I don’t know about you guys, but I’m starting to feel overwhelmed with the amount of self-improvement advice out there. On the one hand, it feels like everyone is saying all the same things – eat your veggies, go to the gym, start investing, stop looking at your phone etc. But on the other hand, it feels like there’s more disagreement in this space than ever. Should I eat veggies as part of a keto, paleo, vegan or vegetarian diet? Should I box, swim, HIIT, lift, or run at the gym? How much and with who do I invest? There are endless factions under every piece of seemingly straightforward advice.
If we zoom out a little bit – it’s quite possible that all of these things are just trends. When you look at human habits on a macro level, tips for wellbeing go in and out of fashion pretty quick. And while we might have a teeny tiny bit more science on our side nowadays – don’t forget that there was actually a time not too long ago where we thought bathing regularly was unhealthy, who knows what the state of self improvement will look like in the next decade or so.
Which brings me to my next and main point – we aren’t doing enough thinking for and about ourselves. The main way to see if any of these tips and habits hold any water for you are to try them for yourself and then diligently analyze yourself to see your responses.
We hate to admit it but actually we love it when people tell us what to do.
‘Best of’ listicles litter the web telling us what the best music, books, restaurants, bars, vacation spots, superfoods, fashion, and on and on is. And many of us take these listicles and run with them –“this must be what’s popular, and would it be popular if it wasn’t good? No, so let me try it too”. But then our questioning stops. I’m not going to penalize people for being taken in by endless articles and amazing advertising, but I will fault you for not thinking for yourself after the fact. We are constantly trying new things without honing in on the problems those new things are supposed to fill in the first place. And then, once we’ve tried the new thing, we don’t ask ourselves if this thing or action is actually making us happier, better, healthier, more productive, etc, we just keep going.
I used to fall prey to this all the time. I would ravenously consume content related to health, success, and travel, and try and accumulate as many of the items or habits that content dictated I should implement. But I only really did it because those articles said to. I didn’t think about if they would provide tangible value to me, and I didn’t spend that much time reflecting afterwards. As a result, I spent a lot of money on things I didn’t need or even want that much, and new, seemingly exciting, habits fell flat.
Nothing about your life should be automatic. You shouldn’t be solely reactive to all the inputs of your life because you will almost certainly end up, at least partway, down a path that you didn’t want to be on and that’s because you didn’t choose not to be on it.
It’s exhausting though – to constantly be asking yourself if every choice you’re making is the right one. And then to ask yourself again after you made a decision if you would do it again. Everything from what you’re eating for breakfast to what you wear to the work you do to your relationships. The bright side of this is that some of these questions have consistent answers. A simple example – I will only buy high-waisted jeans now because they make me feel the best. Boom – now I don’t even have to look at most other cuts of jeans because I answered that particular question for myself. Now I will never waste time trying on different fits or buying a pair of a different cut online just in case – because I already have analyzed myself enough to know that I won’t feel as good in those as I would in high-waisted ones.
We don’t like to spend time with ourselves lots of the time because we’re afraid we’ll uncover or spend too much focus on our failures and flaws. But while those are there, the exercise of examining ourselves and examining how our choices are affecting us can consistently lead us to uncover our real wants and needs and ultimately make our lives so much clearer.