6 ways I got excited about self-improvement
“That’s not me. I could never do that. I don’t like being pushed out of my comfort zone. I don’t have time. That’s scary. That’s lame (or I think the people around me will think so)” …. those are the sorts of phrases that would flow through my mind when thinking about personal development.
A huge fear of mine is that I am uninteresting. There, it’s out there. I don’t know where it stems from or why (so it’s definitely on the to do list of things to work on). A quirky little fault I am learning that I have is, the things that I want the most, I manage to fuck up or talk myself out of going after (“That’s not me … I could never do that…” catchy theme song, you know it?!). It’s a nasty habit that I am starting to overcome (slowly). You’d think the way to solve a fear of being uninteresting would be to do, learn and achieve interesting things right? Makes total sense!
Since most things starts with a Google search .. interesting came up as “arousing curiosity or interest, holding or catching the attention”. I wanted to be, I am trying to be, someone that people are curious about, professionally and personally. I want to be someone that attracts people to want to talk to me, have a conversation with, fall in love with (a blog for another time!). To be that person, I was going to have to be absorbed, fascinated, captivated and engaged in the world, other people and (god forbid) myself.
Here’s some of the daily practices I started to really get cracking on my own development:
1. Learning input.
Like food to fuel to the body, I changed my learning habits to fuel my mind.
I’m someone who regularly has headphones on listening to music so it felt easy to swap some of my time out with podcasts. Like a sponge in an infinity pool I started to get into reading books (yes, old-school paperbacks and stuff on my Ipad), saving articles on my phone, listening to docos on YouTube or Netflix, you name it. At least once a day. I was so open to anyone who had perspectives on career change, ‘finding your life’s purpose’ how to ‘get out of a rut’, how to change habits, psychology and philosophy topics… anything anyone was recommending me knowing I had quit my job and was looking for a change.
Being a massive reader already this wasn’t really hard for me to get into. But since what I was reading was predominantly love stories or set in the Middle Ages or in medieval times, getting in a few motivational topics or learning more about the world around me was definitely going to be worthwhile. Ha, the themes I was a feeling my mind with were quite opposite to my personal journey (the liberation/oppression of women, how to be happy in this day and age/how to just survive or freedom from ‘the man’/pledging loyalty to a king you don’t believe in). I’ve reserve these books for bedtime or beachtime.
Learning doesn’t always have to be information either. Actually, putting the book down or taking the headphones out, meant learning about other people, listening to conversations, shit even interacting with people, the horror! HA. But seriously, doing that, just being more aware of what’s going on around me, getting out of my own head and not shutting off the world was pretty important. It also helped me be more creative too, coming up with characters, story lines, music lyrics. The world is fascinating when you choose to be in it.
2. Learning output.
I found it helpful to write notes about some of this stuff to make sure I avoided the age old “yeah ok, that was insightful. What do you do with it?”. I’d revisit the notes every now and again, even listen to podcasts over and over to hone in on a message I really liked. Like any teacher or coach will till you, you have to keep repeating it to practice it, to learn it.
It’s so cool as well, as soon as you say you are interested in podcasts, people seem to come out of the woodwork with recommendations and suggestions. Then you start to talk about ideas and concepts, arguments and perspectives with them and socialise some of your own actions and thoughts about topics. It’s so nice sometimes to hear your own ideas come out of your mouth you didn’t even know of.
Learning about new topics and current events, I’ve started to have conversations with friends that I don’t think I ever would have in the past. Friends I have known almost twenty years, our friendship is expanding because we are talking more about society, politics, trends, culture. I’m sure others already do this but for some reason because I didn’t know anything about any of these topics I felt more confident to now ask questions and I genuinely wanted to know other people’s viewpoints on things. This was a massive shift for me as another fear I have is seeming stupid around other people. But I also learnt you can be curious without knowing anything and learn something new if you are genuinely want to learn about someone else.
3. Figure out and follow your interests. The real ones.
I have an A4 piece of paper listing a bunch of things I have started or tried over the years but not picked up for a while. As an embarrassing example, there is a piano at the foot of my bed that I’ll admit to keeping in my room to look artsy in case a gentlemen fellow finds his way to my boudoir… yup could I be any more of a try-hard hipster?! Once upon a time I played every afternoon after school, I made up songs, worked out the notes to my favourite songs and sung loudly to hits from Les Miserables while I had the headphones plugged in. When playing become less and less frequent (boys happened) and when my mum continually wanted to throw it out I took it off her hands. I’m slightly compelled to play it. But … I’m not. When I was looking at this time of personal development and revisiting my interests the piano wasn’t one of them. And that’s ok. I realised that not every interest I have EVER had, has to be the ones that lurk around twenty years later.
Once that light bulb moment hit me I felt freer, but also a little unsettled. If things like the piano and drawing weren’t current interests then what the hell were they now as a thirty something?
I honestly have no idea what my interests are. I run and gym (they are just part of my routine), I love music and reading, I love travelling, live music and going out to new bars. BUT that’s kind of it. I sound like every tinder profile I’ve ever read. Throw in I’m “down-to-earth” and “I like going out or staying in” and I sound like the rest of Australia summed up on their as little-effort-as-possible created profile.
Writing has been one thing I’ve always loved doing. Actually I’ve always envisioned being a writer, different things. I started a writing course, started two blogs and giving it a go to see if the vision is a dream or could be a reality.
This isn’t even yet about passions (that’s another blog too!). This is getting real about the things you ‘have always wanted to do’ and haven’t and leaving them behind. It’s about seeing what could be an interest if you commit to giving it some time.
4. Is how I am living right for me?
Your environment kind of matters and what you surround yourself with. What am I spending my money on? What is it supporting? What is in my room, what’s in my house? Am I surrounded by things that are the way I want them or the way it has always been?
These questions are what go me to start looking into the state of the world environmentally and how the way I was living was consciously or unconsciously impacting the plant. That’s where I started to looking into climate change and veganism. I signed up to millions of not-for-profit Facebook pages to see which ones affected me the most, which ones aligned to my values. I started to look for jobs within those and volunteering positions to learn more about how they work and their cause. I ended up with a volunteer role with one about climate change, where I’ve been working a few hours a week for them on an upcoming campaign. Immersing myself in that world has provided great insight into possible future career aspirations or personal pursuits.
One day I was getting out of bed and looked around my room. I had the usual surrounding me, pictures, clothes, books, travel memorabilia. When I looked around again I realised some of the stuff I had had for ten or fifteen years. Some of it wasn’t the stuff of a thirty something year old. Who knew?! I did a bit of a clean up and deep dive into what I was holding onto and why and I felt fresh and free to surround myself with new influences and things of significance.
A few tweaks like this have just refreshed how I feel about myself and my footprint in my community.
5. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable.
If I had a dollar for every time someone gave me this pearl of wisdom, I wouldn’t have to worry about figuring out my next career move. But to be fair, its pretty spot on.
While I was opening up my mind to new information to learn and engage with the world, I needed new experiences to challenge and captivate me. Get me out of my head and trying new things.
On a whim and the lure of cheap flights, I booked a trip to Bali. I was going to try Yoga, meditate, climb mountains and see beautiful things. The booking part and the concept of travelling solo didn’t frighten me. The scary thing was the Yoga bit. When I work out, I like to sweat. And I mean S.W.E.A.T. Get me a mop to clean the gym floor, red face, tennis grunting, hose me down and for god sake sake stay away and keep guard of your nostrils…. S.W.E.A.T. But I was determined to give it a shot and see what the fuss was about. If I hated it at least I knew because I have never done one session in my life. Never.
But it doesn’t have to be the big things either. I’m not suggesting challenging comfyness has to be about expensive things, jumping out of planes (done it BTW) or rash decisions.
I’d been learning a lot about entrepreneurship and wondering if that’s where I might dabble my interests. As a kid I always wanted to run a business, and now, I’d love to work in a fun start up, started by moi. So, I signed up for a free seminar and networking event. Me! In the past I would have made someone go with me or I would just never have signed up. I have to say, the best part of the whole thing was the networking. I even got to the stage of exchanging emails. Unheard of! I think I just liked being in a room with people who also didn’t know what they were doing (or if they did, they had no clue about where the fuck to get started). It was just so comforting to know it wasn’t just me questioning the meaning of life! Surrounding myself with other people was the best to get away from friends and family who didn’t understand what I was doing or have their lives figured out. Maybe how I overcame this was because I was truly there to figure out my story and learn those of other people, it took away the angst against meeting people and having awkward conversations.
Especially for this part, when fear popped up, I continually asked myself “What really is the risk of not doing it?” and “Do I really want to be in the same place I was before?”.
6. You can’t do it all the time!!!!!!
There is the possibility of self development overload. Self judgement, reflection, visioning. It can get exhausting. Trust me. Sometimes you just need to sit on the couch and watch something without doing ANYTHING else. Sometimes you just need to talk about something in a one dimensional way without questioning its purpose in the universe.
So I know you’re curious, am I more interesting now? I’m afraid the uninspiring answer, is that it’s a work in progress. But being more open to the world, engaging in things of interest and trying new things are captivating me. They are holding my interest so some of that is bound to rub off and start shaping a bit more of my own identify, what I am really about, what truly matters to me.
But like all things worth it, it takes time. And developing yourself should take time so you don’t just cut your hair, have an affair and blow all your money searching for stuff that’s inside you anyway.
How are you opening your mind and facing your fears?