Self-improvement is universal to the human experience; we all have things we’d like to change about ourselves. Perhaps you want to lose weight, improve your skills in a certain area, be more comfortable socially, be happier, or more productive. Whatever the ultimate improvement desired, in order to achieve it you may benefit from identifying your specific goals, enacting change, and coping with setbacks.
- Imagine what it could be like in the future. Thinking about future positive and negative possibilities enhances motivation, expectation of successful goal completion, and commitment to self-improvement. Thinking about a positive future helps you imagine a reality where you are the best self you can be, while imagining a negative reality results in an awareness of what might happen if you do not meet your improvement goals.
- Imagine a miracle happened overnight and when woke up in the morning you were exactly how you want to be. Everything you wanted to improve about yourself happened in the middle of the night somehow. How are you different? How does it feel? Who is around you? What are you doing? Imagine what it would be like to live life as this completely improved self. Based on what you imagine, you can begin developing goals. Perhaps you imagined yourself as being confident and physically fit. What do you think would have needed to happen for this to occur?
- Determine what needs improvement and what doesn’t. It is important to be specific in your goals, and to know which goals are a top priority.
- Identify your assets (honest, hard-working, loving…etc.) and your liabilities (angry, overweight…etc.). This may help you identify the areas in which you want to make the most improvement.
- Prioritize your list of goals. Rate each goal from 1-10, 10 being the highest priority for you. Focus on this goal first.
- Get feedback. Receiving feedback about what to improve upon helps individuals’ performance on tasks, and enhances goal-achievement. Thus, asking others ways you can improve will help you develop specific goals and motivate you on your journey.
- Start by asking your significant other or family members ways they think you can improve yourself. Make sure you only ask individuals whom you trust and those that will take your feelings into consideration (rather than belittling or criticizing you). You might be surprised by their answers.
- Talk to a trusted confidante such as a therapist, a religious leader or even a “sponsor” in a 12 step group. Having an outside party helps reduce self-deception and denial. We sometimes have a problem of being either too hard or too soft on ourselves, but talking to others can help us form an accurate picture of ourselves if we are to improve.
- Pick which suggestions you can apply to yourself and to practice those suggestions. If a certain set doesn’t seem to work, try another! Nothing works for everyone. You need to find what works for you!
- Make SMART goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. For example, your goal could be to lose 20 pounds (specific, measurable, attainable) in 3 months (realistic, time-bound).
- Try this online resource for creating SMART goals at GetSelfHelp.Co.UK.
- Break down each goal into smaller goals. For example, if your goal is to lose 20 pounds you will need to develop a plan which will include smaller goals such as: lowering daily calorie intake, exercising 3-5 times per week, and limiting sugar intake.
- Instead of making grand goals, start by establishing little goals that achieve the grand goal. For instance losing 50 pounds may seem like a daunting task but something like no chocolate for a week may be more viable.
- Seek out information on how to pursue that change. Information can be gathered from books, articles, friends, family, and professionals. It is amazing how much information will find you when you are ready!
- Think about ways you have made similar positive changes in the past. If you haven’t, think about how others have achieved what you want. Talk to people who are in your same position and ask for help. For example, if you want to lose weight, you could sign up for Weight Watchers and go to groups at the center.
- Make sure you are ready to change. There are 4 stages of change according to the Transtheoretical Model of behavior change. Identifying which stage you are in can help you determine whether you are ready to make a change or if you need more motivation.
- Pre-contemplation stage: This stage is when there is a problem but you are not aware of it or you are denying it.
- Contemplation: You are aware of a problem and are contemplating changing it. People can become stuck on this step for a long time until they move on. You may be in this stage if you are still deciding what to change about yourself.
- Preparation: You have committed to change and are making a plan of action. You may be in this stage if you are working on your goals.
- Action: Making the changes. You are in this stage if you are working on your plan on a daily basis. You have a plan and are currently moving toward your goal.
- Maintenance: You have completed your goal and are maintaining your progress.
- Be your own coach. Self-coaching or checking in with yourself on a daily basis has been linked to increases in self-improvement, especially in terms of leadership qualities. Daily check-ins facilitate awareness of your current performance and your ability to achieve goals.
- Ask yourself questions like, “Did I focus on or work toward my goals today? Did I have a positive attitude today? Was I kind to myself today? Did I accept my challenges today? Did I change something for the better today?”
- Consider outside help. If you find that self-coaching is not helping and you need some outside support, life-coaching has been associated with positive change, and goal-realization. Additionally, therapists and psychologists are typically trained in interventions to assist you in achieving personal goals, such as Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT).
- Practice, practice, practice! Change may come slowly especially if it is a large self-improvement. Just keep going until your goal is your new reality (the changed you).
- Remind yourself about your specific goals on a daily basis.
EditCoping with Setbacks
- Acknowledge that setbacks are normal. If change moved vertically, we’d all have an easier time making personal modifications. The truth is, change does not typically follow a distinct path and there may be rocks in the road.
- For example, in weight loss it is not common for someone to continue to lose weight every single day. Some days you may not lose any weight, and some days you may gain some weight. The key is not letting these inevitable fluctuations cause you to give up on your goal. What is important is that overall, you lose weight over time. Know that you can do anything you put your mind to (that is reasonable of course)!
- Make a list of possible setbacks that may occur during your journey toward self-improvement. Identify ways to deal with each setback.
- Focus on what you will do in the future. Dwelling on what you did wrong does not help you achieve goals. However, focusing on what you can do now and in the future helps you to. Instead of letting the rock in your path stop your journey, focus on moving forward and learning how to better deal with rocks in the future. You can go around or jump over the rocks.
- For example, if you wanted to lose weight and ending up gaining a pound over the weekend, instead of thinking negatively and giving up on your goal, think something like, “it’s okay to have a little fluctuation in weight. I’m going to continue to feed my body healthy foods!”
- Accept and affirm yourself. Research indicates that individuals who accept their challenges can actually be more motivated toward positive change. Additionally, individuals who affirm or validate themselves often are more able to think about and understand their challenges.
- Make sure that when you go to bed you feel you’ve accomplished something that day – it doesn’t have to be something life changing in itself, but making the effort to be a little nicer or read a few more pages of that book EVERY day will have more of an impact than occasional large things.
- Be patient with yourself. Pat yourself on your back for “victories” and give yourself a break if you back slide. “Rome wasn’t built in a day”! Just keep at it as you are able. Good luck and good for you!
- Trust the process and always believe in yourself.
EditSources and Citations
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