Self-improvement is a very socially conditioned ideology in Western society that we like to think will make us happy — but it really doesn’t. You can’t improve who you fundamentally are. You can only accept yourself and all of your internal beauty and move forward with that knowing in life. Chasing external things (relationships, validation, love, the “need to improve”) will not bring you true fulfillment. Because it really does come from within.
Try to not judge yourself so hard. Realize that you are a fundamentally whole being as you are and there is absolutely nothing that needs to be improved about “you”. Let that knowing shine through and life will do what it’s supposed to.
You can develop skills through discipline, and get better at things. But you can’t improve “you” at the core level, so just give up on trying.
When you do come to understand this (and you will know when the time comes) you won’t feel the need to improve who you are. You will do the things you want to do in life and it won’t feel so heavy and forced.
Remember, you’re a whole being as you are. All you need to do is realize this — and go on with your life!
Want to start your own business? Want to get better at something? Want to make more money?
A lot of people feel like they have to strain themselves to achieve what they want. They get dangerously caffeinated (or drugged), work on little sleep, and don’t take breaks. They become execution robots. They equate “stress” with “productivity”.
I was one of those people. What happened?
I burned out. I physically couldn’t take the stress. My body and mind shut me down and pulled the plug. I had to quit my job, see a doctor, and fucking relax and re-center my mind.
What I failed to realize, was while hustling gives you an adrenaline rush of “winning” in life, it isn’t a sustainable lifestyle long-term. It actually is more likely to impact your health in a negative way. We’re not meant to live like that.
So, what’s the alternative? How can I achieve what I want and not kill myself in the process?
- Realize that change is a long-term process. You can’t always control it, so admit you can’t control everything and you just need to let life happen.
- Work with what’s right in front of you. What stuff needs to get done right now? Don’t get overly caught up in grandiose schemes of being famously rich, moving to the coasts, and romance–that will only lead to delusion. Be grateful for any unfair advantages you may have going for you right now, where you are.
- Enjoy day-to-day life. A warm shower before bed. Practicing a musical instrument. Watching a good movie. Taking a walk outside. Laughing with old friends. You have to be able to love the simple, subtle activities of day-to-day life…and here’s the important part…WHILE you work hard on your projects.
- K.I.S.S. – Keep it Simple Stupid. Too many rules and restrictions you put on yourself are bound to be broken. Stick to your core values and just get those right every day.
- Show up every day. This is the secret to working smarter. The daily grind really adds up to your benefit. Treat your passion like a job and show up every single day regardless of how you feel. We all work jobs we hate but we don’t even dare not showing up to work. Why? Because we’d get fired and not be able to feed ourselves. So if you want to turn what you love into a career then treat it like a professional would and show up like you mean business.
- BALANCE. This is a 24/7, 365 days a year commitment…This means eating whole foods. This means keeping your physical body healthy by exercising. This means getting 8 hours of sleep every night. This means having quality relationships with friends and family. If any of these are out of whack, you’ll struggle to enjoy your full potential in life.
- Eliminate distractions and block time to work deeply: We have a finite amount of willpower. Distraction taxes it heavily. If you want to work smart, you have to work deeply. That means being as free from distraction as possible. I recommend reading Deep Work by Cal Newport, which discusses the importance and value of working deeply in a constantly distracted world.
So there ya have it. Hope this helps some people. Hustling can seem appealing, and might be worth a try. However, in my experience it only inspired me to be true to myself, cultivate a rich daily routine, and value a balanced lifestyle over short-term material gain.
The best way to determine if you’re heading in the right direction is to gauge how comfortable you are in life.
If you’re cozy, you’re probably not growing or fulfilling your higher potential in life.
I use the word “uncomfortable” deliberately.
Uncomfortable in this context does not mean self-hate, nor does it imply being in a life-threatening situation.
It simply means this:
Are you ACCEPTING challenges, or are you AVOIDING challenges?
Facing adversity is a non-logical paradox. It is a paradox because it is uncomfortable, and us humans will go to great lengths to avoid discomfort. As a result, we basically stay stagnate and live unfulfilling lives.
Unfortunately, nobody ever told you that comfort and discomfort are the same thing. They are both energy. They are both polarities that have the capacity to cause great change in your life if you allow this contradiction to exist and roll with it anyways.
Steven Pressfield calls this feeling “resistance” in his book The War of Art. Resistance is that voice in your head that talks you down, fears judgement, and wants instant gratification. All of which prevent you from THRIVING and CREATING BEAUTIFUL CHANGE in your life and the lives of those around you.
Read The War of Art. If you’re cozy, start challenging yourself to work hard and face your fears. You WILL adapt, and you will be amazed and intrigued by your capacity to manifest great change in life and how far you’ve come.
P.S. You can’t “think” or “logic” your way into facing your fears. I’m asking you to leap. I’m asking you to absolutely believe in yourself and trust the universe no matter what, before you have proof of anything, that everything will be okay, that everything is happening exactly as it should.
Fear is made of mist and disappears the moment you walk through it.
Inspirational content is becoming a drug for many people. It’s over-saturating the digital market and there is absolutely no scarcity of “good” advice out there. It’s at our fingertips and we can dabble in it 24/7 — living a fantasy of how marvelous our lives could be.
Frankly, I would argue self-help has become superficial entertainment for many. It’s no longer “motivating” people to actually do anything progressive. Rather — it’s become yet another form of escapism just like drugs, alcohol, social media, and television are.
It’s a cheap high. A quick way to masturbate your mind for a dopamine spike and artificial epiphany release. “Wow, what a magnificent concept! I feel like a successful, actualized genius” is the feeling people are addicted to.
Even worse, self-help dabbling is deceivingly “healthy” because it’s pseudo-intellectual.
I’m here to shatter that paradigm and declare self-help is a total waste of time and mental energy if we don’t practically integrate such advice into our lives.
We can learn all concepts and theories we want, but if we don’t do anything with the information, it’s totally useless. Desensitizing our brains to content intended for pragmatic use is digging deeper into fantasy and further from reality.
What happens by over-fantasizing, is we tend to place too much emphasis on external happiness and need, and can’t find happiness within ourselves.
Self-help works when an individual is at the cause of their actions, not the effect of their environment. Next article I will explain Cause vs. Effect and how to tell which side you may be operating in.
People want unrealistic shortcuts to success. They don’t care enough to embrace the process of hard work and self discovery.
This lends itself to bullshit answers being fed to bullshit people. Our culture thrives on pure bullshit.
Life is a dance you get better at by DOING. There is no “shortcut” “tip” or “tactic” to success.
Whatever advice somebody gives you is just what works for them. Use it as a guideline, but not ultimatum. Sure, guidelines are important (so is keeping an OPEN MIND and being able to receive feedback). But MANY things in life nobody has the answer to, and you will have to find that out yourself through reference experiences.
You are your own authority. The road is clear. Stop hiding. Go make what you care about happen.
Influence is everywhere. The commercials we watch, the people we associate with, the content we engage in.
Technology can be overstimulating, and it probably isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
The challenge, however, lies in not getting stuck in the quicksand for too long.
Freaking out and fighting quicksand only sucks you in more. But taking deep breaths, and patiently working your way out of it will set you free.
A question to ponder: Do you control your life or does life control you?
Being anxious, stressed, and depressed takes us away from the present moment. Our minds become lost in a hasty whirlwind of troubles, doubts, and insecurities. The lizard brain (as Seth Godin calls it) takes over, and we feel helpless.
Anxiety manifests itself in many ways. Many times it’s in our heads. Often though, it’s physically built up in our bodies (requiring manual extraction).
After years of research, I have discovered excellent strategies that lower anxiety, stress, and depression without drugs. Drugs only mask the problem, and never asses the root cause. In no particular order, here they are:
Change Your Environment.
Before we treat the symptoms of stress, let’s look at the causes: If your job stresses you out, or your relationships with people are toxic on a consistent basis, you soul is telling you to pay attention because something isn’t working out. Neurosis, as Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung has described, occurs due to a failure to adapt to the current demands of life. Some people may say that it’s “impossible” to change what they’re doing, of which I empathize with your difficult situation. It is tough. However, cynical thinking isn’t going to get you anywhere. Unless you have a severe physical disability that hospitalizes you, you are capable of making positive change in your life–if you care enough.
Examine Your Locus of Control.
Are you constantly attributing your emotional state to external factors or blaming others? Do you take credibility for your faults or brush them off? In Charles Duhigg’s book “Smarter Faster Better: The Transformative Power of Real Productivity “ a study suggests people who have internal locuses of control, i.e. those that believe events in their life are caused by factors they can control–are significantly less depressed, happier, and more productive.
Meditation and Mindful Awareness.
With practice and effort, you can change your neural networks and become more buoyant in life and less reactive. Bringing attention to the physical sensations and thought processes in your body is absolutely imperative for understanding yourself and how you are feeling. Our minds store dense tension and are distracted by excessive technology use. Taking just 10 minutes to meditate a day can help drastically. (Headspace is a free app you can download which teaches you how to mediate. Highly recommend it). Alan Watt’s has an excellent perspective on the dangers of excessive thinking:
Excerpt from a Psychology Today article states: “Exercise not only increases blood flow to the brain, it releases endorphins, the body’s very own natural antidepressant. It also releases other neurotransmitters, like serotonin, which lift mood.” Running just 10 minutes a day, and throwing in a few push ups, sit ups, and weights can significantly boost your mood. Walking in nature is also extremely good for lowering stress.
Stretching & Yoga:
I’ve found stress tends builds up in my body, especially the chest and neck regions. If you consider the weight the body carries around , this accumulates years worth of tension in the muscles and joints. At first you may resist stretching all the way because it may feel overwhelming. Do it anyway. That feeling is your body releasing immense tension. Afterwards you will feel incredibly relaxed and lighter. YouTube fitness trainer Eliot Hulse has demonstrated a –hands down– excellent exercise called the “Bow” that opens up your entire respiratory airways:
Soak Up Some Sun.
The sun has magical effects on the soul. Nobody says they’re stressed out laying on the beach, do they?! The sun’s warmth and energy nurtures the soul, produces vitamin D, and lowers cortisol, the stress hormone. In all seriousness, I can’t emphasize how important it is to get outside and bask in the sun whenever possible. To learn more about lowering cortisol (stress), Dr. Eric Berg explains in this video:
Herbal teas have been shown to act as effective nootropics and aid with mood regulation. Kava root is excellent for anxiety. A Cochrane systematic review concluded it was likely to be more effective than placebo at treating short-term anxiety. St John’s Wort has been shown to raise serotonin and act as an antidepressant for many users. L-Theanine helps promote alpha brainwaves (a more trance like state) associated with calmness, creativity, and lucidity. From the subreddit “Nootropics” here is a list of many other natural cognitive enhancers.
Hydrotherapy and Heat Therapy:
From Psychology Today: “Applying water of different temperatures to our skin can change our physiology and mood. When humans take a cold swim…it is usually very invigorating…it also reflexively bathes the brain and vital organs in fresh blood. This movement will bring nutrition, oxygen and also help gently detoxify the area.” Hydrotherapy is incredibly helpful. I’ve found by swimming in a cold river or taking a cold shower I felt immediately relaxed and no longer stressed. As for heat therapy, if you can find a sauna nearby your home, I recommend giving it a try.
Massages release tension in the muscles and are ultra relaxing. If you can afford them, I would regularly get them once a month.
Eat for Nutrition, and Only When You Are Hungry:
Minimize unnecessary sugars and carbohydrates. Drink more water. You will build your willpower the more you resist unhealthy foods and feel more in control of yourself. Intermittent fasting (eating only when you are hungry) lowers cortisol and increases growth hormone (which is anti-aging). Eating dark green leaves and vegetables like kale are excellent for the mind. I feel absolutely amazing when I eat solely for nutrition. Here is a list of some foods that are wonderful for your mental health.
Get enough rest.
7-9 hours. Rest has a significant effect on our chemical balances, mood, and energy. It helps us think clearly and rationally. Prioritize this as #1 before anything else on this list.
Talk to Someone Positive.
At the end of the day, the quality of our relationships with people matter. Talk to someone you can open up to and exchange perspectives. Set aside time and do this regularly.
Listen to Music:
Certain songs can connect with the emotional state we are in and be quite a cathartic outlet. Music can elevate mood, boost dopamine and oxytocin (a hormone associated with trust, intimacy and comfort). It can even elevate neuroplasticity by aiding the listener’s brain in finding alternate pathways to memories, emotions, and even physical systems such as speech. I recommend reading this excellent article to learn more about the effects of sound on the brain’s health.
Actively Improve & Invest in Yourself:
Only you can change you. I discuss the importance of belief in my previous article, The Beauty of Neuroplasticity. So go forth, and be the change you want to see.