I believe many of us, either consciously or subconsciously believe that life is a quest of self improvement, a quest that only ends in death.
This is a popular notion, after all, consider the abundance and popularity of self-help books and sites.The focus on improvement is so strong that, according to this graph
The use of the word “improve” has been increasing steadily since the start of the 20th century.
Yet all this focus on a general improvement mean that we often don’t know what to focus on. We want to improve, but we don’t know the answer to the simple question: Improve what?
Developing the wrong things can complicate or slow down our quests for self improvement.
Wayne Rooney, the world famous English soccer player has played a number of different positions on the pitch. Because of this he is a skilled all round player. He’s good but he might not be as nearly great as he could be if he decided to play to his strengths and stick to them.
This is obvious when compared to Cristiano Ronaldo, who has always played to his strengths by focusing on being in forward. Cristiano Ronaldo is considered to be arguably the finest player currently in professional soccer.
If Ronaldo were to have decided to move about the pitch, playing a great number of different positions, then as he never focused on developing his skills, he would have likely ended up an inferior player than he is today.
Ultimately it is easier to see your own weaknesses than strengths. This can be worse when you see someone great at something you are not. It is easy to feel compelled to try to match them in their skill. However this disregards the probability that you are better at something than them. Returning to the soccer analogy, if a whole team were to try to match each other, instead of developing their own skills. It would be a mediocre team.
It is impossible for one person to be great at everything, so developing in a focused way may be the true source of self-improvement or growth that you actually need.
This notion has been proved in the history of the smartphone too.
Consider the history of the smartphone Prior to the unveiling of the Iphone in 2007, phone companies thought the future of mobile phones resided durablity, the chipsets, and appearance (for example the popular Motorola RAZR  which only really was revolutionary in appearance, not tech).
Apple however, realized people deep down wanted more efficiency, and something more than just a mobile . Luckily being innovative and improving efficiency have always been Apple’s strengths. In focusing on their strengths, they have revolutionized the mobile phone industry. Whereas everyone was trying to improve upon everything, Apple just made a device that encapsulated everything they already did well.
Because they played to their strengths they exceeded, outclassed and outsold their competitions, and eventually the competition ended up more or less copying Apple with their own smartphones.
Improving everything = Becoming average at everything
The best way to truly improve yourself doesn’t go with finding and getting things you don’t have, but building on the things that you have already.
This process can be painful and difficult. Whenever we find things we aren’t good at, it is perfectly natural to want to become good at it. However time is finite. Every second you spend going from bad to decent at one thing, is a second you could have spent on going from good to sensational at something else.
But what exactly should you do?
1. Clearly identify your strength
It is a good idea to sit down and work out what exactly your strengths are. Only you know this, you might be a fantastic painter, a skilled engineer, a great sportsperson, a passionate performer, or a great writer….it doesn’t matter. Once you have identified your strengths, hold them, celebrate them! But at the same time accept that it is literally impossible to be great at everything, so why try?
2. Define it clearly by doing detailed research
Once you have identified your strengths and skills, spend time to truly learn about them, learn what can be improved and how to go about improving. You can only build on something if you know and understand everything about it. For example if you are already good at communication, look into the importance of tone and body language, and as a result, you will go from a great communicator to an exceptional one.
3. Breakdown your strength into small parts and start practicing, deliberately
Once you understand yourself and your skills you can now readily identify what parts you need to build on and what parts you don’t. After this you should practice your skill with the specific aim at improving on on that particular aspect. This is called deliberate practice. If you want to learn more about deliberate practice, I recommend you read our article about it on Lifehack. Once you improve on particular parts, your overall skill level improves dramatically as you are training yourself in a very systematic, strategic way.
Picking flaws at what you are already good is hard but this is how you can turn from good to great
This process is extremely difficult and can be initially very disappointing. When you develop skills in something you’re not already good at, you can see obvious progress in not much time at all. However it is much less easy to spot improvements in something you’re already good at. It is easier to spot things you’re not very good at than to spot things lacking in things you are already good at. To see flaws in something others think you are skilled at.
Therefore it seems to truly excel you need to focus. Develop one thing you’re already good at and keep working on it until you’re the best.
|||^||Guardian: The history of smartphones: timeline|
|||^||Business Insider:Watch The Incredible 70-Year Evolution Of The Cell Phone|