How often do we make excuses for our personal development shortcomings? Opportunities for self-improvement are everywhere, you’ve just got to find them.
A lot of us are self-improvement junkies. We read books, blog posts, articles, watch videos, and we listen to podcasts. They’re inspiring, educational, and they make us feel better.
I’m one of these guys and I love consuming personal development content.
But one thing I’ve realised is that at some point, you’ve got to take action. You’ve got to get out there and do what you’re reading about, act on what you’re listening to, experiment, fail, and try again.
It’s one the most important parts of this whole journey and it’s also one of the hardest. So it’s no surprise that in the face of taking action, we’ve all got a lot of excuses.
“I’m tired, I’ll do it tomorrow,” “I don’t have enough money,” “I’m not in the best position to do that right now,” and my personal favourite, “I don’t have enough time!”
But if you really want to grow & improve, you can’t let these excuses get in your way. You’ve got to use what life gives you and focus on what you can improve. Because the opportunities for self-improvement are everywhere, you’ve just got to find them.
Let’s get to it.
I remember reading my first self-help book like it was yesterday. It was called ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People,’ by Stephen Covey and like everyone who loses their self-help book virginity, it felt like an absolute game-changer.
I realised that I was finally going to tackle my crippling social anxiety, I was going to work on my confidence, and I was going to become a millionaire!
Needless to say, I went to bed feeling inspired that night.
But when I woke up the next day, that inspiration was long-gone and I couldn’t be bothered doing any of it! So I told myself I’d start tomorrow and that it was probably better if I just watched movies all day today…
3 years later and nothing had changed. I was still exactly the same insecure, socially awkward, and non-millionaire me. The only thing that had changed was the number of personal development books I had on my bookshelf.
And I was sick of it. I was sick of feeling scared whenever I was surrounded by strangers, I was sick of feeling like I had no friends, and I was tired of reading the same things over and over again without doing anything about it.
So, I decided to become a bartender and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Bartending as a Form of Self-Improvement
From the outside looking in, bartending might not seem like the ideal profession for someone who’s obsessed with self-improvement. After all, all you do is pour pints, wipe down the bar, serve drunks, and sleep in until noon!
It doesn’t sound very challenging.
But for me, someone who was struggling with social anxiety, becoming a bartender made perfect sense. My lack of social skills were inhibiting my life and I realised I needed to change it. So I figured that bartending would force me to face many of my insecurities head-on.
It was exactly what I needed.
And as expected, bartending helped me overcome my social anxiety and it taught me how to interact with people from all walks of life. But what I didn’t expect was how much I’d improve in other areas.
All of the self-help literature I read had helped me tune my mind into seeing the opportunities for self-improvement everywhere. And bartending proved to be a goldmine.
For example, Da Vinci once said that you should ‘train your senses.’ He believed that our senses gave us the ability to engage in the world around us and that if you trained them, you would be able to better navigate this world.
When I first heard this, I had no idea how to train my senses. In particular, my senses of taste and smell were a mystery to me. But then I became a bartender and I learned how to balance the sweetness, sourness, and bitterness of a cocktail using my senses of taste and smell alone.
I now walk past a bouquet of flowers and delight in their smell. And I’ve successfully used my sense of taste to guess I was about to get food poisoning… There’s definitely some value in that.
Bartending also taught me humility, how to manage a team, the value of hard work, and how to relax & have fun.
Why am I Telling You This?
First things first, I want to clarify that I’m NOT the go-to expert when it comes to opportunistic personal development. I’m merely a guy who’s realised the truth behind a simple idea and I’m bringing up my bartending experiences to highlight that idea.
The idea that you CAN find opportunities for self-improvement anywhere, regardless of your circumstances, and even if you don’t realise what those opportunities are right now.
Don’t believe me?
Or maybe you’re thinking, “This makes some sense… But my situation is different. I wish I had the opportunity to do something as cool as bartending! But I can’t… Because I’m IN JAIL!”
Ok, a semi-decent excuse. But here’s my response, focus on what you can improve. You might not be in the situation right now to become a bartender and improve your social skills, but what can you work on?
Focus on that. That’s how self-improvement opportunists look at their lives. They don’t waste their time worrying about things they can’t change. They focus on what they can change.
Let’s take a look at some real-life examples.
Lived in Jail for 27 Years
Our first guest is a man I’m sure most of you have heard of. He accomplished many things throughout his life including spending 27 years in jail. To most men, this would have broken them. They would have resented the world around them and anyone responsible for their imprisonment.
But this man chose to see life differently. Throughout his imprisonment, he studied law, he forgave those who sought to do him harm, he learned the language of the prison guards, he continued to stand up for what he believed in, and he learned to truly value freedom.
When he was finally released from Prison, he went on to become the first black president of South Africa, he’s renowned for bringing the country closer together, and he won the Nobel Peace Prize.
This man’s name was Nelson Mandela.
A Holocaust Survivor
Our second guest is a man who survived one of the most atrocious events in human history, the Holocaust… Imagine living through it. Imagine being genuinely afraid for your life every single day, as well as watching your loved ones perish in front of you??
Then try and imagine finding hope and some kind of meaning in this form of existence…
Viktor Frankl was a physiatrist and author that we should all know the name of. Not only did he survive the Holocaust, but he used his experiences to show that you can find hope and meaning anywhere. And he went on to educate the world with his findings.
He truly is an inspirational character.
The Disabled Genius
Our final guest is a man who can only move his eyes and lips. Yep, everything else is almost entirely paralysed and yet, he himself admits he lives an amazing life. How?
Most of us would respond to these circumstances by giving up, assuming that the world was against us, and actively searching for things to be annoyed about.
But Jon Morrow chose a different path. He chose to NOT let his disabilities get in the way of living his definition of a ‘good life’ and he focused on what he could change. He developed his intellect, he travelled, he wrote (using voice recognition technology), and he built a highly successful business.
He’s now recognised as one of the best copywriters/bloggers in the world and he can’t even move his fingers… How crazy is that?
How to Become a Self-Improvement Opportunist
No sane personal development junkie could learn about these great men and not be inspired. And we should all draw inspiration from great people to help us improve and grow.
But inspiration isn’t enough. At some point, you’ve got to apply these lessons to your own life, take action, and look for those self-improvement opportunities.
If you’re ready, here’s how you can get started:
- Step 1: Develop some form of self-awareness.
- Step 2: Learn what you need to do to improve.
- Step 3: Just DO IT (arguably the most important).
Step 1: Self-Awareness
Any type of effective opportunistic self-improvement begins with self-awareness. Jesus said ‘know thyself’, self-help literature raves on about it all the time, and even Gary Vaynerchuk talks about the importance of self-awareness throughout his inspirational entrepreneurial videos.
Because you’ve got to know what YOU need to work on and whether or not you CAN work on them right now. And then you’ve got to be aware of the opportunities in your day-to-day life so that you take advantage of them.
Without having some idea of who you are and what you want to achieve, you’ll end up focusing on things that have no relevance to you or your goals and you’ll waste your time.
So step 1 is learning more about YOU.
Step 2: Learn How to Do It
Once you’ve figured out what you can (and want to) work on, you need to figure out how to do it. This is where blog articles, podcasts, books, courses, and personal development content, in general, comes in.
For example, if you’ve realised that you need to improve your social skills, how do you do it? Most people just google ‘how to improve your social skills,’ and they’ll learn exactly what they need to do in step 3.
Step 2 is easy and it’s also where most people get caught up in. They end up spending hours, days, and sometimes years, learning how to improve without ever actually improving… That’s why moving to step 3 is so important.
Step 3: Just DO IT
Once you’ve learned what you should do to improve in your focus area, just DO IT. Yes, Nike got it right all along and it’s really that simple.
But although it’s simple to understand on an intellectual level, taking action is the hardest part of this whole journey. It takes a tremendous amount of discipline to push through your own mental barriers that are convinced you shouldn’t change.
If you’re anything like me and you feel a lot of resistance whenever you try to implement some form of change, my advice is to start small. For example, if you want to go to the gym 5 times a week, go once instead. Then when it doesn’t seem like too much of an effort, start going 2 times a week. Then 3, until you eventually get to 5.
The key is to just start, no matter how small that start may be.
For those of us who get into it, the world of personal development can be life-changing. It teaches us how to be better and how to do better.
But if we’re ever going to change anything, we’ve got to do more than just learn. We’ve got to take action. And we’ve got to use what life throws at us to our advantage, no matter what situation you might find yourself in.
It takes self-awareness, knowledge, and discipline, and it’s going to be challenging. But when you’re living your version of the ‘good-life,’ and you’re happy, healthy, and wise, you’ll know it was worth it.