I became passionate about self-improvement over a decade ago, and I started helping others with their self-improvement as a coach more than half that time ago.
I strongly believe that developing oneself is one of the best actions a person can take and that self-improvement ultimately leads to more achievements and happiness in one’s life than anything else.
However, I also realized quickly that it’s not enough to randomly read self-improvement books and apply from them whatever sound cool to you, whenever you can remember and you feel like it. Effective self-improvement requires some deliberate and careful planning.
I want to show you, drawing from my own experience, how to create a good self-improvement plan, which you can use to see the most fruitful results in your self-growth.
1. Start by Recognizing the Limits
Like it or not, you can’t achieve meaningful changes overnight.
I say this because, as a coach, a common mistake I notice people making is assuming that in just a couple of months they will be able to completely transform themselves.
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Developing any skill or attitude entails creating new mental associations in your brain and overriding some of the old ones. And this requires practice, time and repetition.
It’s not my intention here to discourage you from seeking self-growth. But I do wanna aid you set bold but realistic expectations on this path.
Usually, it takes a few months to develop a key skill or attitude. For example, I often work with people who are socially awkward and I help them build social confidence. And these people see amazing progress, but it generally happens in 6 to 12 months. That’s how much time it takes to move from awkward to confident socially.
The more aspects you want to improve about yourself, the more time it will take. If you have a list of 6 or 7 important changes you want to make about yourself, making these changes will likely span over a few years.
With this realistic expectation in your mind, you can move to the next logical step…
2. Prioritize Your Growth
Since you can only change so much about you in a given period of time and your time is limited, it’s crucial to select the most important skills and attitudes to develop and work on them first, and only then move to other ones.
This means you’ll have to really think about the most meaningful changes you could make about yourself.
I often like to ask my coaching clients: “If you could only change one thing about you, what would it be?”
Once they’ve identified it, I advise them to start by working on creating that change. And once they’ve achieved that change, they can ask themselves the same question again and move on to the next key change.
This is how you make the best use of your time and energy, and you bring about the most important transformations first.
3. Phrase Your Goals in A Way That Inspires You
Compare the following two personal development goals:
1. “I want to have better public speaking skills.”
2. “I want to be able to be on a stage in front of 100 people, feel comfortable and energized, speak from the heart, be coherent in what I say, and provide those people in the audience priceless information.”
That’s actually a single goal, but it’s phrased in two different ways. And I think you can see and feel the difference.
The first version sounds vague and unemotional. It doesn’t inspire you or motivate you to take action. The second version on the other hand is clear and vivid. It inspires you, it excites you and it triggers the desire to act right now.
That’s how you wanna phrase your self-improvement goals, and then write them down.
4. Set Daily Practice Activities
It’s not enough to have goals. It’s important to break them down into smaller steps, to establish daily activities you can perform to reach your goals, which you also write down. Only when you have these precise activities, you are able to take action.
For instance, if one of your goals is developing your public speaking skills, you can set specific activities such as reading a book on public speaking today, practicing speaking in front of the mirror tomorrow, an delivering a short presentation in front of a group of people the day after tomorrow.
By planning and doing these daily actions, you make genuine progress towards your goals. And soon enough, you find yourself having reached them.
5. Reward Yourself
Progress in itself is satisfying and creates motivation to keep practicing. But you’ll sometimes run into rough patches when it’s harder to make progress, and thus it’s harder to stay motivated.
In such situations, it’s essential to incentivize yourself additionally, using some personalized incentives. And you can also add them in writing to your plan.
Think of the things you enjoy and offer them to yourself as rewards for doing your daily practice activities. From chocolate to a visit to the spa, anything that rocks your boat can work as a reward.
The key is to offer yourself instant gratification. As soon as you’ve done something, you reward yourself. We humans go nuts for instant gratification. And if you capitalize on this, you’ll keep yourself motivated throughout your personal development journey.
With the right expectations, the right goals and the right incentives as part of your self-improvement plan, you’ll make your self-development journey fun and productive. You’ll transform yourself and your life, and you’ll enjoy the process as well.
After all, ideally, self-improvement is a life-long journey, so it’s wise to take as much pleasure as you can in it.
Eduard Ezeanu teaches people how to be witty, confident and charismatic, and helps them build the lives of their dreams one step at a time. He also writes on his two blogs: People Skills Decoded and Art of Confidence.