I'm aware that everyone, including myself, is probably a little bit of a hypocrite. What irks me the most is when I do something, say wear a chain with my name on it, think it's cool, and then see someone else do it and think it's lame.
So when I hang around self improvement fanatics and find their quest for self improvement to be a little bit annoying and selfish, I'm horrified. Maybe I'm just as self indulgent as they are.
A good chunk of my friends are on perpetual quests for self improvement (Leo Babauta and Sebastian Marshall to name a couple), and I don't find it annoying at all. It's the opposite, actually; it's inspiring.
What's the difference, and how can I make sure I'm on the right side of it? The answer I've come to is that self improvement demands an outlet.
The ones that are the least tolerable are those who are really doing it all for themselves. They improve themselves to bask in their own glory and possibly to impress everyone around them. And, okay, I'm sure we all do that to some extent.
There's another component, though, that not everyone has. They improve themselves to make themselves more effective at creating things for the world around them.
Leo and Sebastian, again, are good examples. All I ever hear Leo talk about, besides his maniacal pursuit of discipline and good habits, is the results he wants to get for his readers. The work he puts into himself isn't just for his own gratification. Sebastian's entire life is running his charity, Give Get Win. Every ounce of focus and productivity he wrings out of his existence is poured into his non-profit.
A reminder to myself, and maybe to you, too, is to make sure self improvement projects benefit those around us. We all want to be admired, but we can do better than that. We can inspire others and use the our skills and understanding to help push them along, too.
Self improvement demands an outlet. It can be a book, a blog, the community surrounding you, a good cause, or any number of other things. Just make sure that it doesn't stop with you. That would be a waste.
Photo is a bald eagle flying near the island. One day it swooped right over us.
I know it's been post-overload recently, but it needed to happen to get back on my Monday - Thursday schedule.
It has been awhile since I've commented. I read these posts in my email. Usually, I have no strong urge to say something in return. Most of the time, I am content to just absorb and consider. But this post really bit. It reminded me of something. A few weeks ago, I was at a place they call the "Lake Shrine" in Los Angeles. A gloriously beautiful oasis of peace in this hectic metropolis, it's the creation of Paramahansa Yogananda (_Autobiography of a Yogi_). On the last visit, there were more than a few people "meditating" on the grounds. "Meditating" in scare quotes because the practice of public displays of holiness was emphatically NOT inspiring. They all had the right poses, the right clothes, the right style of movement, the right expressions of bliss on their faces, but... It seemed egregiously self-indulgent. It was this curiously, er, bourgeois? smugness. I did not believe. I saw through the acting job. So, Tynan, you nailed it. The clue is in one's reach towards others. Self-improvement without helping others is a sham.
I'm trying to write something personal improvement related every Monday and a story every Wednesday. I hope these are interesting to people, because I generally think that most personal improvement articles are relatively useless.
Every couple weeks I scan through lifehacker.com, and inevitably think "Man... this is a lot of useless junk."
Now... I've definitely found some good stuff there, and have had some of my articles featured there, so it's not ALL bad. I just feel like most personal improvement stuff is geared more towards FEELING like something has been accomplished rather than actually taking action.
Leo Babauta has inspired millions through his writing on Zen Habits, where he's shared his experiences in building up great habits, cutting clutter and junkfood from his life, learning about great parenting and building a wonderful family, eliminating debt, increasing his income and productivity, and living a life that's more happy through and through.
Leo is now graciously participating in GiveGetWin with a practical class on "action-oriented contentment", and he sat down with Sebastian Marshall to share his thoughts on what motivates him, around what contentment is, on trusting yourself, on being compassionate and compassion as an impetus for action, on self-compassion and treating yourself well, and happiness in general. Enjoy:
"Practical, Action-Oriented Contentment and Compassion" by Leo Babauta, as told to Sebastian Marshall