There’s nothing noble in being superior to your fellow men. True nobility is being superior to your former self. – Hemingway
What does that mean?
This quote is also attributed to Elijah Wood, who is a bit younger than the Ernest Hemingway. When I find a quote with multiple attributions, I usually go with the oldest.
This is the quintessential self improvement quote. Tony (the guy who tweeted this) has an acronym for it: CANI or Constant And Never-ending Improvement. To me, that’s what the second half of the quote is all about. It is about working your way to becoming the best possible you and moving towards it each day.
The first half, to me, is a straight forward warning about the problems of pride in excess. We know where that leads, and it’s not good. In my experience, everyone in the world is better at something than I am, and I am better at something than any of them are. If you haven’t guessed it, that something is being yourself. 8)
Why is self improvement important?
It is my conviction that you can only get better or get worse, or in the words of the quote, become superior or become inferior. I believe this because the world is constantly changing, as are all the people around you.
Doing nothing means being left behind, or getting worse. To get better requires effort, and that is what I strive to do. How about you, are you comfortable being left behind, or are you striving to improve yourself?
Where can I apply this in my life?
To me, there is little else that is more important. Each day, each week, each month, I strive to become a better person, a better husband, a better father. I strive to improve my reaction to irritations, and my ability to communicate (which has been sorely tested in the past few days), among many other aspects of my life.
Some of my abilities I am deliberately not trying to increase. Examples include my ability to fly off the handle at the slightest provocation (real or imagined) or my ability to drink great quantities of adult beverages and retain a relatively upright posture. In these cases, I believe that becoming inferior is actually better.
What aspects of your life are you looking to improve? Is it something to do with your health, your emotions (or responses), your mind or intellect, or learn a physical skill? I’m working on my eating habits, my compassion, getting back to learning Japanese and trying (again) to learn juggling, as examples.
Grab some paper and write down the aspects of yourself that you are most interested in improving. Try to include things that will help you in your social life, your personal life and even your work life. Also, take a moment and try some ‘blue sky’ thinking – what would you do if the sky was the limit (that is to say, no limits at all).
Take a moment to prioritize the list and come up with the top three or four items. I would recommend selecting them based on a mix of practicality, fun and usefulness, as that is how I came up with the list I shared two paragraphs prior.
Let’s start by selecting one item (you are encouraged to repeat these steps for each of your top items). Take a moment to brainstorm and come up with a couple of ideas on how to achieve this improvement. For me and learning Japanese, I just need to schedule some time so that I actually practice on a regular basis. Write down the top two or three ideas, so that you have a PlanB, just in case the first one doesn’t work out.
Now try to come up with a compelling reason why you absolutely, positively *MUST* complete this task as part of your self improvement program. The more compelling the reason, the better the results. This is your backup source of motivation, for use when you hit a roadblock, become frustrated, or otherwise run low on motivation.
Next is the plan. Break the task into smaller and smaller chunks, until you have a pretty good idea what you need to do to accomplish the task. Leave most of the plan as an outline, with only some critical details, as flexibility is important, and things will come up that cause complications. Only put details into the first few steps, and then add more details to subsequent chunks as you make progress towards the goal.
Finally, select one of the first few details and select one to do. Do it now. Not later, not after you finish reading this post, do it now. It’s not real in your mind (or in actuality, for that mater) until you take an action. Start building your confidence and your momentum right now.
Self improvement is really that easy. A plan and some repetition. A step here, a step there, little bit each day, and as the weeks go by, you improve. By the end of the year, you will be so much better at it that you will hardly believe that one short year ago, you couldn’t do it. Trust me on that one. 8)