We know nobody's perfect, but that does not mean we should give up and wallow in our weaknesses and failures. No one was born being able to do all they can do today. A lot can be learned, and even unlearned. Some of us may have been taught unhealthy habits and lifestyles by people who did not know better, but we cannot keep blaming them for the rest of our lives. As parents, we only do our best with our children and hope that they have the sense to build on what we have done to create a better life for themselves. Even people with terrible childhood memories can turn things around, use the strength and resilience from those experiences, and become world changers. For most of us, it is the little habits/skills/traits we wish we have or do not have that hold us back from being the amazing person we imagine. How would it feel to be that great person you dream of and live that great life you imagine? Welcome to Self Improvement 101. Please get a pen and paper.
Make a list of ten areas of your life that you believe, if improved, will make your life as perfect as you would like. Let’s call it your “self improvement wish list”. We know no one has every talent/skill/trait, but just imagine with me - ten skills/talents/habits/character features that you lack and feel would be very beneficial to you. For example, I personally need google maps to go anywhere because I struggle to remember directions. I have other strengths, but this weakness is sometimes annoying. Imagine how amazing it would be for me to be able to remember directions and drive without a satnav. Before you start laughing - it is a real problem, so thank God for Google maps!
Cross out five of those areas that you feel right now will be totally impossible/unrealistic to change, for any reason. We are all different. Some things come more naturally to some than others. For example, I would love to be able to play the violin like my daughter. I think it would take me years to learn it, if I really wanted to, and I really don’t want to put in the effort/time right now, with everything else I have on my plate, so I can safely cross this one off my self improvement wish list for today. This is the easy one - cross off the five you really can live without. Some of you might want to cross off the word ‘Billionaire’ at this stage!
Of the remaining five, think of a friend you have (or a friend you can make) that is good in that area/skill. I am always so grateful for the fact that we do not have to do life alone. We have people all around us with different personalities, skills and talents, so we can help each other and function better as a whole. My husband is very good at remembering people’s names. This is something I really wish I could do, especially as a family doctor whose work depends on developing good rapport over years. Sadly, I cannot take him with me to work, but I have found his ability to remember names very helpful at many social events! I’m sure you have friends who have talents/skills you admire and find helpful. Be intentional with those friendships and don’t forget to let your friends know you appreciate them.
Once you are sure you have someone in your life who is good at each of the remaining five areas, you can move on to step four. Surrounding ourselves with people we want to be like helps us to learn from them by association and reap the benefits of interdependence. Now pick your favourite two from the five items left on your self improvement wish list. Why are they your favourite? I would really love to be able to speak more languages and to enjoy networking more. I think they are my top two because they would help with my goals for the coming year. It might help to think about your long term vision of your life at this stage, and which items on the list will help towards achieving your goals.
Now we have just two items to focus on. Think about how much time, money and emotional/mental energy it would take to improve that area of your life. Pick the one with the lower overall cost and focus on that for the new year. We often have too many goals and new year’s resolutions, but I have found that choosing just one thing for right now means that we are more likely to achieve it. What is your one thing for 2022? Remember you are subconsciously working on four other self improvement goals by surrounding yourself with relevant friends. If we all focused on properly improving just one area of our lives each year, I imagine there would be super-humans walking around in ten years!
I know that life is not that straightforward. There will be challenges and many factors to consider, but please join us in finding one thing about our lives to improve in 2022, as we conclude another interesting year. It might be to do with your health, finances, attitude, relationships, career, business or faith. It could be about your behaviour, time management, education, hobbies, integrity or other virtues you desire. We chose the easier one in stage five, because achieving it will give us motivation to achieve harder goals. We start with ten to remind us of our shortcomings, and that working on one is a small task compared to ten. There are so many books and resources we can draw on to gain the knowledge to change, but what we really need is wisdom, strength and focus to apply that knowledge to see real improvement in our lives. Accountability also helps us to do better, so consider telling a friend your self improvement goal, so that they can encourage you to keep going when things get tough. I wish you a wonderful Christmas and happiness everyday in your life journey. We can choose to be happy even with all our faults and challenges, with hope for a brighter future, as we live intentionally towards achieving our goals.
Dr Afiniki Akanet is the author of Life Without Coffee, Choosing Happiness Over Stress and 2020 Year of Plenty - Afiniki.co.uk