Self-Improvement: 45 Tips, Goals, and Ideas for Self-Growth
What is self-improvement? And what are some science-based tips and techniques to improve yourself? In this article, you'll learn all about the parts of yourself that can be improved.
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So, you want to improve yourself but you're not sure how. Or, maybe you just want some new ideas to help. Well, luckily the science shows us all sorts of ways we can improve ourselves and our lives. In this article, we'll talk about a variety of strategies you can start using today to support your self-growth and be a better you.
Before getting started though, we just wanted to let you know about our well-being quiz. You can take the quiz to get your free personalized report and get a sense of some areas that you may want to focus your self-improvements on.
And, for our well-being entrepreneurs and coaches, download our Wellness Business Growth eBook to get expert tips, tools, and resources to grow your wellness business fast.
What Is Self-Improvement? (A Definition)
Self-improvement can involve improving any aspect of the self—for example, personal qualities, skills, and even the roles we play (like husband or wife and son or daughter). Throughout history, humans have strived to improve the self. And even though self-improvement is a very independent pursuit, insight about whether or not we've improved is very social. That is, we often use feedback from others to help us gauge our progress (Sedikides & Hepper, 2009).
Some Self-Improvement Facts
When we start thinking about self-improvement, it can be helpful to be strategic about where we put our efforts so we don't waste time on the wrong things. Some aspects of ourselves are relatively changeable and some aspects are pretty fixed. So, we're best served by focusing our efforts on the parts of us that are the most changeable.
Given there are industries out there telling us that we can change any part of ourselves, it can be hard for us to know which is which. Luckily, a leading psychological researcher, Martin Seligman, offered honest information about the aspects of ourselves we actually can improve (and the aspects we can't), according to the research.
According to Seligman (2009), these aspects of ourselves are good candidates for self-improvement and they are changeable:
He says that these self-improvement techniques almost never work:
Dimensions of self-improvement
Other researchers have shown that specific aspects of ourselves can be improved (Sedikides & Hepper, 2009). Some of these aspects include:
Although there may be other dimensions of the self that we want to improve, in this article, we'll focus broadly on these scientifically supported areas.
There are so many different ways that we can improve ourselves. Here are some good ones to start with as they may make it easier to improve other aspects of the self later on.
1. Engage in self-reflection
Self-reflection is an important part of self-awareness. Without self-reflection we may not have a clear self-concept—that is, our self-concept may not match how others see us (Johnson et al., 2002). By engaging in self-reflection, we can better understand the areas of ourselves that we might want to improve and how to improve these areas. You can read more about self-reflection here.
2. Try mindfulness
Mindfulness is the act of bringing attention to experience in each moment. It also involves an attitude of curiosity and acceptance (versus judgment) and seeing thoughts and emotions as transient states (Bishop et al., 2004). Like self-reflection, mindfulness can potentially make us more open to experiences and possibilities that can aid self-improvement.
3. Cultivate a growth mindset
A growth mindset is a mindset where we believe that we can grow and improve our abilities (Dweck, 2015). If we have a mindset that we can improve, we're more likely to put in the effort actually required to learn and grow. That's why building a growth mindset can help us achieve many of our goals and improve ourselves in the ways we desire.
4. Acknowledge feelings of shame
The truth is that many of us are motivated to engage in self-improvement due to societal pressures (Sedikides & Hepper, 2009), external expectations, or even shame about not being good enough in some area. But if we strive to improve ourselves simply to please others, we are likely to end up feeling unsatisfied, even if we succeed in our self-improvement goals. So, it's worth thinking about your reasons for engaging in self-improvement, acknowledging any shame, and rethinking your self-improvement goals to ensure that they are in alignment with your core values.
Video: The Dark Side of Self Improvement
Now that you've got some good foundations, here are a few science-based techniques that can help you improve various aspects of yourself.
1. Boost positivity
Memorizing positive words may help build stronger positive neural networks in our brains. Why? Well, it's because any time we activate positive information in our brains, those neural networks get stronger (the same is true for negative information). So memorizing positive words may help strengthen the neural connections between positive concepts, memories, and ideas. This may be an easy way to start improving positivity and optimism. To try it, check out our positive word ebook here.
2. Outsmart your smartphone
Our phones offer all sorts of fun stuff—messages from our friends, news, games, apps, and more. But they also have the potential to harm our well-being. That's why learning how to have a healthier relationship with your phone and other technology can be a good self-improvement idea. For science-based tips, check out my book, Outsmart Your Smartphone.
3. Build reappraisal skills
Reappraisal is an emotion regulation strategy that can help us reinterpret a stressful situation in a way that helps us reduce negative emotions and increase positive emotions. To do it, try to think of a current difficult situation in a way that is less bad (e.g., "at least I have a roof over my head"), or more good (e.g., "this is an opportunity to learn and build character"). The more you practice this skill, the easier it will become.
4. Find more things to be thankful for
Practicing gratitude—or thankfulness—is a great way to improve yourself. Gratitude is linked to greater well-being and higher-quality relationships. To get started with gratitude, you may want to get a gratitude journal or explore this list of things to be thankful for.
5. Start a journal
Daily journaling can be an effective way to work through difficult experiences, manifest goals, and explore thoughts and emotions in a more creative and secure way. Here is an article with even more journaling ideas.
6. Find and use your strengths
When we aim to improve ourselves, we often focus on our weaknesses—the things we may not do as well as we would like to. But building on our strengths can also be a good idea—it can help us become masterful in certain abilities. Not sure what your strengths are? You can find your strengths here.
Video: 8 Simple Self Improvement Principles
More Self-Improvement Ideas
There are just so many areas of ourselves that can be improved. Here are some more ideas to explore:
Setting Self-Improvement Goals
Once you've set yourself up for successful self-improvement, you may want to set some self-improvement goals. Ask yourself, what exactly is it that you want to improve? Consider setting SMART goals to help yourself achieve these goals more easily (Lawlor, 2012).
SMART goals are:
S - Specific
M - Meaningful
A - Achievable
R - Realistic
T - Trackable
For each area of yourself that you want to improve, see if you can come up with a clear SMART goal and a method for how you will track and achieve your goal. It's also helpful to think about how each goal fits in with your values and your desired future. Ask yourself, does each goal fit with who you are and who you want to be?
How To Make a Self-Improvement Plan
Once you have your goals, it's time to make a self-improvement plan. Basically, a plan just helps you map to path from where you are now to where you want to be in the future. So, ask yourself, what are the steps you'd need to take to reach your goal? How will you take the steps? And when will you take these steps (be sure to schedule them in your calendar).
Self-improvement plan example
As an example, let's say that Geoff wants to feel happier—or, more specifically, he wants to improve his ability to enjoy his experiences. So Geoff makes a plan to start each day with morning affirmations—these help him start the day with a more positive mindset. Throughout the day, Geoff plans to savor positive moments by trying to notice and hold onto the positive emotions that arise. He also plans to try to let go of negative experiences by accepting his emotions and imagining them floating away like clouds.
Your self-improvement plan
How about you? What's your plan? To set yourself up a plan, ask yourself these questions:
A Few More Self-Improvement Videos
Video: How to motivate yourself to change your behavior
Video: How to be the best version of yourself
Self Improvement Quotes
Self Improvement Books
Want to keep learning about self-improvement? Here are some good self-improvement books to take a peek at.
We've already linked to a ton of articles related to self-improvement. But here are a few more good ones that we haven't mentioned yet:
Podcasts for Self Improvement
Here are a few podcasts that can help you with self-improvement.
A Few More Self-Improvement Tips
I hope this article gave you some science-based ideas for self-improvement. But before we go, I'd like to leave you with two more quick things.
1. Use your imagination to improve yourself
When we imagine positive things, our brains produce very similar signals as if we were experiencing those things for real. So even when times are tough, it can help us to imagine our improved self. Almost magically, imagination creates the positive emotions that we're seeking from actually becoming that improved future self. So even though it takes time to become that future self and manifest your dreams, you can always use imagination to feel a bit more like that future version of yourself.
2. Try not to avoid the hard stuff
If we avoid the experiences that scare us, we don't give ourselves the opportunity to learn, grow, and improve. By shifting our perspective to be more grateful and appreciative of change and difficulty, we make space for ourselves to grow and improve faster. Change fuels growth. Try not to fight it.