A Dirty Secret About Self-Improvement

A Dirty Secret About Self-Improvement

When it comes to self-improvement, we often get it wrong. We think that there is one “right” thing that we should learn. 

When it comes to self-improvement, we often get it wrong.

We think that there is one “right” thing that we should learn.  But that’s often not the way it works.  In this episode, I share a dirty secret about self-improvement and how you can put it to work for you -- and have some fun along the way!

Welcome back!  I’m glad you are here.

Let’s jump right in!  Today I want to share a bit of a dirty secret with you.

And it’s not about me or anyone else for that matter.

It’s about self-improvement.  And it’s this: It doesn’t matter what you learn.

I know that probably takes some explaining so here goes:

Often, I see people who want to “get better” or “grow” and they put this pressure on themselves to find the “right” thing to learn.  And there are times, when there might be the next “right” thing for you to learn.  I mean, if I want to become better at communicating, for example, then learning more about communication is a good idea.

However, very often, when we say that we want to get better or grow, what we really mean is that we are looking for ways to expand ourselves a bit, maybe push a comfort zone even.  That’s when what we learn becomes less important than that we learn.

Here are a couple of examples:

·       I remember back around 2011 or so, I was feeling like I’d kind of hit a plateau.  Things were going really well, but I was just not feeling as energized as I like to feel.  I fell into the trap of thinking that there had to be some missing ingredient, some 1 thing that I needed to learn.  Well, I couldn’t find it, so I decided to take another cross-country ski lesson instead.  This was early in my skiing and I was completely terrified of anything that resembled a hill.  We were living in Vail, Colorado at the time and there was one hill that I not so lovingly referred to as “my nemesis.”  Every time I went down it, I landed in the snowbank – and I almost had a panic attack at the top of it.  I wanted to take a lesson because I thought that there had to be a better strategy than what I had been doing which was to break out in a cold sweat, pray and then land face down in the snow.

I took the ski lesson, and it did so much more for me than teach me how to go down that silly hill, which I now call, Nemesis No More.  It pushed a comfort zone, which then increased my confidence, which also increased my self-efficacy and that had a carry over effect into other areas of my life.

That’s the value in exposing ourselves to new experiences: it increases our confidence and our self-efficacy in ourselves and that carries over to other aspects of our lives as well.

This is why when someone learns a new language, or takes a cooking class, or takes up dancing, or whatever it might be, there is self-growth.

I’ll never forget when I was in grad school, we had a 2-week residency in Europe.  Part of that time was in Belgium and the other part of the time was outside of London.  We had a choice in how we travelled: we could meet up with the rest of the class and travel as a group or we could travel on our own.  I chose to travel on my own because that to me was part of the learning.

I flew from Chicago, where we lived at the time, to London to Belgium.  I arrived in Belgium and then had to find my way to the hotel.  I had my luggage, and I left the airport, and no one spoke English and I had a momentary flash of panic and then I thought, wait a minute.  If I were in downtown Chicago at Union Station and I didn’t know where to go, what would I do?  And, I thought, I’d head to the nearest taxi stand and talk to a cabbie.  Sure enough, I looked around, saw a taxi stand, and asked a cabbie for help.  The lesson that day wasn’t about how to find my hotel, it was about recognizing the internal signs of fear, and re-directing to a place of calm so I could discover the answer.

So the dirty little secret about self-improvement and growth is that it matters far less WHAT you learn than it does that you learn something new.  I’ll throw in a bonus secret: learning doesn’t always have to be so serious, it can be fun.  What’s a fun thing that you’ve wanted to learn?  Maybe now is the time to dive in.  Who knows where it might lead?

That wraps up this episode!  I hope it was helpful and you have some fun with it!  Before you go, I hope that you’ll hit that subscribe button so that we can stay connected.  I hope you have a great week and that you continue to rise and thrive.

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