7 min read

8 Tips for Your Self-Improvement Journey

Four athletes outdoors perform exercise for self-improvement

Higher, faster, stronger – all of us want to get better at something. Striving for a “better” self is only natural, and it’s what keeps us changing. But sometimes the line between a healthy goal and an obsession can get blurry. What’s behind the self-improvement trend, and how can you find a healthy middle ground for yourself?

What is Self-Improvement?

Have you ever counted your steps or tracked your sleep patterns? Technology allows us to measure almost everything now and many apps can track your development in areas like sleep, food, body composition, workouts, productivity, and mental well-being as well. In addition to all the apps, self-help books, articles, workshops, and seminars… All promising they will give you the tools to get rid of old habits and become more successful in your relationships and all other parts of your life.

Especially during the pandemic, many people have more free time for self-improvement ideas and to pursue their goals for a “better” self. After all, they say, this time can be productive as well. If you have a pandemic project, it’s important that you want to improve because you really want to for yourself, not because you think you should because of someone else’s expectations. But sometimes this difference isn’t very clear at first glance. If your motivation is coming from the outside, your desire for self-improvement becomes a compulsion and just puts you under more pressure instead of providing more satisfaction.

But what exactly does self-improvement actually mean? And is it good or bad? Self- improvement is a trend that has been around for a long time, driving people to change into the best versions of themselves. The Ancient Greek philosophers were already speculating about advice and ways for people to improve themselves; however, they mostly focused on moral values like honesty, loyalty, or respect.

The basic idea behind self-optimization is to use all the resources at your disposal to achieve your best possible state. This continuous process of self-improvement optimizes your personal characteristics and abilities2.

So, the phenomenon of various approaches to self-improvement is nothing new. The question is: why do we want to improve ourselves and at what point does a goal become a compulsion?

A white woman lies on a patterned yoga mat on a smooth red-brick floor. She has her eyes closed, her phone near her head, and appears to be meditating for self-improvement purposes.
©Westend61

Why do We Want to Improve Ourselves?

Striving for self-improvement and other dreams is a deeply human desire and helps focus your efforts on personal development. Otherwise, most people wouldn’t do much all day. According to Freudian personality theory, our personality is shaped by three instances: superego, ego, and id. As we grow up, we often internalize morals, values, and rules that we learn from our parents and society. They shape what we strive for and serve as motivation to keep going, while also giving us a framework to evaluate our actions and thoughts.

The superego represents our morals, values as well as rules that we have experienced and internalized since childhood from our parents and society. This part of ourselves strives for perfection, spurs us on, and evaluates our actions and thoughts with a critical eye3.

This process can lead to both positive emotions like pride and negative emotions like guilt. These internalized values are also where our desire for self-improvement often comes from.

Another reason for self-improvement is a more direct comparison with others. Human beings are social creatures, and we like to find our place in the larger world. We want to know where we stand in comparison to someone else. If we are better than the average at something, it strokes our egos and boosts self-confidence.

Unfortunately, self-optimization can also become problematic as soon as the desire isn’t coming from yourself, but from other people instead, even a mentor or your best friend. It’s also important to keep your goals and approaches realistic. No one can be the best in all areas of life. On top of that, some optimizers also want to digitally monitor mental states like their happiness, however, those are often highly complex and very personal and cannot be easily calculated.

Self-Improvement Tips: Moderation is Key

Does that mean you should stop trying to improve yourself and set goals? Not at all! The idea of making more of your life and becoming a better version of yourself is definitely a good thing! As with many things in life, moderation is key. As you search through articles and books for ways to improve yourself, remember to maintain a balance between achievement and rest, a balance between self-acceptance and self-improvement. With our self-improvement tips, you can achieve your goals without falling into an optimizing frenzy:

A grinning, medium-skinned man grasps an insulated coffee cup in his left hand as his right hand holds the bannister of an outdoor staircase.
©The Good Brigade

#1 Know your “why”

Whether you want to be more successful at work, boost your physical health, or improve your sleep quality, setting goals is a great idea! New challenges take you out of your comfort zone and give you a sense of accomplishment after you’ve mastered them.

If you want to get better at something, think about the reason for your goal. Why do you want to improve? What will you get out of it personally? Figure out what’s really important for you, and you’ll boost not only your commitment but also your self-awareness as well.

#2 Don’t do everything at once

Want to start eating vegan tomorrow, reading more books and news articles, fasting intermittently, and tracking it all down to the last calorie on your smartphone? Stop for a moment and take a deep breath.

Start with some limited self-help approaches before you overwhelm yourself. Decide on one goal in each area of your life, such as relationships, fitness, or career, and pursue it over the long-term.

#3 Have realistic expectations

We live in a world where many things seem like they’re at our fingertips. One click and you can order a new outfit or find a new relationship, while numerous tutorial sites and explainer articles claim to turn people into “experts” in just 15 minutes. Just remember that fundamental changes don’t happen overnight. To really develop new habits and make progress, you need to be patient and take things slow.

Even goals related to fitness, like muscle growth or reaching your feel-good weight, take time and go hand in hand with a lifestyle change. Your body and brain need to adapt and build new habits slowly, so don’t tax your mental health by stressing yourself out too much and enjoy the journey.

#4 Self-acceptance

Accept yourself as you are, with all your weaknesses and strengths. Because they make you unique! Accepting yourself doesn’t mean that you can’t still work on things, but that you are at peace with yourself in the process. If you have a healthy relationship with yourself, you can recognize your own value regardless of external success.

Want to do something for your fitness and physical health? Great! Do your workout because it’s good for you, you enjoy it, it calms your mind, and you feel better afterwards. Not because you want to live up to a certain physical ideal. Replace “have to” with “want to” and ask yourself what you really want.

Our tip: Want to learn more about self-esteem? Then read our article about how to love yourself!

#5 Take a break

Constant self-improvement and tracking can be exhausting. No one can be focused on performance all the time throughout their lives. A balance between effort and rest is essential for your mental and physical well-being. It’s not for nothing that your body builds muscle on rest days. Or that your creativity increases when you take time off from a project and get a different perspective. If you are balanced and well rested, you’ll have all the more energy to pursue your goals. Moderation is key!

Our tip: Keep your body in balance with some self-care and treat yourself to a little time out with a cup of organic tea and a book. Our soothing natural ingredients calm your mind and bring some relaxation into your stressful everyday life.

Check out our Evening Relax Tea now
A white woman with dark brown hair smiles contentedly at herself. Her hand is touching her hair, as if she's just tucking her bangs away from her face and giving herself an intimate smile.
©Sam-Edwards

#6 Don’t constantly compare yourself to others

Social media, articles, and books bombard us with perfect images every day. Visual stimuli have a huge impact on our thoughts, and we don’t always realize how big it is. Even though we know that the photos don’t always reflect reality 100 percent, we can’t avoid comparing ourselves to them every time.

Ask yourself: what would be the best version of you? Measure your changes in comparison to some previous point in time. Maybe you’ve gotten stronger at an exercise, built up more stamina, taken advantage of more opportunities, gotten rid of bad habits, or learned a new skill. This reflection helps build up your self awareness, while focusing your mind on what’s good for you.

Our tips: Find more ways to get some off-screen time in our article Digital Detox – 12 tips for a more analog life.

#7 Think beyond yourself

The trend toward self-improvement is all about the self. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting to work on yourself, after all, you are the main character in your own life. But sometimes a change in perspective can help you see the big picture and not let the little things in your everyday life get to you.

Instead of asking “what can I do for myself?” think about what you could do for others. The experience of helping another person or doing something good for your community can also make you a little happier yourself.

#8 Nobody’s perfect

This sentence is as simple as it is true. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect all the time and, if we’re honest with ourselves, it can’t be. Ninety-five percent can be more than enough and often makes you much happier than trying to somehow make more possible. The perfect is the enemy of the good.

If striving for self-improvement puts you under too much pressure, limits you, or constantly gives you a guilty conscience as soon as you cheat once, think about whether or not you might be taking self-improvement too seriously. Because it might make you better at one thing, but you probably won’t be the best overall version of yourself that you can be.

Conclusion

  • Self-improvement is about continuous development that aims to bring personal qualities and abilities to the next level.
  • Self-improvement spurs on personal growth and can help you improve your performance, meet new challenges, and be more satisfied with your life overall.
  • The lines between meaningful self-improvement and obsessive optimization are sometimes blurry.
  • Find your own balance by setting goals that make sense to you personally and are realistic. Take your time and enjoy the process!
  • Avoid taking on too much at once and putting yourself under pressure.
Article sources
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  • 1https://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/Selbstoptimierung

  • 2https://www.bpb.de/gesellschaft/umwelt/bioethik/311818/selbstoptimierung

  • 3Myers, David G. (2005): Psychologie, Heidelberg: Springer 2005.

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