To improve ourselves we try to become smarter, more efficient, or even more popular.
There are several pitfalls on the road to self-improvement and without knowing it, you may be doing things that will stunt your personal and professional growth. Read through the list below and see if you are holding yourself back.
Earn Your Own Praise: Seeking validation from others rather than taking pride in your own accomplishments can be dangerous. To quote Dale Carnegie, “The person who seeks all their applause from outside has their happiness in another’s keeping.”
These are wise words. If we receive all of our self-worth and approval from others, then you are giving away your own emotional control. You will find yourself experiencing highs and lows in your self-confidence based upon the input you receive from others.
Instead of falling into this trap, seek approval from within. Take part in activities that are important to you, put forth your very best efforts, and set goals that will make you proud to accomplish. Recognize when you are doing a good job, living up to a promise, and are just simply being true to yourself. Learn to like yourself, and the world will follow suit.
Continue Your Education: Life is an adventure that teaches us valuable lessons every step of the way. If you close your mind to the wisdom life has to offer you, then you are setting a very large obstacle between yourself and self-improvement.
Keep your mind open to new learning opportunities. They may come from a friend, from a boss, or even from your children. In fact, sometimes children teach us the most important lessons of all, such as compassion and forgiveness.
Hand in hand with an open mind comes the initiative to act. All of the knowledge in the world does you no good if you fail to put it to good use. You will find, though, that as you increase your knowledge base and gain new experiences, you will carry yourself with a confidence that will be noticeable to everyone around you.
When you prove you are willing to learn and can apply your knowledge appropriately, others will begin seeking you out for advice. Even your boss may come to depend upon your particular expertise. You have the chance to reach your goals and experience tremendous success if you stay out of your own way.
Set Reasonable Goals: There is nothing wrong with wanting it all. Just realize you cannot have it all today. Learn to exercise patience and work toward your goals in small chunks rather than bite off more than you can chew.
When you set unrealistic goals you are setting yourself up for potential failure and frustration. Instead, determine what your main goals are in life, then break them down into smaller parts. Use those parts as a progressive road map towards reaching your major goals.
As you progress down your road to success, do not allow setbacks to kill your motivation. Giving up on your goals will hinder your chances for self-improvement and will be detrimental to your confidence.
Commit: When you decide to take steps towards achieving a goal or improving yourself, commit yourself fully to the effort. Do not tinker with the idea, treating it like a hobby. If you do not take the effort seriously, you will give up the first time you encounter difficulty. As with any worthwhile goal in life, you need to give yourself over fully to the effort.
If you encounter setbacks, do not get discouraged and give up. Instead, assess the situation and try to understand why you had a setback, then develop a plan to overcome the obstacle. Doing so will build your confidence and make it easier to leap the next hurdle when it appears.
By taking responsibility for your own goals, your own achievements, and your own sense of self-worth, you will become a more reliable partner in work and in life. You will greatly enhance your chances for self-improvement and success, and you will eliminate the highs and lows that occur when you put the responsibility for your happiness in the hands of others.
Draw up a written plan with measurable landmarks towards reaching your goals, then be sure to recognize your accomplishments and give yourself the praise you deserve.
Written by David B. Bohl of Slow Down Fast.
Do Nothing to Become More Productive
Productivity systems, if properly implemented, give us the opportunity not only to do more but to do it with more intelligence. Projects become manageable, goals are attainable, and our larger life purpose and vision are places we live from, not places we fantasize about. However, if used incorrectly, productivity systems also present a danger in terms of becoming unbalanced, or skewed, towards constant doing and busyness.
How can we make sure that our productivity remains in the service of our larger purpose, rather then becoming yet another distraction that clouds the mind and drains our vital energy?
With all this focus on doing, on being productive, I often find it useful to remind myself that it’s great to also spend time just being. Being is a state of non-doing, of non-striving, one where we can be attentive to the body and mind and focus only on present-tense experience. Another word for this process is meditation. There are many ways one can learn to meditate, but here are some good recommendations to get started:
Check out Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. It’s an extremely popular book, the reason being because he has some great down-to-earth suggestions on the power of being.
If you’ve ever found yourself thinking that you are probably half-Buddhist (maybe in a past life?) you may find Mindfullness in Plain English a good primer for learning the Buddhist form of mindfulness meditation.
If you find yourself leaning toward the Christian tradition, then check out Father Thomas Keating (a gnarly old Benedictine monk) and his teachings on Centering Prayer a Christian form of meditation.
Finally, if you really don’t like to leave the comfort of your computer (hey, who does?) you might enjoy listening to some binaural beats. Binaural beats use slightly different tones in each ear to actually induce a slight change in the listener’s brainwaves. In other words, they help you get into some of the same states that meditation provides! Holosync and Hemi-sync both provide high quality binaural beat technology.
The value of meditation, or of being, is that it provides a true rest from the constant busyness of life, and the sometimes overwhelming demands of the modern world. Personally, I have used the practice of Buddhist insight meditation to be extremely helpful in this regard, and find that developing a calm, clear mind allows me to balance out all of the action I end up taking.
Listen to the Gurus:
In the pursuit of learning,
every day something is acquired.
In the pursuit of Tao,
every day something is dropped.
Less and less is done
Until non-action is achieved.
When nothing is done, nothing is left done.
The world is ruled by letting things take their course.
It cannot be ruled by interfering.
- The Tao Te Ching, forty eight
Mark Hurst, author of Bit Literacy, talks about productivity in terms of attaining an “emptiness of bits”, and the GTD master David Allen speaks of a “mind like water”. Both of them are referring to the fact that the more organized and clear one is about what one is doing and how, the easier it is to let things go when they arise in the mind. In that way productivity can actually be a great support for relaxing into a more meditative state of mind. Likewise a clear and focused mind will be helpful in staying on point with one’s personal efficiency.
What the gurus of both productivity and meditation know, is that when one has truly mastered doing, but can also relax into just being, there can be an ebb-and-flow between these states that makes both more enjoyable and enriching. Listen to the productivity gurus and work on mastering the core aspects of productivity, but also spend some time listening to the inner guru and learn to enjoy the simple feeling of being.
Written by Vincent Horn of Numinous Nonsense and one of the most popular Buddhist podcasts on the web, Buddhist Geeks.