Improve Yourself–Starting Now

Home improvement is big business these days. If a trip to your local Home Depot or Lowe’s store doesn’t convince you (as a group, home improvement retailers rang up an estimated $197 billion in sales last year), just check out the latest edition of TV Guide.

From hit television shows such as Trading Spaces to entire cable networks like Home and Garden Television, the airwaves are full of programming geared toward helping people with little or no construction experience transform their kitchens, bedrooms and backyards into the living spaces of their dreams.

There’s nothing wrong with making your home more livable, inviting, attractive or efficient. But while you’re working on that—or at least learning how to do it by watching television or reading magazines—don’t neglect another area that could always use a little improvement: yourself!

I’ve talked previously about some misconceptions people have about success that keep them from achieving their full potential. I’ve stated that the secret to success doesn’t lie in some mysterious formula that can only be known by a chosen few. It is determined by your willingness to improve yourself—every day, starting today.

In my life, I choose daily to improve in several key areas: intellectually, physically, relationally and spiritually. These daily improvements aren’t necessarily huge; taken individually, they may seem rather minor. But as I once heard a teacher explain, “Daily goals are reached by doing things that may be uncomfortable at first but eventually will become habits. And habits are powerful things.  Habits turn actions into attitudes, and attitudes into lifestyles.”

You may classify areas of potential improvement differently than I do. But the categories you choose to work on aren’t nearly as important as your overall commitment to improve. Are you improving every day? Have you developed the daily discipline to say, “I’m working in these areas have a clearly defined target—a way to know when you’ve achieved your desired result?

Whether you want to hone your public-speaking skills, become a better listener, lose weight, get more organized or advance in some other way, here are some insights about improvement that will help to guide you as you grow.

1. Don’t be afraid to admit you were wrong. Acknowledging your mistakes proves you’re wiser today than you were yesterday. If you never admit you’re wrong, you’re saying, “I’m not growing; I’m not wiser.”

2 . You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. This is a huge concept to grasp. People always tell me, “I’m going to make some major changes.” My response to that is simple: Certain aspects of your life might need a significant overhaul, but I don’t need to know about those big changes. I’m more interested in the minor change you plan to make today. Personal improvement starts when you change something you do daily—a routine, a habit, a way of working or interacting with other people.

Did you make any New Year’s resolutions this year? More importantly, have you kept them? I once heard an amazing statistic about such annual goals: 91 million Americans make a New Year’s resolution each year, and—here’s the startling part—70 million of them break those commitments by the end of the first week.

I can’t point to a scientific study that explains why so many people fail in this regard. But if I had to make an educated guess, I’d say it has something to do with the measurability—or lack thereof—of the resolutions. Let’s say your goal is to read more books about leadership and career development this year. Which resolution are you more likely to keep: “I’m going to read more this year than I read last year,” or “I’m going to read two chapters every day”?

When you attach a measurement to an intention, you’re not just blindly shooting for some ambiguous goal. You have a real way to gauge your progress, which makes it much more likely that you will actually have some progress to gauge.

This is a key principle to remember as you start tackling your self-improvement projects. You cannot manage what you cannot measure. If growth in a certain area is essential to your success, you have to find a way to measure your improvement in that area. Otherwise, you won’t improve.

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