BETTERING YOURSELF – a healthier perspective

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I have always enjoyed reading and learning about different aspects which contribute to our personal development: motivation, consistency, passion, grit, being prepared to face and learn from failures, accepting that we make mistakes, etc. I think this list can be endless as personal growth is a multifaceted, lifelong process. However, we aren’t perfect creatures and we can’t adhere to all these hundreds of rules and meet all the requirements all the time because we wish to grow successfully throughout our life. There are thousands of pieces of advice out there on the internet, TV, in magazines – each tells us something different:

– “To be able to improve yourself you MUST get up at 4am!”

– “To achieve success you HAVE TO sleep for 7-8hrs a day and be ready and prepared, ahead of your competition, all the time”

– ”To change your habit for a better one you NEED TO eat healthier/meditate and exercise more/be more confident/ work when others sleep”

There are LOTS of pieces of advice as to what we should do and what we must do, and what we definitely should not be doing, to make sure we are better human beings. BETTER … but what does it really mean?

When is the moment when you know that now you are good enough? Nobody seems to be talking about that …

Where are the boundaries to make sure that we are not getting trapped into perfectionism?

We aren’t and can’t be PERFECT but on the other hand humans have this inner drive and desire towards bettering themselves constantly.

To tackle this problem, I believe that allowing ourselves time to reflect, review and consider our values, goals and plans is crucial. Otherwise it’s easy to forget what we wanted to achieve and what we are really aiming for, and stress too much about the process and try to do more and better, and faster.

It’s important to take care of your personal development indeed, but it shouldn’t mean joining the rat race. Let others be part of it. You don’t need to be better in every single area of your life. Life is not a marathon or a competition. It’s about the journey, the process, the very moments when you are here and now. Let’s enjoy it a bit more.

Kaizen – how to dramatically improve your life?

We know that changing habits such as getting up earlier, stopping smoking or implementing daily meditation or exercising routines is POSSIBLE (but surely not easy). We also know that it takes on average 61 days to change a habit. This is only an average, though, because it can actually vary from 18 to 254 days(!) depending on the individual. Many people get frustrated if they can’t get used to new habits quickly and then give up on them.

The Kaizen approach is used in companies such as Toyota and Ford but can also be applied in personal life.

So, what is it exactly?

It is often called a Japanese technique for improving the quality of life and work; however, as a matter of fact, the theory was created and first used in the USA. The main point of it is to make small changes. You can make little improvements in ANY area of your life.

Trying to take big ambitious steps to improve our lives may be a good idea sometimes but, according to science, most people don’t really know how to stick to their goals in the long-term. Many of us tend to get easily discouraged, change plans and give up on aims when we meet too many obstacles.

If you want to achieve something, try to focus on breaking the goal up into lots of little steps, for example:

  • If you want to start to exercise, why not do 1-2minutes of exercise today, and then add an additional minute every day instead of signing up for a gym and paying upfront to a fitness coach for a few hours of intensive training?
  • If you want to read more daily, set up a low target and add to it a page a day or every other day until you reach your upper target. One page doesn’t take much to read so this small change shouldn’t require too much effort, even if you are busy.

What’s interesting is that the Kaizen technique doesn’t have an end point, last step or final target. It is a continuous development and improvement of ourselves and our lives. For example, if you want to read 30 pages a day and, after making some small changes, you finally reach your goal, after let’s say a few weeks, then this process or aim doesn’t need to end right there. The next step in your personal development in this area could be learning how to do speed reading. The next steps all depend on our needs and ideas.

The Kaizen approach was first used in industries in the depression era in the USA because making greater improvements simply wasn’t an option. The Americans started to look at how little changes in various areas and departments could be made, and realised that, although they took small steps, they eventually added up and had a bigger impact in terms of bettering their businesses. So, they looked at how to make improvements in money, time, material waste, resources and policies.

William Edward Deming (an American engineer, professor and management consultant; 1900- 1993) is believed to be the Father of the Kaizen approach. He was known for introducing and teaching this method.

The result of implementing Kaizen wasn’t just bigger productivity. It also eliminated hard work and taught everyone in an organisation how they could constantly improve themselves and the things around them; and how the work they were doing could be more rewarding.

It was a very successful strategy and after the Second World War, when the Japanese needed help in maintaining their factories and industries, a group of American business advisors was sent to Japan to teach the Japanese how to make improvements there.

The Japanese gave a name to the approach: KAIZEN where KAI means GOOD in Japanese and ZEN means CHANGE. So, KAIZEN literally means good change, but more generally it is understood as a CONTINUING IMPROVEMENT. The Japanese expanded the theory further making it somewhat into an art of living and working.

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best, aren’t they? Small changes are more manageable than huge steps, and although they may seem tiny and meaningless at first, they do add up and lead to great improvements.

If you want to try Kaizen in your private life or at work, look at an area (or areas) which you’d like to improve and think what could be the SMALLEST possible change that you could make to create a little difference, especially if done consistently and expanded further step by step in the future.

Kaizen can be applied to various bad habits, for instance, you can decide to waste a little less time watching TV or on social media every day until you reach a goal that you feel happy with.

Are you going to try to implement this approach in your life?

Self-talk and your well-being.

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Human beings have a tendency to negative thinking, especially about themselves. We are often afraid to do something—for instance, to change a job or start a business idea—because we feel that someone else out there is better than us or that we may not deserve to succeed, or … well, we surely can always find a different excuse.

We may not even notice how much negative talk we keep in our head on an everyday basis. Sometimes we don’t feel confident, good enough, smart enough, quick enough, clever enough, fit enough, beautiful or powerful enough … we just can so easily find a variety of drawbacks depending on the area of life, or of a discipline, that we are thinking of. Actually, we are super-creative when it comes to self-pitying and finding excuses.

We never will be ‘enough’ because there ALWAYS will be someone better at something; someone more beautiful, more powerful, richer, fitter or more skilled. It’s easy to compare ourselves with others and some people’s advice is that we don’t do it at all.

However, if you focus on your strengths and positive traits, and if you start to accept and love yourself more, then comparing yourself to someone who is better should be an inspiration, rather than a problem, frustration or disappointment.

Everyone has to start somewhere.

If you can’t achieve the same or better results, then maybe it’s not what you should be doing. Do what you love, where your strengths can be used, not what you’re supposed to do or what may give you slightly more money.

Love yourself because no-one has the same unique mixture of knowledge, skills, talent, grit, ideas and experience that you have!

Be proud of who you are. You never know who has been looking at you and wishing they were you!

What discourages (instead of motivating) us in the field of personal development?

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We know that one of the problems is of course our time usage. I don’t like to use the phrase ‘time management’. Time management used to be SO important for around a decade or so, and yet it’s vital to realise that THIS IS MORE crucial in terms of physical work (especially for example with targets in a factory) but in most jobs, such as admin or management, time isn’t as important as other aspects, such as:

  • being innovative
  • having creative ideas
  • managing stress
  • team building
  • or having great interpersonal/presentation skills

I think the term ‘self-help’ books is quite damaging as well because it seems like there is something wrong with people who read about goal setting, productivity and well-being and they NEED HELP! They need improvements in their life, like everyone does in some areas, but it sounds like they have some diseases, maybe mental health problems, and need help with this. What’s more, it suggests that the problems may be so sensitive and embarrassing that people don’t want to speak to their doctors about it and they prefer to help themselves on their own… SELF- help books… Who created such an unsuitable name tag for these great titles about personal growth, strength and motivation?! I’m glad that this has changed and publishers have started to refer to this section rather as ‘self-development’ now.

Similarly, I believe that we should find a new name for life coaches! What a discouraging wording! I think it suggests they can teach you… how to live your own life properly! So they basically seem to know everything about “how to live a happy life” and can teach everyone the same or similar techniques no matter where they come from, what situation they are in, or what they problems are. It’s like measuring everyone with the same scale.

Many people have started to make big money out of this business and unfortunately there are some so-called ‘gurus’ out there who learn all the secrets of a fulfilling, healthy and happy life on a short online course and then they are certified and ready to tell you how you should work, bring up your children, achieve your goals and build your relationships.

I was really put off by the term life coach for a long time. It sounded like people trying to get rich at the expense of whoever would be willing to pay to get advice from such modern fortune-tellers. “The concept of ‘life coaching’ barely existed 30 years ago. But by 2012, it was a $707 million business in the U.S., according to the most recent figures from the International Coach Federation (ICF).” (read more here).

It sounded like a scam and deceiving people. However, if I’m against something I like to know what it really is. How can I be against life coaches if I haven’t watched a few videos and read some books about them and written by them? I thought they were people who pretend to be psychologists. While getting familiar with the topic I’ve realised that some so-called life coaches are actually great and charismatic people who make some thought-provoking and interesting speeches. I have a few favourite ones now. I don’t treat them as my ‘gurus’ and specialists about everything but it’s motivational to listen to some of their speeches or read some books.

So, yes, it looks like the name is quite unfortunate and may put many people off rather than encourage them to learn something from, for instance, good and experienced productivity and time-management experts.

I’d recommend we dig deeper to see whether we like someone and their opinions rather than focusing on the name that may not always be chosen accurately and wisely…

How to stay more productive? And why time-management isn’t the right answer.

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Nowadays we receive 5 times more information on a daily basis than just a few decades ago. We are expected to juggle many different roles and responsibilities and we constantly feel that we should be more productive.

There is a bit of a paradox here that people believe in. We feel we should work more and faster in order to be more productive. If you are a factory worker that’s probably the case but in most other jobs in order to be more productive we need to SLOW DOWN!

When did time start to matter to people SO MUCH? I find history quite fascinating so let’s just go through a few interesting facts:

  • In 1275, the first mechanical clock was invented in England. The oldest working clocks usually did not have any face and told the time by striking the hours.
  • Pocket watches started to be produced in the 16thcentury but showed only hours. Minute hands were added to the clocks in the 1680s. Then the second hands were added around 10 years later.
  • Mass production of watches started in the 19th century and was related to industrial changes.
  • The first wrist watches were wore by women and often used rather as a piece of jewellery than a device to measure time.

Apparently before people used watches If they wanted to tell how long something may take they would describe it by giving an example of an activity that was well known e.g. “like eating a banana”, so then everyone knew that they meant a very short period of time.

Time management used to be crucial in the industrial economy but nowadays, in the knowledge economy (when we use our knowledge to create values and products), it is ONLY ONE OUT OF A FEW important factors which can improve our effectiveness, productivity and work-life balance.

Actually managing your energy and tasks is a lot more important than time-management. Instead of worrying about passing hours and days and how we can squeeze more tasks into small blocks of time, we need to divert attention into more significant aspects, more innovative techniques and solutions which can help in achieving optimal productivity.

We feel most productive when we do a lot of things and work longer hours. Many people think then that to accomplish more you need to put more effort in, sleep fewer hours and work additionally at weekends, to be always ahead of competition! There is a bit of truth in it. Nothing that’s great comes easily and if you want to have exceptional results you need to put a lot of work and energy into whatever you are doing – writing a book, working on your business plan or creating a project for your university course or work. However, working more hours won’t make you more productive. Studies found that we should work, ideally, 35-40 hours a week in order to achieve the best results. Working more than that may work for very short periods of time—for example, a few days—but in the long-term working a lot will make you exhausted and depressed and you are at high risk of burnout. To be more productive focus on slowing down MORE!

Remember about regular breaks and getting 7-8 hours of sleep everyday as well. We all seem to know these simple rules but they are neglected by SO many of us!

Time usage is vital in our lives (that’s why we all keep looking at watches, and the most popular word in the English language is…time!) so I don’t want to say that this is not important but there seem to be other more crucial factors which can decide how effective, productive and successful we are. Focus on managing your energy levels and attention and consider how you can avoid distractions. Also, focusing on the right tasks seems a straightforward rule but is often neglected by many people who instead of spending some time on reflection, prioritising, planning and reviewing try to do more tasks and take work home.

What do you do to boost your productivity?

 

New releases in the field of self-development!

What hot new releases will be discussed this year in the media? Here are a few noteworthy new books related to self-development which will be released very soon (and can be pre-ordered):

  1. Crushing It! – by Gary Vaynerchuk (famous motivational speaker). It will be released on 30th January 2018 but can be pre-ordered (available here).

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2. The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win –by Jeff Haden. This book will be published on 9th January 2018 and of course can be pre-ordered (available here)

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3. The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store – by Cait Flanders. The book will be released on 16th January 2018 and can be pre-ordered here

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4. Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Never-Ending Battle with Stuff – by Dana K. White. It will be published on 27th February and can be pre-ordered here

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5. Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More by Morten Hansen. The book will be published on 30th January 2018. It can be pre-ordered here

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Any titles in this genre that you’ve read and  would recommend? Please comment below.

MY project and YOUR goals

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I recently wrote about creating and doing a Personal Growth project in 2018. There are a few reasons for that and the main one is that I’ve been passionate about positive psychology-related topics for around 16-17 years, have a degree in psychology, and yet I haven’t really ever shared this knowledge much and used it in practice.

My idea is to keep the plan for the project open and flexible during the year because while I’m learning new things I know that I will need to update and review it. At the moment I have two lists: one with goals and another one with productivity tips and techniques, and lots of notes 😉 I tried to simplify it as much as I can but at the same time I know that it will be a great challenge.

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Thank you for your comments and feedback regarding my previous blog posts. I’ve received some great advice. I also read quite a lot of blogs to find out what people think about setting goals up (particularly for the New Year) and that was a VERY interesting experience. Fantastic to see a large diversity and variation in this topic:

  • Some bloggers don’t believe in New Year’s resolution at all. Looks like they think that the time when everyone feels a lot more motivated than usually won’t make the goals, for example, any more achievable. I partly agree. On the other hand, start of a new year feels like a nice special moment to start something new, work on changing old habits or creating some new ones.
  • Some of you believe that focusing on one new goal rather than a few is better because many aims and plans will make it difficult or impossible to achieve them
  • and then some of you have lists of goals varying from a few items on the list to around 20 or more.
  • There are people who focus very specifically on things which you can measure – e.g. reading 75 books, doing stretching every morning.
  • And there are people who concentrate more generally on positive traits and emotions, and are planning, for instance, to appreciate life more or worry less.

It would be great if you could add anything that you believe I’ve missed here (please comment below) or if you are willing to start a discussion about it below this blog post! 🙂

I don’t think that there are right and wrong answers about these personal development plans because everyone is different and something that is challenging for one person may be a lot easier for another.

The important thing is not what WE WANT but how we are going to achieve it:

  • Do you have any plan? Do you have a GOOD and SPECIFIC action plan?
  • Are you flexible in your approach and open to accept that you may need to change your strategy?
  • How much effort are you willing to put in chasing your dreams?

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Happy New Year Everyone! 🙂