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Do you feel stuck in a rut?
It can feel frustrating to be stuck in the same place and feel like nothing is changing. When you’re languishing, it feels like you’re not moving forward toward your goals. One of the ways to break this rut is to take action. Making a conscious decision to better yourself can be empowering and motivating.
But self-improvement sometimes gets a bad rap, and for good reason. Our desire to improve ourselves has spawned an industry full of bad hacks that can leave you feeling more frustrated than before. Or, that feel good but don't move you forward.
Working to improve yourself can positively impact your own well-being and your relationships with family, friends, and colleagues. Let’s explore 15 things you can try that will move you forward — get involved in your own well-being and learn how to work on yourself.
What does it mean to improve yourself? Growth
For some people, the idea of improving yourself is motivating. For others, it can be more helpful to think about it as growth. Growth is positive and not always a straight line.
Improving yourself is a very personal journey, and the specifics can change from person to person. It requires putting in the work and being willing to experience discomfort.
Change is uncomfortable. Growth requires stretching past what you know. But every step you take is part of the process toward becoming the best version of yourself.
Behavior change can be a long process, but it doesn’t have to be grueling. In his talk, Atomic Habits, James Clear talks about the power of improving just 1% every day. Improving yourself can be a series of small habit changes, like taking five minutes in your day to be more mindful. Or it can be a more involved process, like overcoming fears.
However, bettering yourself doesn’t mean changing the core of who you are. For example, if you’re an introvert, you shouldn’t aim to become an extrovert.
On the other hand, if you have social anxiety, you can practice learning techniques to get past your discomfort. Eventually you may fully conquer your social anxiety so that you can navigate social settings with more ease.
Why is it so important to learn how to better yourself?
There are several reasons to keep working on yourself.
Every time you improve in one aspect of your life, you can feel more fulfilled as you start achieving your goals. And bettering yourself can help you in every aspect of life.
Bettering yourself can also help you improve your personal relationships, improve your ability to set boundaries, and form closer bonds with the ones you love. Acting to improve yourself is a form of self-care, and if you look after yourself better, you’re more likely to have more to give to others.
Plus, you can develop improvement goals alongside your loved ones. Having their support improves your chances of success, and working together to achieve similar goals can help you bring you closer.
Finally, learning how to improve yourself is a valuable capability to have in a world where you must constantly adapt. Knowing that you have the capacity for change can make you more confident about the future and less afraid of discomfort.
You've been there before. You already have a history of successfully growing and improving yourself — you can do it again.
15 ways to better yourself
Want to learn how to improve yourself and feel better? Here are 15 tips you can implement in your life right away to become your best self.
1. Make time for rest
Before you learn how to be better, it’s important to start with the basics. You need to have your basic needs met before you move on to self-improvement. Part of that is to make time for rest and self-care.
There are many different types of rest. Are there moments in your schedule where you have the opportunity to do nothing and take a break? Those quiet moments of rest can help you decompress and process what happened in your day.
That’s why making time for rest can do wonders for your well-being. Plus, when you’re well-rested, you’ll have more bandwidth to work on the other ways you can better yourself.
2. Read more books
There are books on virtually everything. So, reading more books can help you explore your current interests, but also develop new ones. You can even learn a new skill with a book.
But even getting deeply engrossed in a fiction novel can do wonders for you. The bottom line is that whatever passions you may have (or be curious about), carve out some time to read about them.
3. Start a gratitude practice
One way to learn how to be a better person is by being grateful for what you have.
Practicing gratitude for your current situation can help you avoid feeling bitter about what you don’t have.
You don’t have to feel grateful about huge things, either. Try to notice the small things that make you happy and make you feel grateful.
You can fine-tune your gratitude practice over time. With practice, it gets easier to naturally think of what you’re grateful for. This new perception can change your life for the better.
4. Learn a new language
It’s never too late to learn a new language. Learning how to speak another language helps you think differently and see things around you in a new light. It can also open up doors for you.
You’ll get to immerse yourself in another culture as you learn how another language operates differently from English. Plus, you can travel to places where people speak the language you’re learning.
Learning a second language can do more than help you out during your travels abroad. It can even help you with your career opportunities.
More and more employers in the US are looking for bilingual talent. Currently, surveys show that US employers are struggling to find enough employees who speak languages other than English.
56% of employers report that their needs for foreign languages in the workplace have increased over the past five years. And 1/3 of employers currently don’t meet those needs with their current workforce.
Some of the languages that are high in demand include Spanish, Chinese, and French.
5. Try meditation
Meditation provides you with a great way to slow down in a fast-paced world. Even just a few minutes a day of meditation can help you better yourself and improve your mental health.
A recent study has shown that meditation can improve anxiety, depression, and pain scores, especially during times of crisis.
You’ll also become more aware of your thought patterns. This mindfulness means you can learn more about yourself over time. It can help you spot bad habits that are making a negative impact on your mood and your life.
Meditation can also help you practice mindful breathing and improve your self-awareness.
6. Write in a journal
Journaling is a great way to complement your meditation and gratitude practices. It also makes a great new hobby.
You can write about the things you’re grateful for in your journal. You can also practice how to become more aware of your own thoughts.
Plus, research shows that journaling can improve your well-being and reduce mental distress. The same research shows that participants had increased their resilience after the first two months of continuous journaling.
When you start writing in your journal, do your best not to censor yourself. Write what comes to mind, and don’t judge what comes out.
7. Nourish yourself with healthy foods
It’s easier to live your best life when you feel energized and well-fueled. What you eat has a huge influence on how you feel.
Start watching what you put in your body. Eat a variety of different foods in different colors across all food groups.
Try to eat fresh foods whenever you can. If you don’t have time to cook healthy meals at home, look for other alternatives, like meal kit subscriptions or healthy catering services.
8. Add more movement to your life
While nutrition plays a huge part in how you feel, movement and exercise also have a role to play.
There’s a variety of ways to start moving more. For instance, you can start a new sport and even have a friend join you to spend quality time with them.
If you’re not interested in picking up a sport or joining a gym, you can still find other ways to add movement to your life. For example, you can start taking daily walks.
You can also start an exercise routine from the comfort of your own home. Many free workout routines are available online, which means there’s always something new for you to do if you get bored.
9. Practice kindness toward others
Kindness is one of the best ways to become a better you.
First, it’s free. It doesn’t require much effort to be kind instead of indifferent or unkind.
Second, it can help you feel much better about yourself.
Third, it can improve other people’s lives as well. Showing kindness requires you to become more aware of those around you. By doing so, you’ll notice more of what people need, even when they don’t say it.
For example, you may notice a work colleague is struggling with something you can help with. Or you may see a stranger struggling to open a door with a baby stroller.
Make it a goal to do one random act of kindness every day. If you’ve started journaling, note how it made you feel and how the other person reacted.
10. Spend more time outdoors
If you work in an office (and even if you work remotely), chances are you don’t get to spend a lot of time outside during the day.
Find opportunities in your schedule to spend more time outdoors. If you have access to areas of nature, consider spending time there.
A recent study shows that even a short 15-minute walk in the forest can decrease negative moods like anxiety, fatigue, anger, and depression. In the study, forest walks were more effective than city walks.
They were also more effective in participants who had higher anxiety levels.
With the right clothing, you can take advantage of the outdoors even when the weather isn’t perfect. Consider saving some money to invest in robust outdoor clothing that can protect you in any weather.
If you take up an outdoor activity, make sure you’re well equipped for it. For example, make sure you have good hiking shoes if you begin hiking.
11. Develop a list of goals
If you want to better yourself over time, it’s important to start setting goals.
When you write down specific goals, you can start tracking your progress over time. This is another thing you can journal about.
For example, you can set a goal to walk every day for 30 minutes by the end of the year. You can work up to your goal incrementally.
For instance, if you currently take no walks, you can start with short 10-minute walks three times a week. Every week, you can increase the length of your walks.
And every few weeks, you can add a new walk to your schedule until you reach your daily walking goal.
12. Work to improve your fear of failure
Fear of failure can stop you from taking steps forward to achieve your goals and working on your self-development.
To better yourself, it’s important to find ways to do the difficult things, even when fear is holding you back. That’s why it’s important to work on your fear of failure and ease out of your comfort zone.
To improve this fear, you can start with small things and work your way up to bigger fears. This means you don’t have to start by conquering your fear of public speaking by signing up to give a seminar at work.
Instead, you can work up to that in small increments.
For example, practice public speaking in a private setting to people close to you whom you trust, like your family or spouse.
Over time, you can start practicing in front of more and more people. Every time you speak in front of someone new, you’ll prove to yourself that you can conquer your fear of failure.
Remember that failure will still happen, and that’s okay. Resist the urge to beat yourself up when you fail. Embrace the failure and see it as a necessary stepping stone toward reaching your goals.
13. Limit activities that drain you
Are you noticing that spending too much time scrolling through social media is sapping away at your good mood?
Have you found that spending too much time around negative people chips away at your energy?
Try to notice what fulfills you and what drains you throughout the day. Some activities that drain you may be unavoidable, like updating your budget or grocery shopping.
But there are other factors that you have much more control over.
For example, try deleting social media apps on your phone if you find yourself in a sour mood after too much scrolling. Or try to limit how much time you spend with people who are constantly negative around you.
14. Practice saying no to assert your boundaries
It can be easy to say yes to everyone and everything, even when you don’t feel comfortable. This can be true at work and in your personal life.
Some family members invite you to their home the day you set aside for you-time? You’re allowed to say no and keep that day to yourself.
Your manager asks you to take a look at something while you’re on vacation? You can also choose to say no.
15. Inner work®
Inner work happens when you explore your inner experiences.
Inner work can be even more effective when you combine it with support from a coach and trusted inner circle who can help you reflect and take action.
Bonus tip: Work with a coach
One of the best ways to grow and improve is to get support. By working with a coach, you get someone who can help you see yourself more clearly and who is there to help you succeed. You deserve to have someone in your corner.
Coaches at BetterUp know how to help you unlock your personal and professional growth. They can also help you develop the practice of inner work so that you never stop growing.
A coach can give you a new perspective on self-improvement that you wouldn’t have on your own.
They can also help you with other specific aspects of improvement that can help you thrive in life, like improving your diet and increasing your resilience.
Learn how to better yourself and improve your quality of life
Self-improvement is unique for every person. It’s a highly personal process.
That’s why working one-on-one with a BetterUp coach can help you set specific goals that work for you. See how BetterUp can help you on your journey to better yourself.
Vice President of Alliance Solutions