This is a guest post for Skills You Need.
Want to contribute? Find out how.
8 Things You Can Do Every Day
to Become Your Best Self
What is it that you want? At the core of it, I believe each one of us wants to live a life rich with meaning and happiness. Chances are that if you’ve come to this site, you know creating such a life has to start with you.
With hundreds of new self-improvement books being published every week, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the vast, ever-expanding arena of self-help teachers, methods, how-to’s and techniques, each promising to be the ‘best’ and shortest route towards personal growth and fulfillment.
A common thread amongst all this searching for happiness is the profound realization that happiness, in fact, really is an inside job. It is our true nature. Joy and contentment lay patiently in wait within each of us, buried under layers of judgements, mistaken beliefs, old hurts, and unfulfilled needs. We do not need to find it, but rather to reveal it, peeling back the barriers one by one to who and what we truly are.
Here are 8 simple things you can do every day to unveil and become your best and most authentic self, and to unearth a little happiness in the process.
1. Where are You? Presence Check
Pay attention to your attention. Where is it? The vast majority of us spend our time lost in the painful memories and regrets of a past we cannot change, or in the worry and stress of an unknown future we cannot control. This ‘dwelling in time’ generates much anxiety, hopelessness, guilt and suffering, and depletes our ability to enjoy the present moment.
Being in the now, being present in one’s life, is a skill like any other, and as such can be practiced and learned. Meditation practices can be incredibly valuable in this regard, but require some time and dedication, and are easy to let slide in a busy schedule.
By simply noticing where your mind is at various points throughout the day, you will train yourself to be in the moment more often. Set triggers for yourself - for example, getting up from your desk, washing your hands, or opening a door. Just notice and become aware of how often your attention is immersed in the past and future. At first, you may be shocked to discover that you spend almost all of your time there.
Do not to berate yourself for not being present. Just notice, become aware, and then move on. Gradually, you’ll find that you’re spending less of your mental energy on the past and future, and dwelling more and more frequently in the present.
2. Quiet the Inner Critic
Using the triggers above, or choosing different ones, begin to notice the quality of your thoughts at any given moment. Most of us have a very harsh inner critic, a constant, bickering voice in our minds that compares us to others and finds us lacking, picks apart our appearance, berates us for our mistakes, and reminds us over and over again that we’re just not good enough.
But even when the narrator inside is saying nice things, it’s still just an audio loop of words. It may even tell you you’re better than others, or make you feel justified for actions you know are not right for you.
The key is to simply notice, become aware, and then remind yourself that you are the listener, not the voice. In this way, you gradually free yourself from the tyranny of the mind. You may even get to enjoy some peace and quiet in there for a change.
3. Making Friends with Fear
Fear has gotten a bad rap. We blame fear for all the things it prevents us from doing with our lives, and try in vain to avoid it or make it go away. But fear is a natural response to the unknown, the uncertainty that makes life the exciting adventure that it is. In good measure, fear acts to safeguard us from making reckless mistakes, and cautions us to think before we leap.
Look back at the times you faced your fears and did the thing anyway. No matter the physical outcome, there is always a wellspring of personal growth, strength and power made available to us when we confront our fears. And once tackled, the fear we once felt seems somehow small, even silly. When we realize the gift that facing our fears grants us, we begin to look at fear with a newfound respect.
Be curious about your fears, and make a point of doing one thing every day that scares you.
4. Stop and Smell the Coffee
You may have been expecting roses. But can you appreciate the coffee in its place?
Gratitude. Finding joy in the little things. Noticing and appreciating all the good in your life right now. The advice may seem trite and a little ‘new age’, but it’s one of the most powerful ways to transform yourself and your life.
By taking the time each day to feel gratitude and joy for all that you have in your life, even if it’s as small and simple as a perfect cup of coffee, the universe amplifies those feelings and sends you more and more reasons to experience your life in this way.
5. Be a Lover, Not a Fighter
Compassion is the highest form of love, and it’s accessible to everyone. You don’t need to love everyone you come in contact with - you don’t even need to like them - but allowing a little space in your heart for compassion and empathy toward even the lowest of the low has the power to radically change the world for the better.
Generating compassion and empathy is simple, but not always easy. It takes diligence and humility to turn off your instinct to judge, criticize and condemn others, and to replace it with forgiveness and acceptance. That doesn’t mean you condone the wrong others may do, or allow them to walk all over you, it’s just an internal adjustment in your thoughts and attitude towards others.
Start small. Instead of flipping them the bird, try sending a silent word of safety to that person who cuts you off in traffic. The woman who rudely shoves her way into line at the coffee shop may be having a really bad day - flash her a genuine smile and see what happens. Practice making little efforts at forming genuine connection with others. Allow a little understanding in your heart for all living things, even those society deems undesirable or unforgivable. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels.
6. Bridge the Integrity Gap
Most of us wear social masks to keep our true selves hidden from others, often without even being aware that we are doing so. Many of us learned from an early age that being ourselves meant possible ridicule, rejection or judgement, and so we began to alter our words and our behaviors to please others. We keep up these social masks and adopt new ones as we get older in order to protect the illusions we have created, and to maintain the status quo.
For some, the gap between who they truly are and who they present themselves to be is so great that they have forgotten what their real dreams, desires and inclinations are. This integrity gap generates anxiety, suffering, and discontent to a degree that matches the level of separation they experience from themselves.
Once you are aware of this gap, you can begin taking baby steps towards bridging it. Simply noticing the ways in which you pretend to be other than what you are is a move closer to authenticity.
Revealing your authentic self can create a feeling of vulnerability, so start small and build from there. You might try expressing your views in conversation with others, or sharing some small fact about yourself with your co-workers. It might be signing up for a class in something that truly interests you, or wearing a piece of clothing that you feel expresses the real you.
7. Follow the Breadcrumbs
There’s plenty of talk these days in self-help circles about finding one’s true calling, discovering one’s life purpose, and following one’s passions. But the pressure to find one thing to define yourself and give your entire life meaning is immense, and many feel overwhelmed and inadequate in the face of such a task.
Here’s a shocker for you: your purpose is already complete. You are here, experiencing life from your unique perspective. Check.
So, what about all this passion and true calling stuff? Well, first of all, not everyone has just one. In fact, most of us will have multiple passions and interests, heed numerous callings and follow several careers in our lifetimes. What’s important is to be authentic, and to move in the direction that feels most ‘like you’, that is the most satisfying and fulfilling, and that sparks the most joy.
If like many people you don’t even know what excites you or ignites your passions, start by simply following the breadcrumbs of things that interest you. Take classes in activities that appeal to you; read books that grab your attention; go places that intrigue you. Be curious, stay alert for feelings of wonder, enthusiasm, and satisfaction, and see where they lead you.
8. Dream On
We are creative beings, and as such we are responsible for what shows up on the canvas of our lives. You’ve likely heard the terms ‘thoughts become things’ and ‘manifesting one’s reality’ used to describe the concept. Not everyone takes this news easily as it requires a degree of accountability for what we have experienced, and are currently experiencing, in our life.
But there is also unimaginable freedom and personal power in being the co-creator of your adventure. And once you gain the self-awareness and focus required through the steps outlined above, you can begin to consciously and deliberately design the type of life you’d like to live.
Take some time each day - just 5 to 10 minutes will do - to envision the goals, dreams and outcomes you most wish to experience. Get clear on the end result and feel it as if it has already come to be. Then take action every day in the direction of those goals and dreams. The actions don’t have to be big, they don’t have to be perfect - they don’t even have to be the ‘right’ ones - but just move forward with intent.
Further Reading from Skills You Need
Based on some of our most popular content, this eBook will help you to live a happier, healthier and more productive life.
Learn how to look after your body and mind: the fundamental first steps to personal development.
This eBook, now in its second edition, with new and revised content, is designed to make life both easier and better.
Enlightenment, happiness and joy are your birthright, and they are not as abstract nor unattainable as you may believe. Be present, pay attention, and become curious about yourself. Form a new relationship with your fears, and hold compassion in your heart. Strive to be yourself in every moment and in all ways. Discover your dreams and take action towards the life you desire, but always remember to find pleasure and joy in your life as it is right now.
Make the journey, the process and the adventure more important than the destination,and you will discover that the happiness and fulfilment you have been seeking have been there all along, patiently waiting for you to notice them.