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Becoming Your Best Self

Becoming Your Best Self

    If I asked you were it possible for you to get into the best shape of your life, we could agree that it is.  If I asked you were it possible for you to become smarter than you’ve ever been, I think we could agree that you could work hard, study, learn, and practice more than you ever had.  But strangely, the idea of becoming the “perfect version” of ourselves seems so unobtainable.  It seems impossible.

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    But it isn’t.  It just requires you to work harder and more diligently than you ever have before.  Is it worth it?  Just ask yourself this.  Would you like to be the smartest, best looking, fittest, funniest, best dressed, most compassionate, loving person you’ve ever been?  Would you like to be your own definition of the perfect person?

    If, like me, you answered yes, then  you’ve taken the first step to becoming your best self.  The journey is long, the obstacles hard.  The plan, though, is simple.  Define, plan, execute, redefine, plan again, execute again, etc.  Let’s go over the plan in a little more detail.

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    Plan – think about your perfect self.  What does he or she look like?  How does he speak?  How does he think?  How does he eat?  How does he interact with others?  What do people think of him?  What is he capable of, that you aren’t? Define your perfect self in adjectives that are measurable and obtainable.  Things like “he is lean and strong, with a low body fat percentage and a good amount of visible muscle,” or “she speaks well, avoids idle conversation, and is listened to and respected by all of those that she communicates with.”

    Take those descriptions and plan out how long it would take for you to achieve each and every one of them.  For instance “if I am at 17% body fat, and I can lose 1 lb per week, it will take me 20 weeks to get to my goal body fat percentage,” or “I speak often without thinking about what I’m saying.  This lends to people not caring about my thoughts or respecting my opinions.  I need to spend the next 3 months focusing on my idle talk.”
    Then implement a “snowball method” towards becoming your perfect self.  Start with the shortest timed goals.  “I will floss every day” will only take about a week or two to perfect, whereas “I will be able to run a marathon” might take much longer.  As soon as you’ve made a description habit, move to the next one (while continuing the first, of course).  With each habit you introduce into your newly constructed lifestyle, you will be 1 step closer to your perfect self.  You will also gain momentum with each goal, which will motivate you towards the next goal.  By the time you reach the goals that could take months or even years to implement, you’ll be so full of new skills and motivation that you’ll tackle them with no problem.

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    Remember that each of your goals should have purpose.  You may found as I have that a couple of months (or years) down the line that a certain goal of yours no longer suits your best interest.  Maybe there is no good purpose for being 10% body fat, but instead you find it important to have functional strength and cardiovascular stamina.  In this case you would align your plan to fit your new goals.  Instead of focusing on body fat percentage, you would plan workouts that focused on increasing strength and stamina.

    With the victory of each goal implemented into your lifestyle you’ll be one step closer to becoming your vision of your perfect self.  Each victory will mark a decision you made and plan that you carried out, work that you did to make yourself better.  You’ll feel better about yourself with each victory, and with the learning of each new skill or the discipline of each new focus, you’ll find it that much easier to move to the next goal.

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    It’s a long journey to the top of the mountain, but it’s completely obtainable, and totally worth the effort.  Start climbing today, and you’ll be well on your way before you even start feeling the pain.  Good luck, and I’ll see you at the top!

    Image: ibm4381

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    Ibrahim Husain

    Ibrahim is a management analyst who writes about communication tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

    The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

    Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    How to Self-Taught Effectively

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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