We all wanted to live a great life, have great relationships and find happiness. And with all the self help books, relationship columns and happiness listicles out there on the internet, achieving those goals should not be that difficult.
Unfortunately those bazillion self help resources don’t seem to help. Some are not even convincing, they are confusing!!!
The reason why more information lead to more confusion is simple. As illustrated in Barry Schwartz’s phenomenal book: The Paradox of Choice, the more choices we have, the more time and effort we need to expend to make the correct decision. (In this case it’s deciding which self help information to apply/ignore).
To make matters worse, the access to unlimited information increases our fear of commitment. It makes us question the information that we are consuming at the moment and abandoning it too soon.
This paradox of choice prevents people from taking actual actions that will improve their lives. These ‘self help junkies’ would hop from one self improvement resources to another, but never improving themselves.
Realizing this problem I decided to change the format of my blog.
Instead of writing a generic blog post about a particular self development topic, I plan to write a collection of self help ideas taken from various resources to help you improve your life.
Just like my previous posts, these listicles still aim to help you live greater, love unconditionally and laugh more. But instead of content focused, these listicles will be application focused. That means, you will only find simple and practical advice that has been proven useful.
Also, feel free to jump around the lists. If you find that you are already familiar with an idea and are already practicing it in your life, skip it! You are not reading a literary novel, you are reading lists of self development ideas, so skipping is not a sin.
Lastly, I want to clarify that I didn’t come up with many of these ideas. Think of me as a collector of self development ideas and these listicles as self development advice museum.
I hope that you find these ideas useful and more importantly, I hope that you do something about it.
- Schedule time for “deliberate practice’- To succeed in this modern era, you need to be able to master skills efficiently and effectively. According to performance expert Anders Ericsson this means you need to schedule time for deliberate practice.
In his book “Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise” he described deliberate practice as a form of training that continually pushes us out of our comfort zone. The steps to deliberate practice were as follows:
A) Break the skills down into simple component: For writing fiction this probably means breaking it down into Plot, Character, Settings, Dialogue, Revision Technique and Style. Basically you want to look for the basic building blocks that make up this particular skill.
B) Practice: schedule a time free of distraction and practice with your whole mind.
C) Get Feedback: when facing a plateau, figure out what is holding you back by observing your weak points, or even better, get expert feedback.
D) Design a new set of practice to fix the problem
- Focus on companionship: According to relationship expert John Gottman, in his book 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work, what determines a good marriage is not your partner’s psychological makeup, common interests, positive interactions, conflict, affairs or even biology.
What makes or breaks a marriage is the relationship dynamic between the two people in the relationship. They have hit a dynamic that keeps their negative thoughts and feelings from overwhelming positive ones.
To put it in practical terms, when looking for a life partner focus on companionship. Notice how you and your partner bond and pay special attention to the way you interact. Of course the paradox is, you will never know how well you and your partner bond until you have dated him or her for some time (a few months to a few years).
This is probably why I never believe in soul mates or destiny.
- What makes life meaningful is the meaning you attach to it: According to Emily Esfahani Smith in her book The Power of Meaning, you don’t need to travel to some random monastery or meditate for hours to find your life’s meaning. Drawing on the latest research on positive psychology Emily said that we can make our lives more meaningful by setting up these 4 pillars of meaning in our lives:
A) Belonging- We need to be in a relationship with people who appreciate our uniqueness and values. To make your life more meaningful, find your ‘ingroup’ those people who can accept you as you are.
B) Purpose- We need to find something to look forward to in life. This usually means discovering our strengths and using it to serve others.
C) Transcendence- The feeling of rising above the ordinary world can be manufactured by cultivating flow in your day to day lie. This basically means making sure that you are thoroughly engaged and focused on whatever you are doing at the moment.
D) Storytelling- We need a coherent narrative that can help us make sense of our life. This means making sure that our identity, values and life are integrated into one coherent narrative.
- Remember the trichotomy of control: Whenever you feel down, discouraged or disappointed, remember the trichotomy of control. According to stoic writer William B. Irvine in his book Guide to the Good Life, everything that happens in our life can be divided into 3 categories. Things that are outside our control, things that are within our control and things that are partially within our control.
Here’s what he recommend us do for each situation:
– To things that are outside our control: The best thing you can do is to make peace with it and try to accept them. Focusing your attention on these things will only waste your energy and make you suffer.
– To things that are within your control: Just do something about it already!
– To things that are partially within your control: You need to understand that most of the time, what you do only partially influence the outcome of your actions. There are various other factors outside your control that also influence the outcome of your actions. The best thing you can do is to focus and measure yourself in terms of things that are within your control (effort) and make peace with things that are outside your control (result, other people reactions, etc).
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