I have always had a fascination with self-development. It was this interest that led me to Buddhism and I see self understanding and development as an arts unto themselves, and yes, they take a lifetime of practice to master. So here are a few tips to point you to your own path and development.
Read about what you want to improve. – Do you want to get better at a certain skill? Read about it. Be more meditative? Read books that explain that in detail. Want to be more productive? Spontaneous? Outgoing? Confident? All these topic areas are covered by books upon books that you can study–and by reading about it, it’ll always stay top of mind.
Find a mentor – A mentor can be anyone from a peer who knows something you don’t, and you want to learn, all the way up to someone vastly more experienced who is willing to take you under their wing (in exchange for your working in some way for or with them). Mentorship is by far the fastest path of learning.
Reflect at the end of each day – If you really want to take self-development seriously (and not just, you know, talk about it), you need to be constantly aware of how you can improve. And the only way to know how to improve is if you reflect and ask yourself where and how you still need some work.
Create a strong practice regimen – It’s your habits that unfold the results, not the other way around. You can’t live one life and expect to one day have another. You have to put in place the daily habits that will allow the things you want to change to change.
Find others to push you and train with – Self-development is not just a solo game. In fact, the best self-development is done with others in some capacity. Spend time with people who are working on similar things as you, and you’ll find yourself growing with them at a faster rate than if you had tried to do it all alone.
Create a reward/punishment system – This is necessary for people who need to break bad habits. Sometimes, it’s a reward (or a punishment) that makes the difference between immediate and rapid change, and ongoing fleeting promises.
Stay honest with yourself – No amount of talking about it will ever instigate true change. This is the hardest part for people. It’s far easier to buy a book on self-development, carry it around, and say, “I’m working on being more present,” while staying constantly on your phone to text your friends about how you’re trying to be more present. You have to really be honest about it with yourself. You are your own judge.
Find role models you can look up to – Again, self-development is not easy, so it’s helpful to be able to look to others for inspiration, motivation, or even just daily reminders of how you can continue moving forward on your journey.
Measure your progress – One of my mentors taught me, “If you can’t measure it, don’t do it.” Took me a long time to understand what that meant. Regardless of how ethereal the thing that you want to work on is, you have to find some way to measure your progress. It’s the only way you’ll really know if you are moving in the right direction–and when/where to pivot as you go along.
Consistency is the key. Self-development doesn’t happen overnight. It happens slowly and deliberately. Consistency is what creates truly meaningful change–and this is what makes the process so difficult for people. It’s not that you pop and pill and you’re done. You don’t do it once and you’re “fixed.” Self-development is a daily practice and lifestyle.
Peace and Love, Jim