There’s many times in your life when you will stop and think about how to improve yourself. It might be losing extra weight, working fewer hours, or spending more time with your friends and family. Whatever the thought might be, from the moment we think about it, to the moment we achieve it- somehow action gets lost, and we end up back to square one. The thoughts of taking action often come after excessive behaviour that lets our mind know it’s too much. We might go on holiday and overeat, or continually work too late in the evenings and become burnt out.
Once we think about improving ourselves, the struggle then becomes the ability to turn our actions into habits. While we often think about making progress to become healthier, we also think about making progress in other areas, such as learning a new skill or hobby. To continuously improve ourselves in any area and make it sustainable, we need to retrain our brain. By doing this, we have the ability use less willpower and more unconscious decision making. To achieve this, we need to develop the right habits to make consistent progress in any area. So how can you continuously improve?
Improve Yourself By Starting Small
When forming a habit to continuously action, It begins with thinking of your goals as daily behaviours and starting small. A powerlifter may plan to deadlift 300kg, but they cannot achieve it unless they steadily increase their weights over time. Typically we use motivation and willpower to keep us going, which only lasts for so long. Small daily behaviours can last a lifetime.
Learning a new skill: Instead of practicing for 3 hours, practice for 30 minutes each day. As it is a new skill, your brain may not retain 3 hours right away, and the chances are it is unsustainable.
Working fewer Hours: Slowly start to decrease your hours so you can adapt to change over time.
Writing a Book: Write 1000 words per day instead of trying to write a book overnight.
Manage Your Energy
Energy is the battery for all our thoughts and behaviours. It dictates to us when we need to rest and not risk burnout, but simultaneously, making sure we are challenging ourselves and pushing our limits towards increasing our energy capacity and reaching our goals. There are four types of energy we have:
Physical Energy: The amount of energy we have, refuelled through sleep and rest.
Emotional Energy: The quality of energy we have. Are we feeling positive of negative towards what we expend our energy on?
Mental Energy: The focus of our energy. Are we doing one thing at a time?
Spiritual Energy: How the energy we expend makes us feel. The feeling we get when we expend energy more significant than ourselves.
Each energy type is dependent on each other. Physical energy forms the basis for all levels. To manage our physical energy, we need to look after our physical health, eat well and get enough rest. We don’t have to be athletes, dieticians, or sleep 12 hours a day. All we need to do is find where we can improve and start to build on it. Benefits will be almost immediate. Once our physical energy starts to improve, we can then navigate through our emotional energy. If we don’t satisfy that, then we struggle to maintain focus in our lives. Feeling exhausted? Rest and try again tomorrow. Taking on too much work? Delegate, or work on one thing at a time. Continuous improvement is hard to achieve if our energy is not managed.
Learn To Be Uncomfortable
It’s tough for humans to thrive in an unfamiliar environment. As change takes place each week, month, and year in our lives, the need for comfort and the resistance to change becomes more apparent. Since many of us are creatures of habit, we stick with what we know:
-Sitting at the same bench at the pub
-Shopping at the same grocery store
-Driving the same way to work each day
We understand what we know and like. Our comfort zone is what keeps us in control, where leaving it can feel painful. When we move into unfamiliar territory, we find ourselves often rushing back towards familiarity. Our comfort zone poses the advantage of staying calm and low-level anxiety, healthy when living in a fast-paced and forever changing world. However, the ability to continuously improve every day relies on our ability to accept new challenges and face new experiences. If we want to progress in our career, we challenge ourselves for a new job. If we’re going to learn a sport, we challenge ourselves to get better at it. Our capacity to recover from challenges defines our resilience. The more we know to deal with the discomfort of change, the more comfortable we get by being uncomfortable- thereby, increasing our resilience.
Progress By Looking Backwards
By setting goals, we are trying to predict our future. Opposites often attract. If you measure your progress looking backwards, it means you make decisions on what has already happened instead of what you want to happen. By measuring where you want to get to, it can become unmotivating in realising how far you have to go. You become more annoyed, and it can create an unmotivated feeling which can halt progress.
When measuring backwards, the connection between what has already happened and your daily progression gives you the mental capacity to either maintain your improvements or adjust to keep progressing. Here are some examples:
Weight loss: Calorie measurement. Did you log 3,200 calories yesterday? Focus on reducing your calories to 3,000 today.
Getting fit: Running every week. Did you run an average of 2 kilometres per day lass week? Focus on running 2.5 kilometres this week.
Improving as a musician: Practicing the guitar. How many times did you practice the guitar last week? Three times? Focus on practicing four times.
By measuring backwards, you build off what you have already accomplished. It leads to making continuous improvements each day. You gain a vivid idea of what behaviours you can do today to make progress tomorrow. A goal worth setting is also a goal worth measuring.
Consistency Is Key To Improve Yourself
When applying improvement to your life, the easy part is to think about the bigger picture. The hard part is to apply practices to reach a level you set for yourself. Starting small will create momentum, where momentum will create consistency. As you remain consistent and motivated, manage your energy so you can continue on the right path. Over time, improvements will be evident. You will require less willpower to make decisions based on your trajectory set for yourself.