So you’ve decided your life isn’t working for you and you want to make changes.
Go to therapy.
Yes, you can go to therapy even if you’re not mentally ill. A good therapist will be able to help you in all your self-improvement endeavors and be by your side as you decide what exactly you want to improve. It’s great knowing someone is always on your team!
Set goals and intentions.
Maybe you already have ideas of what you want to improve about yourself. That’s great! Make them formal by writing them down. Give yourself half an hour and a blank sheet of paper and write down absolutely anything you can think of that you would want to improve!
If you don’t have any ideas yet, identify your goals and intentions by identifying your problems first. Maybe you don’t feel great about your appearance, or you find yourself acting like an asshole in your closest relationships. Then, brainstorm (mind map?) solutions.
To me, goals are measurable, while intentions are not. There’s a lot of focus on goals, but intentions can still be useful— by reminding you of an attitude you want to embody or something you want to prioritize that isn’t measurable, like quality time with your family.
Journal with purpose.
Journals can be a lot of things. Many people use them to simply record life events, but journaling with the express purpose of self-improvement can be a lot more useful.
You can look up daily prompts to use to reflect on themes in your life as a whole, or you can log what you did to improve yourself each day. Of course, you can mix the two. Writing about your self-improvement wins may encourage you to keep going!
Also: keep a list of your goals and intentions from the previous step IN your journal for frequent perusal.
Rethink your relationships.
Obviously, we cannot change anyone. What we can do is decide if certain relationships belong in our life or not.
If you have someone in your life that isn’t making you happy, I recommend gently talking out your problems with this person first. (You may want to journal-brainstorm what those problems are before this conversation.) Give them a chance to improve themselves and then re-evaluate.
If you’ve already tried to work things out with someone who isn’t making an effort to change, it may be time to step back.
On the other hand, YOU may be the problem in certain relationships. In that case, it is still important to have a conversation with the other person. Be honest with yourself and them about what you need to improve, and then make a genuine effort. Check in frequently about how they feel about your effort.
Take care of your physical health.
I don’t mean that you need to run a marathon. I do mean taking walks as per your ability, eating reasonably, staying hydrated, and going to the doctor if you can. You will feel better, and be better able to show up to your life’s responsibilities.
Figure out what you care about and do it.
Everyone human (and most pets too) needs to have a role to play to feel fulfilled. This could be related to a full-time career or it could be as simple as watering and taking care of your plants.
Make another brainstorming page in your journal and write down what you care about most. This doesn’t have to be extensive— maybe you only truly care about a few people, activities, or causes.
Maybe your career isn’t something you care about anymore. Do you want to change careers or do you want to keep your “day job” and do something you care about on the side? It’s up to you.
Whatever you decide you care about, make a plan for fitting it into your day.
Learn about privilege.
Part of improving yourself is improving the world around you, and learning about how you play into systems of oppression can do just that.
It can be really hurtful and hard to realize that you’ve been unintentionally harming people, but this is an exercise in empathy and de-centering your own experience. We all have blind spots.
Start small— decide to read one book about systemic oppression, or follow some social justice activists who are different from you on social media. Take up an attitude of gentle curiosity, even if you’re feeling resistant to what you read.
Expect this to be a lifetime endeavor.
To avoid overwhelming yourself when carrying out any of these steps, remind yourself that progress is incremental. This might be hard to hear, but improving yourself never really ends. You might reach a lot of your goals but you will always have something else to work on. That might be hard to hear, but it can also be really fun to keep experimenting and find what works for you!