In the words of a wise old man, in the mastery of one’s self there is no finish line, it is a life long endeavor. You might think that this is a fatalistic view of life, since there is no possible way to become a perfect master of any one part of life. The truth of the matter is that life as a whole is one of the few things that can be more enjoyable without having an end set in stone. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have a plan, or that it is futile to execute those plans to become a better version of yourself, but that it is just as important to realize that life can be chaotic, for better or worse, and that learning to thrive in that chaos and adapt your plans to unexpected changes is critical to living life to its fullest.
You’ve come here with that one burning question “How do I improve on myself?”, and in the next few paragraphs I’m going to outline a few simple steps to put you on the right track.
The All-Mighty Power of Habits!
If you’ve ever had an addiction you understand the powerful sway that habits can have on your life. You might be thinking, “Alex, I have had addictions and they did nothing but ruin my life, how is that going to help me?”, and I’m glad you might have asked. The key to greatness is incremental gains, and there is no better way to do this than to implement the things you want to improve on into your daily routine. A few minutes of exercise, reading ten pages of a book every day, or just eating one healthy meal per day can drastically improve your life when they become embedded into your cycle.
Anyone who has tried a crash diet knows that “going cold-turkey” only works for a handful of people who posses inhuman levels of willpower, and for the rest of us 99% of humanity it can feel impossible to get ahead at times. But what we forget is that even the great Usain Bolt, famous for his incredible running capacity, began his life just like the rest of us, by crawling around aimlessly until something clicked and he began walking. ONLY with great investment did he become and athlete of legendary speed.
I’m not going to tell you that anyone can do what he did, everyone has certain inclinations in life that bring them one place or another more naturally than others. What I am saying is that the most effective way to become great is to stop focusing on the things that set you back from your goals and just start hammering out the work needed to get you to where you want to be.
Later I will lay out a simple plan for forming habits and some tips for keeping yourself on track, but first I want to dive into the willpower aspect of forming habits, since it is the core of all production and often misunderstood by those trying to make changes to their life.
How Do I Harness My Willpower?
Willpower is the ability to do what you NEED to do, regardless of what you WANT to do. Viewing willpower as a resource, there are only two ways to maximize its effectiveness.
1. Increase the amount of willpower you can use: Willpower is only limited by your ability to control it. Once you have mastered yourself, through self-discipline, it will become easier to do the things you need to do, and there will be less friction between your needs and wants.
2. Reduce the amount of willpower needed to cooperate with yourself: Without increasing the amount of willpower your have, you can alternatively motivate yourself by making your goals clear and understanding the need and desire for the aspects of your life you have chosen to improve on.
The next step is a tandem leap that must be taken with your improvement of willpower usage.
Clarify Your Goals – Beginning With the End
The most important thing to remember when setting goals for yourself is to be very clear about the results you wish to obtain. This will require some time and a good bit of introspection.
Like my father has often said, you should always plan until the end. The best way to plan to the end is to begin with the results you wish to obtain. If you know the destination. It becomes much easier to chart the course you need to take in order to arrive at that destination. In the same way, if you clearly and concisely define your goals, it will become as simple as following the steps to that destination.
In the words of Dave Ramsey (If you don’t know who that is I would suggest reading his book The Total Money Makeover and watching his YouTube Channel The Dave Ramsey Show) financial success is only 20% head knowledge, the stuff you know about what you’re doing, and 80% behavior, as in what you actually DO with that information. While you might be building the perfect body or just trying to get a better understanding of your son/daughter, brother/sister or wife/husband, the principle holds true, because no body-builder will ever tell you that they got their body sitting around reading about how to be healthy. They will, however, tell you that what they learned was important when it came to following through with their goals.
Going back to the destination analogy, not getting the right information would be critically detrimental to your travel, as heading North when your destination was South may prove to be a harrowing journey. At the same time, all the planning in the world isn’t going to get you any closer to the place you’re going.
Hammer Out Your Principle Nature.
Now that you understand the importance of planning your path and putting in the blood and sweat needed to achieve your goals, I should also mention that there is only one thing more important than setting the goals and moving towards them. The truth of the matter is that, according to my experience, and an article published by Forbes, most people find themselves unhappy with the choices they have made and the ends they have met. Some of this is certainly due to lack of planning, but for the people who had their destination and route perfectly planned, it did not seem to work out for them.
The sad truth of the matter for these people is that while they set their goals and worked hard to achieve them, the issue was that they had chosen the wrong destination. That being said, it is vitally important to your happiness and success that you find the correct destination, before plotting your course.
The best way to start understanding who you want to be is to understand who you are, and the best judges of who you are come from the people around you. Beginning with the end in mind, imagine what you want your life to have been, and what people will think of you. Imagine what your friends, family, pastor, and fellow workers would say, honestly, if they were to speak at your funeral. I will go more in-depth into this concept in another article, but it is a great foundation to begin exploring your deepest motivations in life, and finding out what you will define as successful in your future.
Feedback – Always Appreciated
I love to see others setting goals and becoming better. Where do you see yourself in a year, five years, or even ten? A great way to start moving towards your goals is to put them into words and let other people know what you’re about. I’d love to hear what everyone wants to accomplish and you can start your journey today by putting your goals down in the comments below!