Is Self-Improvement Ruining Your Life?

Is Self-Improvement Ruining Your Life?

There’s a gap between who you are and who you wish you could be. A hole that you tell yourself can only be filled with discipline, hard work, and sometimes more than a little frustration.

But what happens if you stop beating yourself up because you’re not thinner, more productive or traveling the world? What happens when you let go of expectations, both society’s and your own?

What if the real work is to become comfortable with who you are today?

There’s a dark side to self-improvement that we don’t talk about very often, but was summed up beautifully by one of my clients, Maria:

I am so exhausted of trying to improve myself all the time that I do not want it anymore. I just want to be myself, to do what I like, to have time and to enjoy my life. There’s not enough time to have it all. On the assumption that the next year might be the last year (as you wrote in your blog): How long shall I wait for just enjoying my life and not focusing on improving it constantly?

I couldn’t stop thinking about this question because, as Leo Babauta says, self-improvement has been a rallying cry in my life in for a very long time. The vision of a better me kept me going when I wondered if all the time and effort I was putting into something was really worth it.

But the truth is, it also served as the basis for an awful lot of guilt and self-loathing when I failed to reach my “ideal” as fast or as completely as I wanted. I know exactly what Maria means about feeling exhausted.

When it came to the subject Maria and I were really discussing, changing careers, the answer seemed obvious. I told her changing careers isn’t about self-improvement at all, but about being more true to who you are right now.

That’s when the light bulb went off. (more…)

The Benefits of Being Wrong

The Benefits of Being Wrong

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to making real change in your life is the fear of being wrong.

How can I be sure what I want is the right thing to do?

How do I choose when I don’t know which road to follow?

What if I choose the wrong thing?

There are short answers to these questions: you can’t, pick one, and pick again.  But those answers usually aren’t very satisfying.

We assume that being wrong is a bad thing, an indication of failure.

It turns out there’s an entire profession that makes its biggest progress by admitting its mistakes: science.  Here’s how you can learn to do the same. (more…)

Stop the Drama

The first time it happened to me, I started getting sick to my stomach every time I walked through the office door.

There was the bickering and finger pointing when a group project failed to meet its goals.  Or the time co-workers waged a debate over email, copying everyone in the office in hopes of getting people to choose sides.

And let’s not forget the gossip, the endless gossip, which bruises egos and feeds the cycle to start once again.

In the best organizations, truly dramatic events are few and far between. But repeated low-level drama is damaging in its own right and recovering from it, whether you’re the supposed victim, persecutor, or rescuer, isn’t always easy.  The after-effects linger and performance suffers.  Trust takes a beating across the board, even between members who weren’t involved.

And if you’re in a truly toxic environment?  You’re probably crying yourself to sleep, wondering how to preserve your sanity.  Hey, I’ve been there too.

No matter what your situation, drama in the workplace wears you down.  And it’s time we put an end to it.

Today, I’m sharing an interview with organizational psychologist Dr. Robyn Odegaard, who wrote the book Stop the Drama! The Ultimate Guide to Female Teams.  While her specialization is working with female athletes, she has some wonderful advice on how you can reduce the drama at your place of work, no matter what your role in the organization is. (more…)

Top Secrets From The Happiness Wars

A huge thanks to the folks at Copyblogger and Ridiculously Extraordinary for hosting my guest posts this week. And a big hello to the new arrivals. Welcome!

Do you ever feel you should be happier, but you aren’t?  Do you count the many blessings in your life, only to wonder why you aren’t walking around feeling elated all the time?

It seems you aren’t the only one.

When Mary Jaksch from Goodlife Zen posted “Is Happiness Overrated?” I was honestly shocked.

After all, Mary’s own About section says, “I’m passionate about supporting people who want to lead a happier and more meaningful life.”  So if Mary is getting tired of talking about happiness, I can almost guarantee you are.

Here’s the thing: I bet you aren’t tired of experiencing happiness. Am I right?

And yet many of us seem to be doing so poorly at it.  According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, only 31% of 18- to 29-year olds say they are “very happy.”  The number goes down to 27% for 30- to 45-year olds.

But the same study revealed 83% of Americans aged 16 and up were pretty or very happy.  Does anyone else find that data a tad contradictory? Do we even know what we’re talking about?

The problem with positive psychology is the word happy has been corrupted.  It happens to words all the time–good words, words who have done nothing wrong.  Just look at what’s happened to poor passion.

So when we say only 31% of our youth report themselves as “very happy,” what does that really mean?  Should we be concerned or not?

I’ll tell you what really concerns me: when we let warped definitions stand in the way of a worthy goal.  (more…)

Are You Choosing To Be A Victim?

Editor’s note: guest post by Barbara Hammond.

Are we born strong or do our circumstances make us so?

No matter how rough you have it, you can always find someone who has or had it worse. 

By all accounts, I had what many would call a “horrible childhood.”  I went on to get married at 18 and had two children before turning 21.  It’s been a hell of a ride. 

And yet, I’ve learned how to make the most of the opportunities I’ve been given, and more importantly, created.  I have said many times that life gets better with each decade, and truly mean it.  

How is it that some people go on to succeed despite their past, while others seem trapped in it?

Science has a lot to say about nature versus nurture and I won’t pretend I can settle the debate.  But in my experience, although some people will naturally have an easier time than others overcoming adversity, we all have a choice. 


Are You Winning?

At some point, in your efforts to improve your circumstances, you’ve probably turned to the experts for advice.  You might have looked to science for guidance on what to eat for weight loss or what psychology says will make you happiest.  And chances are, you’re also confused. (more…)