Jump to the following topics:
- What is
is based upon various drives.
- Techniques for
What is self-improvement?
It the enhancement of the material conditions of our life. Those
material conditions might include our relationships, health,
finances, knowledge, etc.
is based upon various drives.
- Productive drives.
- The ego. The ego's duty is to create an environment which
satisfies our human needs. For example, it acquires a home --
and then it improves this home (or it acquires a
better home) -- so that our home is more effective in
providing protection, comfort, space for personal activities
and social activities, etc.
- The soul. The soul has no interest in self-improvement
regarding our human condition; it cares only about the
exploration of archetypes. However, as we learn about those
archetypes, we can interact more successfully with them, and
thus we experience a type of self-improvement; for example, as
we learn about the archetypes which are dominant in our
relationships, we can improve those relationships. In human
self-improvement, we tend to remain with a project for an
extended period of time, generally to increase the item's size
(e.g., a big bank account, or huge biceps); in contrast, the
soul remains with a project only long enough to learn the
lessons regarding the archetype (or to discharge the lingering
elements which remain from previous encounters with this
archetype), and then the soul moves on to something else.
Dysfunctional drives. These drives propel us toward a type of
self-alteration, but these changes do not result in happiness or
spiritual fulfillment; instead, they merely accumulate material.
- Goals which derive from concepts. For example, we might
have decided that we want to acquire a particular amount of
wealth, although we have no real use for that money.
- Goals which derive from images. For example, we might have
adopted images of success from advertisements, although the
enactment of those images requires us to betray our genuine
interests and talents.
- Goals which derive from emotionalism. For example, we might
be driven by anger; thus, our financial self-improvement is
founded merely on the idea that "living well is the best
and self-acceptance. Before we change ourselves, we need to accept
ourselves as we are. This does not mean liking everything;
it means loving ourselves as a whole, and acknowledging the reality
of whatever we would prefer to be different. Self-acceptance assists
us in our self-improvement program:
- Self-acceptance lets us examine the "problem" honestly,
without the distorted view which would be caused by a denial and
hatred of that problem. When we see the condition clearly, we are
more likely to find a solution -- or even, perhaps, to conclude
that this is not a problem after all (perhaps because the
self-acceptance has changed our perspective on ourselves and our
goals, as though a simple acceptance of our supposed "homeliness"
has made us "beautiful").
- During self-improvement, self-acceptance grants more leeway to
see a failed attempt as "a good try"; we go back to the blueprint,
and make another bid, without a punishing self-condemnation which
would inhibit us from trying again.
- Self-acceptance gives us strength and peace of mind, to help
us to endure the challenges of making the transformation.
- Proceed at a comfortable pace. Be patient, and know that the
real changes occur only at their own speed; this speed might seem
quick on some days, and slow on others. A gentle pace keeps us
from being disoriented and unbalanced by the changes in our
identity and environment, and it gives us the time to reinforce
new habits through repetition. We cannot truly move on to the next
stage of growth until we have learned the lessons at our current
- Be willing to try many different approaches. The world is full
of psychological theories, self-help books, and homemade wisdom.
If one way doesn't work for you, or it stops working (perhaps
because you have changed so much), try another. We are different
types of people with different goals, so a single technique could
not be effective for everybody. We can use whatever works even if
we don't understand why it works.
- Practice the new behaviors and thoughts. New habits are
entrenched through repetition; eventually they feel natural and
they become automatic. Express these habits by acting "as if" they
are true; in daily life, play a role as if you are the person you
want to be with the behavior and thoughts that you want. If the
new "you" is based on a reexamination of your blueprint, this
pretense is based on neither falsehood nor the superficial
manipulation of behaviorist psychology; it is the honest
acting-out of the new you. Eventually, our new script becomes
incorporated into our personality, and it is now "who we really
- Refer to the chapter regarding goals. The "techniques" for
goal-making are essentially the same as the ones for
- Be aware of the down-side to self-improvement. Particularly if
the changes are drastic, or misaligned to our blueprint, we might
- The losses. When we change, we are no longer who we were.
Why do I no longer enjoy my previous activities? In what
direction is my life going now? How does "the new me" want to
spend the evening? We might feel grief and emptiness as we lose
our accustomed routines, and the secret payoffs from
undesirable behaviors. (The payoffs might include the attention
that we get.) If you are disturbed by these losses, find
security in the parts of your life which are stable -- reliable
friendships, your job, your home, and so on. Decelerate the
changes that are occurring. And take some time to explore your
new world; eventually you will discover, for example, what the
"new me" likes to do in the evening.
- An obsession with the self. Some forms of self-improvement
require commitments of time and introspection that divert us
from our usual activities and our friends. We can become
introverted and neglectful in our dealings with everyday
- The burden of the responsibility. Sometimes we might feel
that self-improvement is a treadmill which requires constant
monitoring and effort. At those times, we can slack off, and
lounge in self-improvement's equally valid counterpart,
- Relapses. They might be caused by merely falling back into
a comfortable habit, or by the fact that the goal wasn't right
for us. Or there might be another reason. Some relapses can be
disregarded as a part of the natural ups-and-downs of the
growth process, but others require a closer inspection of the
- Alienation of friends and family. Although we are becoming
a "better" person, some people might be uneasy, because we are
a different person to whom they must adjust and find a new
understanding; they might not even be attracted to this new
person. And we might not want to be with them
now. But we might find, instead, that our Cultivate Life!
receives encouragement from family and friends (perhaps the
friends whom we have found in a support group).
- Perfectionism and idealizm. We will never be perfect, and
we will never achieve certain ideals, but we can be still love
ourselves and be pleased with any progress. Progress doesn't
mean that we will conquer all of our problems; it means going
from one group of difficulties to a better group of
- A worsening of conditions. Some self-improvement programs
make us worse, in the form of a dangerous dietary or fitness
routine, or a psychological theory which is disruptive. Be
careful, go slowly, and rely on the guidance of experts and
We can consider the possibility that we might not want
- We might realize that we don't want to change. We have that
right, although other people have the right to protect
themselves if our way of life imposes on them. If we want to
stay the way that we are, we might realize that:
- The situation really is acceptable to our deepest
values, e.g., deciding that our body is fine even though it
isn't as slim as a model's body, so we choose not to
- We don't want to change at this time, perhaps because we
are too busy with other projects, or we sense that we still
need to learn something from our current circumstance.
- Despite the negative valuation that other people put on
one of our traits, we find that the trait is worthwhile. For
example, people might want us to stop being "stubborn," but
we know that the trait is not "stubbornness"; instead, we
correctly call it "strong-willed determination." Sometimes
we don't need to change ourselves; we just need to change
our labels, as in a situation where we are calling
ourselves stubborn, and consciously trying to be
less so, but unconsciously we are resisting the change
because the determination is good for us.
Keep track of the progress. A journal helps us to record our
attempts, techniques, and success -- or, the opposite of success,
feedback. With this permanent record, we can review our progress,
and refine our approach.