There is no point improving yourself if you lose your sense of joy. Self improvement is the act of making yourself better. You can work nonstop and martyr yourself to make a better world, but to improve yourself you cannot lose your sense of joy. You should be happy and optimistic when engaging in self-improvement. You are increasing the likelihood your future will be better than your present.
Cynicism Is The Kiss Of Death
There are a ton of bitter and cynical people in the world. You need to maintain your happiness and positivity to avoid becoming like them. This is particularly true of men who are middle aged and above. So many men 50 years and older walk around scowling in public it is shocking. If you are a man and don’t think this can happen to you, you are naive. Avoid this outcome at all costs.
Self improvement is important for psychological health. People need to work towards their future ideal. Having a conception of your future ideal is vitally important. Jordan Peterson built a very interesting program called the Future Authoring Program. It helps people answer the often neglected question – “What do you hope to achieve in your life and what kind of person do you want to be?” I would highly recommend checking it out.
The Self-Improvement Recipe
Self improvement builds peoples confidence and gives them a sense of optimism. If you’re improving yourself your future will be better than your past. The simplest form of self improvement involves two things: 1) Removing unproductive activities 2) Adding productive activities
The two need to be done together. A lot of people try to get rid of bad habits but don’t replace the bad habit with something productive. This leaves them with far too much free time and likely to ‘relapse’ into their bad habit.
The solution is to always try to add positive to your life when you remove a bad habit. For example if you want to stop watching TV, you can start playing chess on your computer instead. Chess is active instead of passive, and provides entertainment as well as a feeling of accomplishment as your skill and rating improves.
Marginal Benefits and Neuroticism
When adding productive activities to your life there is a marginal benefit to each activity you add. This marginal benefit decreases as you add more activities.
Think about how much pleasure you get from eating a chicken wing. As you eat more chicken wings, with each wing you eat you get slightly less pleasure from it. Eventually the pleasure you get from eating chicken wings becomes negative if you eat enough to make yourself sick.
Think about this with productive activities. As you add more productive activities to your life, the benefit of each incremental activity you add is smaller and smaller. Eventually the benefit of adding productive activities will be negative. You will not have enough energy to work at all these activities and you are at greater risk of making yourself mentally sick.
This occurs because the more productive activities you engage in, the more likely you are to become neurotic. A short exert from the Wikipedia article on Neuroticism.
Neuroticism is one of the Big Five higher-order personality traits in the study of psychology. Individuals who score high on neuroticism are more likely than average to be moody and to experience such feelings as anxiety, worry, fear, anger, frustration, envy, jealousy, guilt, depressed mood, and loneliness.
People with high neuroticism indexes are at risk for the development and onset of common mental disorders, such as mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and substance use disorder, symptoms of which had traditionally been called neuroses.
That doesn’t sound like an ideal way of living does it?
Kratos Guide’s 16 Habits You Should Do Everyday
I read a post on a website a few years ago I still remember vividly. It is the number one post that would maximize both self improvement and neuroticism. It is titled 16 Habits You Should Do Everyday. It was posted on the now defunct site Kratos Guide, which has a ton of interesting content. Unfortunately the site no longer exists. I have tried to contact the website owner with no success. The link provided is a web archive version.
If you followed the prescribed 16 habits everyday you would likely become very neurotic. The other issue is your energy is split between too many different goals. Your energy should be focused on what you believe are the most important things in your life. You should be spending your energy on the 1-5 things that are most important to you.
You should also optimize your morning routine, to maximize your daily productivity.
Spreading Yourself Thin
This is something most people hate to admit. We don’t have unlimited energy reserves and there are only 168 hours in a week. The 16 habits are listed below. The habits I engage in are in daily are in bold.
4. Creative Recreation
6. Reasonable Spending
7. Brain Buster + Current Events
9. Personal Management
10. Project 1, 2 or more times a week
11. Podcast/TED Talk/University Lecture
13. Plan the next day
15. Professional Development
16. Journal + Research
So I do 10/16 of the recommended habits. That looks like a lot but if you deconstruct it I avoid the activities that I feel have low value for me at the moment. Particularly, that would be 7. Brain Buster + Current Events, 11. Podcast/TED Talk/University Lecture, 12. Language. These three activities would likely require 1.5-2 hours of time. This would either spread me too thin, my efforts on things I care more about would be watered down. Also, knowing myself I would become more neurotic and I would sacrifice my social life for all the “productive activities” I was engaging in.
Never Give Up
You will likely spin your wheels a lot on your journey to where you want to be. This is a right of passage that everyone needs to take. Some people figure their life out earlier than others, and some people never figure theirs out. If you find yourself grinding continuously and getting no pleasure from your work it might be a good idea to change your lifestyle or mindset.
I really enjoy Joseph Campbell’s idea of following your bliss. You will know when you are on the right path.
Pathways to Bliss: Mythology and Personal Transformation by Joseph Campbell (Amazon)