Self Improvement is a huge subject and figuring out where to start and what to focus on can be a pretty daunting task. Here’s a simple process for deciding which areas to place your attention on and then getting started right away.
When I first encountered personal development I was given a list of books to read and told what I needed to improve to get better at the job I was doing at the time. This 5 step process will give you a clear idea of what you need to work on and help you get into action – today.
Step 1. Take stock of your life
On a blank sheet of paper, or better still, in your journal, write down these 10 life areas.
- Career / job / business
- Finances / money
- Relationship / love
- Family / friends
- Home / surroundings
- Health / fitness
- Learning / growth
- Spirituality / knowing your Self
- Contribution / community
Next, consider each area in turn and give it a score, from 0 to 10. Zero being the absolute worst, can’t possible go on living like this another day. And ten represents everything is awesome in this area of my life, I wouldn’t change a thing as I can’t imagine anything better.
Be very honest – nobody but you need ever see this list, and you have to be clear about where you are before you can figure out how to get where you want to go!
And do NOT start beating up on yourself if you scored very low in several areas. You should be congratulating yourself here as you’ve just taken the first major step towards the life you want to live. Once again, you have to know where you’re starting from before you can get going.
Step 2. Create some clarity
Now go back and review your list. You’re looking for three areas to start working on. Does anything jump out at you/? See which areas you feel motivated to do something about right now.
Then ask if that’s practical.
You might score low for career and finances because you hate your crappy low-wage job. But to get a better job you need some new skills, so maybe learning should be a current priority for you.
Or perhaps you have the skills but aren’t using them, Getting a new job or starting a business on the side could be your next move towards earning more money, both in the career area.
Maybe you score low for contribution but you’re really focussed on earning money to support your family and just not bothered about community right now.
Pick three areas that you want to improve and that seem like a priority for you at this stage of your life.
Step 3. Set your goals
Once you have your three areas pinned down it’s time to set some goals – SMART goals.
SMART stands for:
- Specific – you’re very clear about exactly what you want
- Measurable – there’s a way to tell when you have achieved it
- Attainable – this is something you could actually achieve
- Relevant – you know why you want to have this
- Time bound – you’ve put a date on when you will have it
What do you want?
- You might want more money
- You may want to lose weight
- Perhaps you’d like a new job
- Or maybe you just need a vacation
Understand that none of these are goals – they’re not SMART – these are just wishes.
And besides, I could give you $1, and then you’d have ‘more’ money. Is that what you wanted? Probably not, but you weren’t specific!
For that matter I could give you $1 billion. That still wouldn’t satisfy the goal if the goal is ‘more’ – you’d still want ‘more’, so it’s never attainable.
Here’s a SMART goal:
I want to lose 20 pounds by August 18th 2017 because I’m going on holiday in 2 months time and want to look good on the beach.
It’s specific. 20 pounds is measurable, and it’s attainable in 2 months. You know why you want it, it’s directly relevant to your life, and the start of your holiday puts a definite date on it.
Do this with all your goals.
Step 4. Take action on your goals
Now that you have some goals you need to get into action, and you need to do it fast, while the motivation to change is still there. If you wait for the ‘right time’ when you feel ‘ready’ you’re quite likely to end up talking yourself out of it.
Do one thing, one action, that gets you started in the direction of each of your goals. Do it today. Do it Now!
Buy a book, find a training program, buy some running shoes, enroll in an online class, go to the store and buy some healthy food or drop and do as many pushups as you can, right now.
It’s not so much about what you do, the important thing is that you do it. By taking action immediately on your new goal you send a message to your subconscious that this is something you’re serious about; it’s not just an idea – you’re actually doing this.
Step 5. Track your progress
It’s easy to get discouraged when your goal seems a long way off and your daily actions don’t seem to be getting you any closer. You are getting closer of course, if you’re sticking to your plan, but we often focus on what we can’t do, or haven’t yet done, rather than seeing the progress we’ve made.
Tracking your progress can turn that round and help you see that you are, in fact, inching ever closer to your goal, which is far more encouraging.
You could use an online or mobile app for this; there are many, especially for fitness goals. Or just draw up a chart and tape it to the wall. Spreadsheet geeks, feel free to play around in Excel or wherever. It doesn’t matter how – the important thing is that you do keep track, and in a way that works for you so you keep doing it.
Once you’ve reached your goals, or you feel as though you’ve really got a grip of the particular area(s) you were working on, repeat the process. Take stock of your situation, choose what to focus on next, set some goals, start gathering the information you need and get into action.
And one last thing – remember to celebrate your successes – even the small ones. It’s human nature, or maybe a product of social conditioning, to beat yourself up for all the things you don’t do, or do badly.
Recognize and celebrate your achievements at every step and you’re on a winner.
What you should do now
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