Self improvement or self development as its also known, is key to improving the quality of your life. Jim Rohn said it best when he said “You can have more than you’ve got, because you can become more than you are. The other side of this coin is unless you change what you are, you’ll always have what you got.”
#1 Emotional Intelligence
One way to improve yourself and your results is improving your Emotional intelligence. Emotional Intelligence is seen as a predictor of highly successful people. Individuals that are high in Emotional Intelligence tend to be emotionally balanced, in tune with their gut instinct. They have an innate ability to listen, empathise, creatively problem-solve, and understand the why behind the actions of others. Gary Vaynerchuk is a strong advocate of Emotional Intelligence, he believes it to be one of his greatest strengths, and key to his success.
One way of tapping into your Emotional Intelligence is to give gratitude for what you already have. Lets call it an appreciation perspective. If you live a life of striving, it’s really easy to get lost in that striving. You are always looking to the future to find happiness, and as a result you are internally torn between where you are now and where you want to be.
This can lead to negative emotions, even chronic negative emotions such as anger, frustration, despair. Such emotions can adversely impact the quality of your life, even ruin it. While motivation is indeed key to driving action, you shouldn’t allow it to get out of control.
I recommend using gratitude to help you gain perspective. We can all benefit from remembering we are here by the grace of god. Our lives can be cut short at any moment, that alone is worth a great deal of gratitude. If you are healthy, mentally and physically, again you have a great deal to feel blessed about. If you find it hard to internalise such gratitude simply by thinking about it, do a few weeks volunteering at a local kids cancer unit, hospice, or care home to gain some much needed perspective.
Another way of managing Emotional Intelligence is by managing Stress. Stress is caused by a fear of “a future potential devaluation in your sense of self”. You might fear there is a gap in your ability and the requirements of a future event, in other words you might fear you aren’t going to be strong enough, smart enough, wealthy enough, or good enough to cope with something that might (or might not) happen sometime in the future. Often the worry is greater than the actual event. Stop telling yourself stories and embellishing the downsides and worst case scenarios, instead be aware of the risk and try to mitigate it as much as possible, there are always ways around obstacles. Worry and fear are thoughts and only exist in your mind. When the event comes round you will either find you can deal with it much better than you anticipated, or that it doesn’t turn out to be half as bad as you thought it would be. This happens ninety nine times out of a hundred.
Become Self Aware
Another way of improving Emotional intelligence is by being Self aware. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses. Knowing what you like to do and don’t like to do. Instead of burying your head in the sand and trying to ignore these things, be honest and open with yourself. Confront them head on and work out the best way to either overcome them or find a work-around solution.
Something that is closely related to self awareness is self reflection. Honestly auditing yourself, your thoughts, your actions, your performance, your results good and bad. Stand up to them. There is no failure in life, failure is a chance to learn something, make yourself better and move on.
Work on self first then observe others
To improve emotional intelligence you need to work first on yourself. Once you open yourself up to honest analysis, you will see with greater clarity what shapes the actions of other people around you. You will understand their motives better. You will pick up on the subtle signals and be able to read between the lines. You should as a result be more empathetic, more open to communication, by listening better you learn much more. Empathy is one of the greatest skills you can develop in your personal and business life.
Develop a Feedback Loop
As part of your growth, you should be open to, even encourage constructive criticism from people you trust. Encourage a feedback loop that helps you improve your game. Now this part comes with a caveat. You should have a strong sense of what you are about, who you are, what you want. Otherwise you can easily be manipulated into following other peoples agendas, or take on their insecurities and fears.
Its also important to understand that you are not going to get on, or be liked by everyone you meet, there will always be haters. “Haters gotta hate” as the saying goes, and it’s important to not let these people chip away at your self-esteem simply because they don’t want you to get on in life, or want to bring you do a peg or two. Ignore the views of these people, they don’t understand you and their opinion isn’t relevant, they probably have their own internal issues shaping their view.
Encourage honest, constructive feedback from people you genuinely trust and respect. Close family are not usually good for this because often they project their own fear and insecurities onto you and what you are trying to do, they don’t want you to get hurt so tell you not to do it. Instead of turning to family, try to find mentors or role models that have done what you want to do and encourage them to share their experience, and advice with you.
Assume the Best in Others’
Assuming the best in others is another way of improving your emotional intelligence. The human condition is driven by the need to avoid pain and desire to be more. This condition makes people irrational, isolated, and selfish. Most people operate in this mode almost unconsciously. It is their self preservation instincts that are ruling their behaviour, and we shouldn’t mistake this to be who they are. People are good at heart, they are possessed by their Ego’s, for more about this check out my wellbeing guide.
Become a Giver
One last point about emotional intelligence is one of becoming a Giver. Give back, or just give. The world would be so much better if people were more giving. Giving of their time, their attention, their love, their patience, their understanding. Looking at each of your relationships from a “what can I give to this person” will open up a vastly more expansive life than you currently live.
#2 Having a Strong work Ethic
Having a strong work ethic is also vital when it comes to self improvement. If you’re not willing to invest the time and effort in working on yourself, than you’ll just have to be content with where you are and what you have now. Gary Vaynerchuk advocates “working your ass off” to get what you want in life. “Hustling” your way towards you goal, instead of watching every episode of House of Cards. If you’re not where you want to be, the only way to get there is, to take action, massive action. The maths is simple, there are 24 hours in a day, if you sleep for 8, that leaves 16 hours. If you work 9 of those hours, you still have 7 hours to work on developing yourself.
While having a good work ethic is important, it’s not just about putting the time in but rather it’s about working smart. It’s about being effective rather than busy. Jim Rohn says “Don’t spend major time on minor things”, and this is so true. Success won’t come from hustling 16 hours a day unless you’re doing the right things during that time.
In his book “The One Thing”, Gary Keller offers up a great focusing question that you can ask yourself and keep asking yourself to make sure you’re not wasting your time on unimportant activities. “What’s the one thing you can do now, such by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary”. I’m not going to go into detail about this question here. If you want a detailed explanation, check out the book for yourself below
The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results
#3 Work on your strengths
Focus on developing your strengths rather than wasting time on bringing your weaknesses up to speed. Gary Vaynerchuk advocates “doubling down on your strengths and punting your weaknesses”. It’s good advice, even though it goes against the conventional advice of working on your weaknesses. Why is it good advice? Well because generally your strengths will be the activities you are naturally inclined towards. They are likely to be things you enjoy doing, and as a result will be more willing to do going forward. There is generally a reason why you do what you do and don’t do what you don’t do. It comes back to self awareness and knowing yourself better.
So it’s vitally important to know what you’re good at and not so good at. for instance, not everyone is cut out for business and being an entrepreneur, just because it’s the sexy thing to do at the moment, doesn’t mean you should do it. Be honest with yourself.
Stay in your lane, make your knowledge deep and narrow, rather than wide and shallow. To stand out you should aim to be exceptional at one thing rather than average at a lot of different things.
So there you have it, work hard to improve yourself. Consider it a lifelong project, one that you will never actually finish, but which keeps you pushing yourself to be a better person throughout your entire life. Be a master of what you know and a student of what you don’t know. Never take the view that you know all that you need to know, never. Be open to new ideas, open to new ways of doing things. Don’t be content with doing things the best you can do them, but aim to do them the best way they can be done. Most of all enjoy your personal journey of self improvement.
Check out our Ultimate guides for some self help information.