New Year’s resolutions aren’t my thing. It’s always an appropriate time to make improvements. Why wait until the odometer rolls over? Why not start your resolution on April 18th or September 5th? For me, self-improvement is a slow, ongoing process rather than a highly punctuated one marked by abrupt changes.
The hard part is seeing myself accurately. The mirrors we use are distorted. We don’t see our huge glaring flaws, and we blow out of proportion the very minor flaws that we do see. We wonder if people see us as we see ourselves. Making improvements is arduous if you aren’t certain what the biggest problem areas are.
Sometimes it helps to just ask others what your biggest problem areas are. What do people criticize you for behind your back? This is immensely valuable information. Of course, lots of people won’t be honest, and they may even feel awkward being asked. Sometimes people have a hard time pointing out the flaws of a friend or lover. If you ask them to, they may think you’re setting them up or feel that you’ll pull your friendship away if they say something negative. But eventually some people will start holding up a mirror for you, and seeing oneself clearly becomes a little easier with their help.
Having a plan helps as long as long as the time spent planning doesn’t come at the expense of taking action. It’s tempting to get lost in planning. Trying to figure out the best way to effect change can consume lots of time and resources. Getting caught up in planning is also a rather effective method of stalling. But for real change to happen, you have to actually do something.
Whether we’re talking about improving some aspect of your personality, your appearance, performance, or working on any problem in your life, one question should be asked: If you want to improve this particular area, what are you doing to work towards that end? Are you just running your mouth and saying you want to do it, or are you taking steps to actually reach that goal? If you want to get in shape, have you joined a gym or started doing body-weight exercises at home? If you want to change careers, have you applied to any schools and started saving up? If you want to call Mom more often, have you picked up the phone lately? You may want to learn that instrument, but have you signed up for lessons? Or are you spinning your wheels, thinking, hoping, dreaming of how it could be if you’d only get off your ass and do something? (If my words are abrasive, it’s mostly because this is more a criticism of myself and how I wasted so much time.)
Self-improvement yields a sense of responsibility and empowerment, not fatalism and resignation. It’s easy to fall into thinking, “I’ve always been this way, I’ve always done it that way, everyone else does it this way, it’s just who I am.” No. Fuck no. I control my destiny. Who I am is my choice. I alone am responsible for my actions.