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Last Updated on November 26, 2020

5 Ways To Build Capacity For Continuous Personal Growth

5 Ways To Build Capacity For Continuous Personal Growth

Tell me if this sounds familiar:

You read a new book, start a new course, or set a New Year’s resolution. You get excited and motivated to grow, sure that your new lifestyle will stick this time.

And then a few weeks later, you lose your steam. You just can’t generate the same level of excitement you started with.

The truth is, the people who experience radical growth over their lives are not the ones who hyper-charge their motivation when they start something new. They are the ones who gradually build their capacity for continuous personal growth so they can iteratively get 1% better.

Kaizen is a Japanese term often used in business, meaning continuous change for the better – an ongoing endeavor for incremental improvement. This concept can be applied to the mind just as easily.

There are a number of techniques for increasing your capacity to grow throughout your life, and these are some of the most worthwhile investments you can make.

1. Design Your Environment

One thing you can do now that will keep working for you continuously (no willpower required) is to alter your environment.

Look around at how your living space is arranged. What behaviors does it promote and what does it neglect or discourage? Would you say the physical space you spend your time in is representative of the person you would like to be? Your digital environments shape you as well.

The websites you visit regularly, the podcasts you subscribe to, and the apps you keep on your phone will shape you. If you want to be less distracted, disable the notifications and unsubscribe from the email newsletters that you don’t feel push you in the direction of your ideals, and consider subscribing to those that do.

Another crucial way to design yourself through your environment is by surrounding yourself with people who have priorities, traits, or practices you would like to cultivate in yourself.

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Statistically, the more overweight people in your social circles, the more likely you are to become overweight.[1] So if you want to become more fit, you’ll be swimming against the current if you haven’t embedded yourself in active environments or built connections with people who prioritize fitness.

The character traits of the people around you will rub off on you as well, so people who are honest, narcissistic, altruistic, or manipulative will gradually shape you in the direction of those traits. So the act of designing your environment is literally the act of designing yourself.

2. Study Your Biases

If you are like most people, you look around and see others who are confused, dogmatic, and irrational. You, on the other hand, have mostly found the correct beliefs and learned to think clearly. If everyone else would just listen to you, the world would be a much better place.

But the truth is that we are all deeply biased and have blind spots that prevent us from seeing our own thinking errors.

The tricky thing about cognitive biases is that one little distortion in your thinking won’t just cause you to make a single mistake. It will continue to cause mistakes for the rest of your life – unless you can find it and program it out.

If you want to overcome self-limiting biases, the first and most obvious step is to familiarize yourself with the most common biases found across the human race. Here are some examples:

Confirmation bias is responsible for the fact that we tend to look only for information that confirms our existing theories, beliefs, and worldview at the expense of those that conflict with them.

The bandwagon effect refers to our tendency to come to conclusions and make decisions based on what is popular, though we often find ways to rationalize these decisions to ourselves.

The fundamental attribution error causes us to attribute our own positive behaviors and successes to our individual character while blaming our negative behaviors and failures, and the successes of others, on luck and circumstance.

These are just a few examples of biases – you can find a more exhaustive list here, and a nice diagram here. Biases can be stubborn, but if you can learn to identify and remove a particular bias, the quality of your decisions will be improved throughout your life.

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3. Practice Asceticism

Over the course of our lives, we develop dependencies that could be compared to addictions. We start to need a glass of wine to relax after work, need our Tempur-Pedic bed to get to sleep, or need a six-figure income to be content in our lives.

You will not have time for continuous personal growth if your life is dominated by trying to satisfy your elaborate requirements.

Weird as it may seem, we often learn about ourselves by observing our own behaviors, so if all of our behaviors suggest to us that money, for example, is the highest good, we very well may start to believe it.

To counter the effect of acquired dependencies, we can use the practice of asceticism, or voluntary discomfort, to intentionally deprive ourselves of some desired and attainable object.

The practice has been used by some to serve as self-punishment, which has led some to quickly write it off. But the useful purpose of asceticism is to decrease our ongoing desires and bring contentment into closer reach.

Simply choose something on which you feel you are overly reliant, and intentionally limit or sacrifice that desire. If you find yourself unable to endure basic economy flights, enjoy camping trips, or are unhappy whenever the thermostat is not set to the perfect temperature, you have become overly-reliant on comfort. Counter this dependency by sleeping on the floor for a night or walking barefoot on a gravel road.

If it is pleasure you crave, you can temporarily deprive yourself of food (fasting), sex, or a drug to down-regulate the desire. Minor acts of social sacrifice, such as neglecting an opportunity to signal something positive about yourself, can decrease your desire for status, approval, and validation. And giving away all but the most necessary possessions in the spirit of minimalism can down-regulate the innate desire to accumulate and horde.

Would anyone who thought pleasure was the ultimate good deliberately put herself in an uncomfortable position? Would anyone who thought social status were the highest good neglect his social media accounts? Would anyone who thought money were the highest good turn down, or even give away, a large sum of money? You teach yourself what is important to you through your behaviors, so behave wisely.

For every type of perpetual desire you are able to remove, you remove complication from your life. If you can snip out these burdensome lifestyle addictions, you can make room in your life for growth.

4. Design Your Consequences

Every time you take an action, there is a consequence that gives your brain some kind of reward or punishment.

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It may seem strange to suggest we can “design” the consequences of our actions, but there are many ways to ensure that the right behaviors are reinforced and the wrong ones are discouraged. And putting these consequences in place will take away the need to be motivated all the time to achieve your goals.

You can leverage your desire for money by making the commitment to give money to your friend every day you fail to practice an instrument you want to learn. Simply make a deposit to a trusted friend that you can only get back if you meet your specific behavioral goal. This way, the consequence for slacking off will be a financial loss, making it harder to justify.

By publicly announcing the behavioral changes you intend to make, you can use your social drives to raise the stakes of failure. By getting a personal trainer or workout partner, you can add accountability to your habits and make it so that failing to go to the gym may cause you to face the judgment of others.

As I write this, I’m using an online tool called Focusmate which calls itself a virtual coworking tool. It sets up roughly hour long video sessions between strangers trying to accomplish their own goals, and asks each person to work silently, only sharing their goal at the beginning and how well they did at the end. It’s a surprisingly powerful productivity tool, and it works because it stacks consequences of social approval or disapproval onto our personal goals.

A method known as temptation bundling allows us to stack enjoyable activities onto our defined goals. Whether you love fantasy football, bubble baths, or dressing up like a pirate, you can structure your plans so you only allow yourself to do these things after completing a particular disciplined activity. This will slowly cause you to associate the positive behavior with the indulgence until you begin to crave the positive activity itself.[2]

One of the most interesting ways to take advantage of your reward system is by creating a token economy. Create some kind of token, be it a poker chip, a paper clip, or a check mark in your notebook. Assign a particular value to the token, and give yourself one immediately every time you perform a predetermined action. You can say that a token equals a coffee, a concert, or one episode of your favorite streaming show. Over time, the token will become so closely associated with the reward that it will serve as a powerful reward itself.[3]

Make it so the path to growth is also the path of least resistance, and you will never burn out on your goals again.

5. Log Your Thoughts and Emotions

Bad emotional habits are just like biases – they will be continually triggered throughout your life if you don’t find ways to program them out. According to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), the most effective therapeutic method ever devised, negative emotions are caused by automatic and distorted thoughts. So if we can notice and correct our flawed thinking, we can remove problematic emotions.

One of the most effective methods for removing these bad emotional patterns is to keep a log in the form of a notepad or a smartphone app. Try to take a note of every unwanted emotion you notice – anything from minor annoyance to severe anxiety. Every time you log an emotion, take a note of the situation which triggered it, and if possible, the chain of thoughts which came immediately before it.

The simple act of keeping a log should cause you to notice many more of these emotions and patterns than you normally would. You will find that certain lines of reasoning dominate your emotional experience. You may find that a certain kind of mistaken reasoning is responsible for a huge percentage of your daily struggles.

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Once you find a potentially distorted belief at the root of your emotions, you can investigate how accurate it really is. Positive psychology researcher Courtney Ackerman offers some basic questions to ask:[4]

Is this thought realistic?

Am I basing my thoughts on facts or on feelings?

What is the evidence for this thought?

Could I be misinterpreting the evidence?

Am I viewing the situation as black and white, when it’s really more complicated?

Am I having this thought out of habit, or do facts support it?

If you can correct the mistaken reasoning, you can permanently reprogram the undesired emotion.

By learning to quickly recognize and refute your emotional distortions, you can build the habit of short-circuiting this tendency automatically, programming it out for good. Then you are free to focus your efforts on setting new goals and taking action.

More Tips on Personal Growth

Featured photo credit: Nana Kim via unsplash.com

Reference

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Ryan A Bush

Creator of Designing the Mind and the world's leading expert on psychitecture

5 Ways To Build Capacity For Continuous Personal Growth

Trending in Personal Development

1 42 Practical Ways To Improve Yourself 2 Why Constant Self-Improvement May Be Bad Sometimes 3 How to Commit to Self-Development for Continuous Growth 4 20 Useful Things to Learn Now That Will Change Your Life 5 27 Best Self Improvement Books to Read No Matter How Old You Are

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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

42 Practical Ways To Improve Yourself

42 Practical Ways To Improve Yourself

Are you someone who likes to grow? Do you constantly seek to improve yourself and become better?

If you do, then we have something in common.

I’m very passionate about personal growth. It was just 4 years ago when I discovered my passion for growing and helping others grow. At that time, I was 22 and in my final year of university. As I thought about the meaning of life, I realized there was nothing more meaningful than to pursue a life of development and betterment. It is through improving ourselves that we get the most out of life.

After a year and a half of actively pursuing growth and helping others to grow through my personal development blog, I realize there is never an end to the journey of self improvement.

The more I grow, the more I realize there is so much out there I don’t know, so much that I have to learn.

For sure, there is always something about ourselves we can improve on. The human potential is limitless, so it’s impossible to reach a point of no growth.

Whenever we think we are good, we can be even better.

As a passionate advocate of growth, I’m continuously looking for ways to self-improve. I’ve compiled 42 of my best tips which might be helpful in your personal growth journey. Some of them are simple steps which you can engage in immediately. Some are bigger steps which takes conscious effort to act on. Here they are:

1. Read a book every day.

Books are concentrated sources of wisdom. The more books you read, the more wisdom you expose yourself to.

What are some books you can start reading to enrich yourself? Some books I’ve read and found useful are Think and Grow Rich, Who Moved My Cheese, 7 Habits, The Science of Getting Rich and Living the 80/20 Way.

When you’re reading a book every day, you will feed your brain with more and more knowledge.

Here’re 5 really good books to read for self-improvement:

2. Learn a new language.

As a Singaporean Chinese, my main languages are English, Mandarin and Hokkien (a Chinese dialect). Out of interest, I took up language courses in the past few years such as Japanese and Bahasa Indonesian.

I realized learning a language is a whole new skill altogether and the process of acquainting with a new language and culture is a totally a mind-opening experience.

3. Pick up a new hobby.

Beyond just your usual favorite hobbies, is there something new you can pick up? Any new sport you can learn?

Examples are fencing, golf, rock climbing, football, canoeing, or ice skating.

Your new hobby can also be a recreational hobby. For example, pottery, Italian cooking, dancing, wine appreciation, web design, etc.

Learning something new requires you to stretch yourself in different aspects, whether physically, mentally or emotionally.

Here’re 20 hobbies to get you some new ideas

20 Productive Hobbies That Will Make You Smarter and Happier

4. Take up a new course.

Is there any new course you can join? Courses are a great way to gain new knowledge and skills.

It doesn’t have to be a long-term course – seminars or workshops serve their purpose too.

I’ve been to a few workshops and they have helped me gain new insights which I had not considered before.

In fact, anyone who wants to be a smarter learner should take this 20-minute FREE class: Spark Your Learning Genius. It will help supercharge your learning ability and pick up any skill faster!

5. Create an inspirational room.

Your environment sets the mood and tone for you. If you are living in an inspirational environment, you are going to be inspired every day.

In the past, I didn’t like my room at all because I thought it was messy and dull. A few years ago, I decided this was the end of it – I started on a “Mega Room Revamp” project and overhauled my room.

The end result? A room I totally relish being in and inspires me to be at my peak every day.


    Photo credit: Source

    6. Overcome your fears.

    All of us have fears. Fear of uncertainty, fear of public speaking, fear of risk… All our fears keep us in the same position and prevent us from growing.

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    Recognize that your fears reflect areas where you can grow. I always think of fears as the compass for growth.

    If I have a fear about something, it represents something I’ve yet to address, and addressing it helps me to grow.

    Learn How to Overcome Your Irrational Fears (That Stop You from Succeeding).

    7. Level up your skills.

    If you have played video games before, especially RPGs, you’ll know the concept of leveling up – gaining experience so you can be better and stronger.

    As a blogger, I’m constantly leveling up my writing skills. As a speaker, I’m constantly leveling up my public engagement abilities. What skills can you level up?

    8. Wake up early.

    Waking up early (say, 5-6am) has been acknowledged by many (Anthony Robbins, Robin Sharma, among other self-help gurus) to improve your productivity and your quality of life.

    I feel it’s because when you wake up early, your mindset is already set to continue the momentum and proactively live out the day.

    Not sure how to wake up early and feel energetic? These ideas will help:

    How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

    9. Have a weekly exercise routine.

    A better you starts with being in better physical shape. I personally make it a point to jog at least 3 times a week, at least 30 minutes each time.

    You may want to mix it up with jogging, gym lessons and swimming for variation.

    Check out these 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).


      Photo credit: Source

      10. Start your life handbook.

      A life handbook is an idea I started 3 years ago.

      Basically, it’s a book which contains the essentials on how you can live your life to the fullest, such as your purpose, your values and goals. Sort of like your manual for your life.

      I started my life handbook since 2007 and it’s been a crucial enabler in my progress.

      11. Write a letter to your future self.

      What do you see yourself as 5 years from now? Will you be the same? Different? What kind of person will you be?

      Write a letter to your future self – 1 year from now will be a good start – and seal it.

      Make a date in your calendar to open it 1 year from now. Then start working to become the person you want to open that letter.

      12. Get out of your comfort zone.

      Real growth comes with hard work and sweat. Being too comfortable doesn’t help us grow, it makes us stagnate.

      What is your comfort zone? Do you stay in most of the time? Do you keep to your own space when out with other people?

      Shake your routine up. Do something different.

      By exposing yourself to a new context, you’re literally growing as you learn to act in new circumstances.

      13. Put someone up to a challenge.

      Competition is one of the best ways to grow. Set a challenge (weight loss, exercise, financial challenge, etc) and compete with an interested friend to see who achieves the target first.

      Through the process, both of you will gain more than if you were to set off on the target alone.

      14. Identify your blind spots.

      Scientifically, blind spots refer to areas our eyes are not capable of seeing. In personal development terms, blind spots are things about ourselves we are unaware of. Discovering our blind spots help us discover our areas of improvement.

      One exercise I use to discover my blind spots is to identify all the things/events/people that trigger me in a day — trigger meaning making me feel annoyed/weird/affected. These represent my blind spots.

      It’s always fun to do the exercise because I discover new things about myself, even if I may already think I know my own blind spots (but then they wouldn’t be blind spots would they?).

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      After that, I work on steps to address them.

      15. Ask for feedback.

      As much as we try to improve, we will always have blind spots. Asking for feedback gives us an additional perspective.

      Some people to approach will be friends, family, colleagues, boss, or even acquaintances, since they will have no preset bias and can give their feedback objectively.

      Learn more about how to ask for feedback and become a fast learner here!

      16. Stay focused with to-do lists.

      I start my day with a list of tasks I want to complete and this helps make me stay focused. In comparison, the days when I don’t do this end up being extremely unproductive.

      For example, part of my to-do list for today is to write a guest post at LifeHack.Org, and this is why I’m writing this now!

      Since my work requires me to use my computer all the time, I use Free Sticky Notes to manage my to-do lists. It’s really simple to use and it’s a freeware, so I recommend you check it out.

      17. Set Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs).

      I’m a big fan of setting BHAGs. BHAGs stretch you beyond your normal capacity since they are big and audacious – you wouldn’t think of attempting them normally.

      What are BHAGs you can embark on, which you’ll feel absolutely on top of the world once you complete them? Set them and start working on them.

      Learn How to Use SMART Goal to Become Highly Successful in Life.

      18. Acknowledge your flaws.

      Everyone has flaws. What’s most important is to understand them, acknowledge them, and address them.

      What do you think are your flaws? What are the flaws you can work on now? How do you want to address them?

      19. Get into action.

      The best way to learn and improve is to take action.

      What is something you have been meaning to do? How can you take action on it immediately?

      Waiting doesn’t get anything done. Taking action gives you immediate results to learn from.

      20. Learn from people who inspire you.

      Think about people you admire. People who inspire you. These people reflect certain qualities you want to have for yourself too.

      What are the qualities in them you want to have for yourself? How can you acquire these qualities?

      21. Quit a bad habit.

      Are there any bad habits you can lose? Oversleeping? Not exercising? Being late? Slouching? Nail biting? Smoking?

      Here’s some great advice from Lifehack’s CEO on hacking your habit loop to break bad habits and build good ones:

      How to Break a Habit and Hack the Habit Loop

      22. Cultivate a new habit.

      Some good new habits to cultivate include reading books (#1), waking up early (#8), exercising (#9), reading a new personal development article a day (#40) and meditating.

      Is there any other new habit you can cultivate to improve yourself?

      If you’re wondering how to make good habits stick, check out these tips:

      18 Tricks to Make New Habits Stick

      23. Avoid negative people.

      As Jim Rohn says,

      “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with”.

      Wherever we go, there are bound to be negative people. Don’t spend too much of your time around them if you feel they drag you down.

      Not sure who are the toxic people in life? This article can help you:

      10 Toxic Persons You Should Just Get Rid Of

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      24. Learn to deal with difficult people.

      There are times when there are difficult people you can’t avoid, such as at your workplace, or when the person is part of your inner circle of contacts.

      Learn how to deal with them. These people management skills will go a long way in working with people in the future:

      How To Deal With Negative People

      25. Learn from your friends.

      Everyone has amazing qualities in them. It’s up to how we want to tap into them.

      With all the friends who surround you, they are going to have things you can learn from.

      Try thinking of a good friend right now. Think about just one quality they have which you want to adopt. How can you learn from them and adopt this skill for yourself?

      Speak to them if you need to. For sure, they will be more than happy to help!

      26. Start a journal.

      Journaling is a great way to gain better self-awareness. It’s a self-reflection process.

      As you write, clarify your thought process and read what you wrote from a third person’s perspective, you gain more insights about yourself.

      Your journal can be private or an online blog. I use my personal development blog as a personal journal too and I’ve learned a lot about myself through the past year of blogging.

      27. Start a blog about personal development.

      To help others grow, you need to first be walking the talk. There are expectations of you, both from yourself and from others, which you have to uphold.

      I run The Personal Excellence Blog, where I share my personal journey and insights on how to live a better life. Readers look toward my articles to improve themselves, which enforces to me that I need to keep improving, for myself and for the people I’m reaching out to.

      28. Get a mentor or coach.

      There’s no faster way to improve than to have someone work with you on your goals.

      Many of my clients approach me to coach them in their goals and they achieve significantly more results than if they had worked alone.

      If you’re looking for a mentor, don’t miss these tips:

      What to Look for in a Good Mentor

      29. Reduce the time you spend on chat programs.

      I realized having chat programs open at default result in a lot of wasted time. This time can be much better spent on other activities.

      The days when I don’t get on chat, I get a lot more done. I usually disable the auto start-up option in the chat programs and launch them when I do want to chat and really have the time for it.

      30. Learn chess (or any strategy game).

      I found chess is a terrific game to learn strategy and hone your brainpower. Not only do you have fun, you also get to exercise your analytical skills.

      You can also learn strategy from other board games or computer games, such as Othello, Chinese Chess, WarCraft, and so on.

      31. Stop watching TV.

      I’ve not been watching TV for pretty much 4 years and it’s been a very liberating experience. (Here’re 10 Reasons To Turn Off Your TV)

      I realized most of the programs and advertisements on mainstream TV are usually of a lower consciousness and not very empowering.

      In return, the time I’ve freed up from not watching TV is now constructively used for other purposes, such as connecting with close friends, doing work I enjoy, exercising, etc.

      32. Start a 30-day challenge.

      Set a goal and give yourself 30 days to achieve this. Your goal can be to stick with a new habit or something you’ve always wanted to do but have not.

      30 days is just enough time to strategize, plan, get into action, review and nail the goal.

      33. Meditate.

      Meditation helps to calm you and be more conscious. I also realized that during the nights when I meditate (before I sleep), I need lesser sleep. The clutter clearing process is very liberating.

      Have a try with this 5-minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime.

      34. Join Toastmasters (Learn public speaking).

      Interestingly, public speaking is the #1 fear in the world, with #2 being death.

      After I started public speaking as a personal development speaker/trainer, I’ve learned a lot about how to communicate better, present myself and engage people.

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      Toastmasters is an international organization that trains people in public speaking. Check out the Toastmaster clubs nearest you here.

      35. Befriend top people in their fields.

      These people have achieved their results because they have the right attitudes, skill sets and know-how. How better to learn than from the people who have been there and done that?

      Gain new insights from them on how you can improve and achieve the same results for yourself.

      36. Let go of the past.

      Is there any grievance or unhappiness from the past which you have been holding on? If so, it’s time to let it go.

      Holding on to them prevents you from moving on and becoming a better person. Break away from the past, forgive yourself, and move on.

      Just recently, I finally moved on from a past heartbreak of 5 years ago. The effect was liberating and very empowering, and I have never been happier.

      37. Start a business venture.

      Is there anything you have an interest in? Why not turn it into a venture and make money while learning at the same time?

      Starting a new venture requires you to be learn business management skills, develop business acumen and have a competitive edge.

      The process of starting and developing my personal development business has equipped me with many skills, such as self-discipline, leadership, organization and management.

      38. Show kindness to people around you.

      You can never be too kind to someone. In fact, most of us don’t show enough kindness to people around us.

      Being kind helps us to cultivate other qualities such as compassion, patience, and love.

      As you get back to your day after reading this article later on, start exuding more kindness to the people around you, and see how they react.

      Not only that, notice how you feel as you behave kindly to others. Chances are, you will feel even better than yourself.

      39. Reach out to the people who hate you.

      If you ever stand for something, you are going to get haters.

      It’s easy to hate the people who hate us. It’s much more challenging to love them back.

      Being able to forgive, let go and show love to these people requires magnanimity and an open heart.

      Is there anyone who dislikes or hates you in your life? If so, reach out to them. Show them love.

      Seek a resolution and get closure on past grievances. Even if they refuses to reciprocate, love them all the same. It’s much more liberating than to hate them back.

      40. Take a break.

      Have you been working too hard? Self-improvement is also about recognizing our need to take a break to walk the longer mile ahead. You can’t be driving a car if it has no petrol.

      Scheduling down time for yourself is important. Take some time off for yourself every week. Relax, rejuvenate and charge yourself up for what’s up ahead.

      41. Read at least 1 personal development article a day.

      Some of my readers make it a point to read at least one personal development article every day, which I think is a great habit.

      There are many terrific personal development blogs out there, some of which you can check here.

      42. Commit to your personal growth.

      I can be writing list articles with 10 ways, 25 ways, 42 ways or even 1,000 ways to improve yourself, but if you have no intention to commit to your personal growth, it doesn’t matter what I write.

      Nothing is going to get through. We are responsible for our personal growth — not anyone else. Not your mom, your dad, your friend, me or Lifehack.

      Make the decision to commit to your personal growth and embrace yourself to a life-long journey of growth and change. Kick off your growth by picking a few of the steps above and working on them.

      The results may not be immediate, but I promise you that as long as you keep to it, you’ll start seeing positive changes in yourself and your life.

      So here you are, 43 solid ways for self improvement. Pick one or a few to start doing today.

      If you want to see yourself improving, you must take some actions.

      More Self-Improvement Tips

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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