives, etc.
  5. Take low-risk actions. Excessive rumination can lead to more fear and less accomplishment. So after a modest amount of reflection and perhaps research, follow that widely-agreed-on key to success: Ready, FIRE, Aim! That is, it’s far easier to revise your way to excellence than to think it up in the abstract. You need the feedback of empiricism to adjust what you’re doing. I like to invoke the metaphor of the person who’d like to sail from San Francisco to Hawaii. Yes, s/he should plan, but after just moderate planning, s/he’d be wise to set sail. On encountering the winds, the weather, s/he can adjust the plan. S/he’ll likely get to Hawaii far faster than would the excessive planner.
  6. Spend time with people who bring out the best in you. Whether it’s a boss, romantic partner, platonic friend, or activity partner, some people bring out the best in us while others drag us down. Of course, you can’t always control who’s in your life but, when you have discretion, spend time with those who help you flower.
  7. Take the time to find a fine mentor(s.) A generous person who is successful and ethical in what you’re trying to develop or who is an all-around winner, is a treasure, and usually having such a mentor is requisite to success for all but the most gifted people. How to find a fine mentor? Ask a question of one or more respected people. If s/he responds well, offer to be of help in any way you can. After a while, if you do your part and you’re lucky, your mentor will offer more help, become your cheerleader and champion, and be willing to open crucial doors for you.
  8. Chart your progress. That can be as simple as, next to your desk, hanging a hand-drawn thermometer with milestones on the side, like nonprofits when they’re trying to raise money. Or give yourself a daily letter grade A to F. Keep that grade to yourself or share it with your social-media friends or real friends.
  9. Look inward. My unsuccessful clients tend to blame their setbacks mostly on externalities: their boss, the economy, their race, their gender, etc. In contrast, my successful clients mainly look inward to see what, if anything, they need to do differently, for example, acquire a new skill, upgrade their attitude, slow or stop their substance abuse, revise their job target upward, downward, sideways, or to a new career that’s more aligned with their natural abilities.
  10. Resolve to rebound. You’ve heard it before but it’s true: Even highly successful people fail. The difference between them and other people is that successful people tend to force themselves, yes force themselves, to rebound, not wallow. They see if there’s a lesson to be learned from the failure and then resolve to succeed at something at least as big. At the risk of being personal, when I was let go as a columnist in the San Francisco Chronicle, after an hour—yes just an hour—of feeling outraged, I channeled the anger. I said, “I’ll show them. I’ll go national! That very day, I sent clips to 10 national publications and since then, I’ve written a lot for such publications as TIME, The Atlantic, and yes, Psychology Today.

I read this aloud on YouTube.

How to know yourself and seek self improvement

One of the best ways to keep growing as a person is by focusing on self-improvement, and doing more for yourself on a regular basis. This might mean taking steps towards reaching a goal. Or simply adding a few things into your day that make you feel good, such as reading more often or learning something new.

While the idea of “self-improvement” can seem daunting, the good thing is it’s an ongoing process, and not so much about pressuring yourself, or meeting deadlines. In fact, “we oftentimes think that accomplishments lead to our happiness, but it simply isn’t true,” Julie Holmes, a New York City-based life coach, tells Bustle. “While you may feel good after an achievement, the feeling isn’t sustainable. It’s important to always be learning and growing in life for happiness that’s lasting.”

Once it’s become a habit, it’ll keep you from ever feeling stuck or bored, since you’ll always have an eye out for new and exciting ways to grow. And it doesn’t even matter what your goals are, as long as they’re moving you in a positive direction. To get started, consider some of the tips listed below, which experts say can get you started on the road to focusing on self-improvement, and maybe even reaching a few goals.

1. Imagine Yourself In The Future

One of the best places to start on the road to self-improvement is by envisioning your future self, and how you might like to feel years down the line. And from there, beginning to live life from that perspective, Holmes says.

So go ahead and imagine an ideal older self. What are they doing? How do they feel? What’s their daily routine look like? This can help you get a better idea of what “self-improvement” might look like, and the steps you can take to get there.

2. Figure out where to start

If you’re feeling goal-less, it can also help to think about the five areas that pretty much everyone needs to keep working on, which include “health, relationships, finances, career, and spirituality,” Holmes says. “Spirituality doesn’t need to mean religion or believing in anything particular, it can mean self-love — doing what you need to do to make yourself happy, instead of worrying about what everyone else thinks or needs.”

If any of these areas need a little attention, let it serve as a jumping off point. You might, for example, realize that your career could use a little attention, which may inspire you to look for ways to expand, and see what else there is to learn.

3. Check In With Yourself regularly

The thing about goals is they’re bound to change over time, so don’t fret if you start down one path, and then change your mind. Instead, “always have visions of where you want to be and how you want to improve,” Marianna Strongin, PsyD, clinical psychologist and founder of Strong In Therapy, tells Bustle. “This makes the journey more clear.” And if your current path starts to feel wrong, you’ll be able to adjust.

4. Talk To yourself in a caring way

The process of reaching goals or making changes can be overwhelming, especially if you’re being tough on yourself, or expecting it to all happen overnight. So check in with your thoughts, and assess how they make you feel.

“Are they critical? Are they motivating? Are they pushing you forward or backward? In order to achieve momentum you must first change your thinking,” Strongin says. “Be kind to yourself. Your thinking voice should resemble a cheerleader.”

5. Be All About That Daily Journal

In order to improve thyself, you’ll need to stay in touch with what you want. And this is where daily journaling can come in handy.

“In terms of working towards goals, keeping a daily journal can be helpful because writing down your goals helps to increase accountability,” Dr. Brooke Wachtler, a licensed psychologist and the president/founder of BEW Consulting and Training LLC, tells Bustle.

It’s also a habit that can keep you dedicated. “Using your journal as a way to assess progress, and then brainstorm what to do if you’re hitting roadblocks,” she says, “will help you to stay on track in working towards those goals.”

6. Be Specific

When it comes to reaching a specific goal, it can help to define “your goals in a way so that they are measurable,” Wachtler says. So, instead of saying “I want to go back to school,” be more detailed and say “I’d like go back to school and learn more for my career, so that I can then do XYZ.”

As Wachtler says, this will help you know exactly what you’re working towards, if you’re making progress, and if you’ve achieved your goal.

7. Call In A Friend

Change can be difficult, and going about setting goals can be challenging, so don’t hesitate to ask for support from friends, family, a partner, or therapist.

After all, “no one does it alone,” Lisa Michaud, a success coach who specializes in helping women find balance, tells Bustle. “We all have days when we need to bounce ideas off people, or get reminded of how far we’ve come. And, letting someone know your specific goal and what you’re working on significantly increases your chances of accomplishing what you want.”

8. Consider how you’ll reach your goals

Trying to reach your goals all at once means you’re lessing likely to do them well — if at all. So take a look at all the things you’d like to accomplish, create a few solid goals, and then come up with a plan that approaches it in smaller chunks. “This may include thinking about people who can help support you, or resources that you will need,” Wachtler says. “Planning ahead also includes thinking about potential roadblocks to success and proactively thinking about how you will overcome them.”

9. Celebrate your Successes

When you get home in the evening, take a few moments to be grateful for whatever you accomplished, or whatever went well that day. And if you reached a big goal, take time to celebrate.

“Too often we make progress, achieve some success, and immediately think about what’s next,” Michaud says. “If you don’t celebrate and look at how far you’ve come, it’s pointless. You’ll be just be chasing the ‘next’ thing, and never feel the way you want to feel.”

That’s why it’s important to be aware of your progress, and pat yourself on the pack every once in a while.

10. Do More Of What You Enjoy

Self-improvement isn’t always about reaching goals; it can also be about doing more of what you enjoy, and focusing more on yourself. In the process, you might learn something new, and you’ll definitely grow as a person. But that doesn’t have to be your main goal.

So if you have a stack of books you’ve been meaning to get through, or an instrument you’ve been neglecting, pick ’em up. Find time in the day to make your hobbies a priority, and you’ll likely feel better for it.

You can also push yourself out of your comfort zone, as a way to “discover what lights you up,” career coach Stephanie Thoma, tells Bustle. “Never tried ceramic-making? Or long-distance running? Or fencing? There’s no time to start like now.”

11. Remember It’s A Process

Whatever your goals may be, it can be frustrating when they don’t all come together right now. So give yourself plenty of time. “Remember that life is a journey, not a destination,” Holmes says. “Don’t wait until you get where you want to be to allow yourself to feel happy. Enjoy the process. That’s why you’re here.”

If you can do just that, you’ll be well on your way to your next level of awesomeness. And when you reach that, remember to keep up the good work.

What have you done to improve yourself in the past year?

Similar interview questions:
Have you undertaken any areas of self-improvement in your career?
What are you doing to improve your work skills?
Have you taken any training recently?
Tell me about areas where you need to improve and what you have done to address these areas.

Why the interviewer is asking this question:
The interviewer is probing your willingness to grow and improve. This question can also be posed in a way to differentiate employer-led (or even mandated) training versus training taking on your own personal initiative, so be careful in listening closely to how the question is phrased. The answer gives the interviewer a behavioral indicator into your willingness to invest in yourself to grow and expand your skill set into the future.

The best approach to answering this question:
Discuss a recent example of training which has directly had an impact on your ability to do the job for which you are interviewing. If you do not have an example directly tied to the job, use one that is the most closely associated and/or make a connection in how it has been or can be used in your work. And if you are reading this question and have not completed any training over the course of the past year, start now by pursuing online training in advance of your interviews.

An example of how to best answer this question for experienced candidates:
“I wanted to expand my technical skills in working with the Microsoft Office Suite, specifically in developing better skills working with Excel. However, there were no courses offered at my university which covered anything beyond the basics. So I enrolled in an online Microsoft certification course, which I have already completed. I’m also adding in other technical skills including programming classes which I’m working on currently. I noted that these are important skills for this job and I want to make sure I am prepared to be productive on day one…”

An example of how to best answer this question for entry level candidates:
“I’m currently studying for my certification exam for my industry. I have completed all of the online coursework and have already passed two of the required four exams. I am scheduled to take the third exam next week and the fourth and final exam next month. This will coincide with my completion of the industry experience requirements, so within a month I expect to be certified…”

An example of how you should not answer this question:
“I did take some courses through my work since they were offered for free and I was required to take at least one. I chose a course that was taught in Vegas, since I thought it would be fun to party at night while doing the classes during the day…”

Further review: know the answers to these 100 Common Interview Questions to be fully prepared for your interview!