How to improve yourself every day – The art of self-development

improve-yourself-mindset

improve-yourself-mindset

I don’t think there is someone out there who doesn’t want to improve in some way. Even if you are very competent in a specific field, you can always get better.

This procedure of improving yourself never stops, even if you are the best. Will Steph Curry ever stop training his shots? I don’t think so!

So you want to get better in some aspects of your life. Maybe it’s your work or social skills, your relationship, your fitness or whatever.

Improvement is a mindset, is a way of living and behaving. If you have the right mindset, you can improve anything.

But first things first.

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Realizing the need for improvement

The human species is a very competitive one. We want to get better and also be better than the others. There are the mechanisms of evolution that have instilled in us this tendency for improvement. Evolution is all about getting better after all.

But being better than the others is a “dark” motive. It doesn’t lead to a constant growth. I am sure you know many people who reach the top and then stopped improving themselves because they thought there was no need anymore. But here is the catch. If you don’t get better, you get worse. There is no middle state.

My point is that the motives for improving yourself should be all about you. If you only compare with yourself and this need for improvement coming from deep within you, then you are on a good track.

But how this will for improvement wakes up? According to my experience and every person I have asked this question, the answer was simple and unanimous.

Failure.

When you fail, you instantly realize that you are not good enough. You don’t have what it takes to reach your goals.

So what are you going to do? You can cry like a little baby, you can quit, you can blame it on others or bad luck. But you can also see failure as a valuable lesson that will teach you how to improve further in order to succeed next time.

Yeah, failure feels bad but there is no better way to realize the need to improve yourself and what exactly needs improvement.

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The Improvement Mindset

The Improvement Mindset is a set of rules you have to keep in your mind at all times in order to apply them in your daily life.

1. Take responsibility for everything that happens in your life, good or bad. 

When things go bad in your life, take the responsibility. Maybe someone else made a huge mistake or was unfair to you, but you probably made a mistake too or you could have avoided it with better decisions. In any case, it doesn’t help if you credit your failures to someone else’s mistakes. Use failure as an opportunity to learn yourself better, find your weaknesses, figure out how to make better decisions and which persons deserve your trust.

2. Be always open to learning new things. 

Knowledge is never-ending. It’s not possible to know everything in a certain field, so keep in mind that you can always learn something new to expand your knowledge or understanding.

3. Accept criticism as valuable feedback.

Sure, sometimes criticism is unfair and “haters gonna hate”, but try to examine carefully and as objectively as possible if there is some truth in what your critics say. Our enemies in their effort to hurt us, discover our weak spots and reveal them to us. That’s pure gold! And oddly enough, that’s something friends, in their effort not to make us sad, never do. If you don’t know you suck in something, you can’t improve it!

4. Be humble, you can learn anything from anyone. 

You can literally learn from anyone and anything. The biggest lessons come from unexpected sources. You can realize invaluable life lessons from a little child, like simplicity. You can use martial arts teachings and mentality to your 9 to 5 job. You can learn cooperation from bees and humility from elephants. Everything in this world is able to teach you something by its positive or negative example.

5. Don’t punish yourself for mistakes. 

You have every right to make mistakes, but then you have the obligation to improve. Observe your actions as if it was someone else’s. Don’t judge too hard, don’t get emotional. Just watch. Find out why you made that mistake and how to avoid it in the future and move on.

6. If it’s not hard, it’s not worth it. 

Let’s not fool ourselves. Change is painful. Running uphill is exhausting. You have to push yourself hard so that your new and better self be born. But the only way is up. All the things that are worthy are (and should be) hard to get.

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Practical ways to implement in your everyday routine

OK, you got the previous rules in mind but there is something else missing. Something of great importance. If you have read my previous articles, then you already know that the essence of every theory is to apply it. So what’s missing?

Some practical ways to implement the Improvement Mindset in your daily routine, so you can actually start getting better.

I have some suggestions that worked for me, but if you do have the Improvement Mindset, then you can surely find extra ways that suit you better.

1. Keep learning through reading books, attending seminars/webinars, watching the latest news in your field etc

2. Use a journal to review your actions and decisions on a daily basis. Self-reflection precedes self-improvement.

3. Focus on improving no more than 2-3 things at the same time. Improvement requires a lot of effort from you and you just can’t do it if you are all over the place.

4. Schedule time for improvement in your day. If there is no time scheduled, then it will not happen.

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The Philoso-pill to Take

I will say it again. There is no such thing as staying the same. We either get better or we get worse.

Constantly improving ourselves should be a priority because being better and making wiser decisions will improve our lives as a whole.

Always keep in mind the Improvement Mindset and don’t forget to find practical ways to make self-improvement happen on a daily basis.

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The “Urgent – Important” Matrix: Eisenhower’s Productivity Hack

urgent important matrix facebook

urgent important matrix facebook

I used to consider myself a productive person. Always doing “stuff”. Always busy. But still, I was feeling like I was not going forward at the desired pace.

I was a hero in accomplishing small tasks, but I never seemed to find the time to pursue my long-term goals.

This was a big problem for me, causing me a lot of stress. The solution came from one of my mentors who told me: “You know, there is this trick you can use. It’s called the Urgent – Important Matrix…”

I followed his advice and trust me, you should check it out too!

The Urgent – Important Matrix

The Urgent – Important Matrix is a super useful tool that helps you prioritize the tasks on your to-do list by urgency and importance.

As I was recently informed, this tool is also known as the “Eisenhower Matrix”.

To be honest, even though I had been using his matrix for quite a long time, I had no idea who Eisenhower was. So, I googled him up and he turned out to be a US President (among other things) who led pretty much the definition of a productive life.

Anyway, without any intention to be disrespectful, I will still refer to his tool as “the Urgent – Important Matrix” because it reflects better its essence and functionality.

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How to be more Productive with Urgent – Important Matrix

The number one mistake that really ruins your productivity is setting your priorities all wrong.

The problem arises not from doing too little, but from doing too much of the wrong things. You complete a thousand unimportant small tasks but you neglect that one or two goals that are really going to make the difference.

The philosophy behind this tool is to organize your tasks by their urgency and importance and then decide on the action you should take.

Enough with the talking. Let’s see how it’s done.

First, you draw (guess what?) a 2×2 Matrix, as shown in the picture below. Make it big enough so you can write tasks inside the cells.

If you live paper-less like me or you can’t find a functioning pen right now, you’re in luck because I have done the work for you. I’ve made a cool Sheet in Google Drive that you can copy for free. You can download it at the bottom of this page.

Step number two is to place every task from your to-do list into one of the squares, according to the task’s importance and urgency status.

Each of these four squares actually represents the kind of action you should take. These actions are no other than the famous “4 Ds of Productivity”:

| Do | Defer | Delay/Delegate | Delete |

Here’s an example:

Urgent - important matrix eisenhower

#1 Urgent – Important (green square)

Place here: Tasks of high importance concerning your life, career, family that you need to do immediately

Best action: Do them first

Tip: These tasks need to be done today or tomorrow at the latest, so move them up immediately at the top of your to-do list. Do them first of all and as early in your day as possible.

#2 Not Urgent – Important (blue square)

Place here: Tasks concerning your life goals, career, family, quality activities etc that are really important but can wait for later

Best action: Defer

Tip: The best course of action for these tasks is to open your Calendar, find an appropriate time and schedule a time to do them.

#3 Urgent – Not Important (orange square)

Place here: Tasks that are not important to you but need to be done by someone as soon as possible.

Best action: Delay or Delegate.

Tip: If there is someone who can do them for you, that’s perfect. If not, then try to delay them for a couple of days. You will see that in most cases these tasks are not so urgent as you thought at first, or you can avoid them altogether. In case they still need to be done, then I’m sorry but you have to do them yourself. Schedule a time and do them.

#4 Not Urgent – Not Important (red square)

Place here: Neither urgent nor Important tasks like internet, social and fun stuff.

Best action: Delete.

Tip: Delete them from your to-do list and nothing bad will happen. You should only do them if you really have free time, and especially not in expense of the important tasks.

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5 Tips to take the most out of your Urgent – Important Matrix

# 1 Resist the temptation to place too many tasks in the Urgent – Important square

Putting too much on the green square makes your daily agenda too crowded and inflexible.

These are the tasks with a day or two deadline, remember? Trying to do ten of them in one day is clearly impossible and exhausting at best.

Very few tasks are actually both Important and Urgent.

The only reason a task becomes urgent is that your past-self failed to schedule it appropriately.

So try to find a time to complete your important tasks long before they turn Urgent.

#2 Don’t postpone your Important – Not Urgent tasks indefinitely, for God’s sake!

The worst single thing you can do with your planning is to postpone the tasks that live inside your blue box.

Why would anybody do such a thing? Because it’s easy.

These tasks usually are hard to do, time-consuming, require strategic thinking and sometimes not fun at all. But these are the things that are the most important for your personal development, that will have the greater impact on your life and the world, that will make you a happier person in the long run.

These tasks lack the urgency status, so your lazy brain acknowledges their importance but convinces you that they should be done later. When you will have more free time… When the situations are more favorable… When, when, when…
The bad thing about “I’ll do it later” is that there will always be a “later”.

Set your priorities straight. Don’t let your Important to-dos for later. Plan them instead.

Tasks priority urgent - important matrix
Task priority according to its Urgency and Importance status.

Decide on a time to do them and when that time comes and your lazy-self starts making excuses, be ruthless with him and do what’s Important!

#3 Avoid tasks that don’t align with your personal goals

These tasks usually fill up the Urgent – Not Important square.

Lots of people ask you every day to do something for them and if you are always saying “yes”, then you will end up doing other people’s tasks throughout your entire day.

Saying “No” is difficult because these people asking usually belong to work, family or friends category.

I’m not suggesting that you should never help others. You should. But if and when you have the time to do it.

When a colleague asks for your help to complete his assignment on the same day the deadline ends, then you have the right to say no if you don’t have the time. If he had asked you a week ago, then you would have the time to schedule it and provide the help he needed.

Seriously, don’t let others define your priorities and distract you from achieving your own goals.

Your Important tasks come first, then everybody else’s.

Learn to say “No” when you have to.

#4 Avoid all tasks that can be avoided

If you use this Matrix for some time, you will notice that many tasks you labeled as urgent, turned out to be not urgent after all.

That’s why a way to deal with Urgent – Not Important tasks is to delay them for a while, so you can see if there are tasks that should be done by you or can be avoided altogether by deleting or delegating to someone else.

Delegating doesn’t mean to pass the hard stuff to others in order to be lazy yourself.

You should only delegate tasks to other people when they offer to help or they will benefit in some way, such as getting knowledge, experience or… paid.

If this is the case, fine. Delegate and proceed to do other tasks. If there is no one around to delegate, then delete the task or schedule a time to do it.

#5 Be smart with your free time

This tip is about the red cell containing Not Urgent and Not Important tasks.

Or should I say… all the fun tasks?

I’m not actually suggesting that you should delete anything fun, entertaining, or scroll-involving activity from your life. If you try to cut them off entirely you will probably turn into an unhappy robot.

You can’t only do the Important stuff.

I’m currently 25 years old. I don’t want to work 15 hours a day or operate like a task-completing machine. And I don’t actually intend to make big money or become famous for eternity.

All I want is to live a productive, balanced and happy life.I like seeing my friends, going on dates, meeting new people regularly and watching the Vikings series.

Are these things Important? Probably not.

Should I do them? Hell yeah.

Anyway, all I’m saying is try to use your free time wisely.

Do things that relax you, take the tension out of you and rejuvenate you.

You know better what works for you. But keep in mind that engaging in low-quality activities like endless lurking in social media or a weekend gaming-marathon won’t refill your batteries and won’t prevent you from burning out.

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The Philoso-pill to Take

The transforming power of the Urgent – Important Matrix lies on the fact that it urges you to ask yourself some difficult but necessary questions.

Which are my priorities in life? Which are my goals? Am I really moving towards them? Do my actions align with my life path and values? Do I even have a life path or am I wandering aimlessly in this world?

There are no quick and easy answers to these questions, but ignoring them is not an option for anyone.

You need to be sincere when examining your motives and objective when judging your actions. The process is hard, but the answers invaluable.

This is why I recommend you start using this practical tool. It worked for me and it also worked for countless people.

It will not only help you define your daily and near-future plan but also keep your actions in check with your long-term life goals.

Small price to pay for a productive and fulfilling life! ????

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Free Download

To receive your own Urgent – Important Matrix fill the form below and you will find it in your inbox. Share any questions or comments in the comment section below. Enjoy!


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How to Make Tough Decisions in Life – You Need to Burn Your Boats

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How to Make Tough Decisions in Life
How to burn your boats in style like this ancient Greek dude.

 

You just took a tough decision.

Big like quitting your job, breaking up your relationship, moving to another city or starting a business.

But then, a little voice appears inside your head and starts whispering: “What if  you made a mistake?”, “Dude, is this what you really reeaaaaally want?” “You’re overreacting, just go back before it’s too late”.

We all know that voice. It happens to everyone. But having second thoughts is extremely stressful and exhausting.

You are wasting valuable energy into thinking your decision over and over, while you should be using that energy to move forward and explore the new road that lies ahead.

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Burning Your Boats

Let’s take a lesson from ancient Greeks. Upon arriving into the battlefield, the general commanded his army to burn all of their boats.

Yeah, burning your own boats sounds pretty crazy, but it comes with a great advantage. It leads to a point of no return. There is no going back after that.

With the possibility of fleeing dropping to absolute zero, all the soldiers can do is fight and commit to victory. Their survival instinct, instead of making them run away, is pushing them forward, making them thirsty for victory.

“OK, cool story” -I hear you ask- “but how can I apply that lesson in my life?”

I know you’re not generals invading foreign lands with a fleet full of bloodthirsty soldiers, so let’s get practical!

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3 Things to Remember When Making Tough Decisions

#1: It is not possible to know right now if you made the right choice.

I bet the Greeks in our story were not sure they would come victorious. Nevertheless, they burned their boats and this gave them a huge incentive to win because there was no other option.

That’s a mentality to adopt. “What is done is done, now I have to keep going”.

At this point, logic and intuition can help you no more. You picked the path that seemed right, but now it’s time to stop thinking and start walking down that path.

Maybe life proves you wrong in the end but it doesn’t matter. Your goal is to win the war, not every single battle. Life is not about being always right. Life is about learning from your mistakes and keep moving forward.

#2: Change is always hard.

That’s life, that’s human nature. We, humans, are creatures of habit. Big decisions bring big changes.

Your routine and everyday habits may be disrupted. You may have to go without things you took for granted for years. You may have to step out of your comfort zone. But to gain something you really want, you need to have the courage to let something else go.

I know, going on a new adventure is never easy. It means leaving the comfort of your home and hitting the road. And trust me, the road will offer you wisdom and joy that your comfy sofa will never do.

#3: Going back turns out to be wrong 99% of times.

Judging from my own choices and discussing with a lot of people about theirs, returning to a previous situation is proven to be -in every case- a terrible idea.

When you decide to make a big change in your life, it’s probably because you aren’t satisfied with the current circumstances you are living in. There are problems you can’t solve or you really need to take a step forward and claim the life you always wanted. Well, do it!

I’m not writing this article because I magically got enlightened while sitting under a tree like Buddha. It’s because I made these mistakes so many times that I finally learned not to do them again.

Trust me, if you regress to the previous situation, the same problems will be waiting there for you, getting you thinking about moving on once again.

Having the previous bullets in mind, let’s see what actions you can take that will actually help you commit to a difficult decision.

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How to Burn Your Boats

#1: Write down the reasons why you took that decision.

In some point, it is expected to have second thoughts about your decision and the temptation to go back to the previous situation appears.

Here’s a little trick to help you with this.

Write down your thoughts and emotions the moment you are taking that big decision. Why are you taking this decision? Why do you think this is the best choice for you right now? You can even write a warning motivation note to your future self to read.

Now put it away somewhere safe. I keep a special diary just for this. This trick will remind you of the reasons why behind your choices, your “axis of decision“, and give you the courage to keep going.

#2: Commit to your decision by telling people about it.

This is another way to trick yourself. By telling people about your decision, they expect you to keep your word. The more you admire those people, the better because you can’t afford to lose their respect.

#3: Get rid of the past.

To leave your past behind once and for all, you need to forge your own point of no return. Avoid at all costs the circumstances that can reignite the temptation to go back.

Going through a breakup? Erase her/his number, stop following his social media, avoid being in the same group of friends or party for a while, burn his photos (OK, I know you won’t burn them but at least stop looking at them for god’s sake!).

You got the point. Big decisions come with big changes, creating a new life for you. So, get rid of everything that belongs to your old life in order to make space for new things to come.

#4: Work hard.

I’m not referring to your main occupation, but working in a broad sense. Be active, be creative, be busy. Keep your mind occupied with some cool project.

Like the Greeks, you burned your boats but now is time to fight hard. Explore the new possibilities created by your decisions, seize the day with an adventurous mentality and claim what you always wanted.

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The Philoso-pill to Take

Taking life changing decisions is an extremely difficult process. We all have to go through this from time to time and that’s good because it makes us more experienced and mature.

But decision-making is not enough. To reap its benefits and do start a better life, you have to commit.

Talk is over, it’s time to take action. Toss the torch to your boats and watch them closely as they sink into the sea, vanishing along with your doubts and fears.

Make an 180-degree turn and start walking the new, exciting path that lies ahead.

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Why philosophy needs to be practical

practical philosophy

 

Practical Philosophy

We hear a lot about philosophy lately. But what is philosophy really about?

Most people, when they hear the term “philosophy” they think of questioning and studying about theoretical problems such as existence, values, ethics, politics etc.

Well, philosophy is not something you hear about or learn from some book. Philosophy is something you do, something you live by.

I’m not saying that reading or gathering knowledge is wrong. I’m saying it’s not enough. It’s the combination of knowing and doing that is going to make you a better person and that is exactly the essence of philosophy.

Doing without knowing is stupid, but then again knowing without doing is stupid plus lazy.

And that’s why I’m always telling that philosophy needs to be “practical”. Practical philosophy is the one that combines knowledge with action and possesses the following characteristics.

Philosophy gets practical when…

#1: It really changes you as a person.

When you compare yourself with a previous version of you, let’s say 1 year before, you should be able to see an improvement.

Not an abstract, “I feel better, I guess…” kind of improvement but an obvious and measurable one. Yes, measurable. You should be able to define what aspects of your life have improved (or not) and measure how much.

Pick a specific aspect and question yourself. What my goal was? What did I do to accomplish it? Did my actions have the expected results? Why not? What went wrong? What can I do in the future to improve myself or alter the current bad situation I’m in?

Practical philosophy is about answering such questions. Define the problem, find smart solutions, apply them.

#2: It provides answers to everyday life problems.

It’s ok to think about abstract philosophical problems such as existence, morality etc but it won’t make you happier or more fulfilled if you are not capable of finding solutions to your everyday problems.

Solutions for fixing bad habits, setting your priorities straight, solving financial problems, maintaining both body and mind in shape, having healthy relationships and social life, being confident about yourself, overcoming the hardships of life without losing your smile.

What’s the point of questioning about the root of evil when you can’t get out of bed in the morning? Exactly.

#3: It provides you with a fundamental set of values and ideas that all your decisions and actions are based upon.

It’s like an immovable axis that all your life revolves around. This is the most difficult part because it requires a lot of thinking and introspection. Every person should have a crystal-clear and well-thought stance about the following topics that are affecting his decisions and thus, his life.

Family (the desired relation with parents, children, [ex-] wife etc), sexual identity (define it, be super ok with it and express it in a natural and decent way), religion (Religion or not? Faith? Will you make life decisions and choices based on religion/faith?), death (what will happen to you when you die) and happiness (what makes you happy and fulfilled as a human being).

Of course, a view on a topic can change -and should change- through gaining experience and maturing.  But, even so, one should have his “axis of decision” clear in his mind and use it as a compass during the decision process.

Otherwise, every single decision in his life would be random, not aligned with his values and goals and unable to provide him happiness.

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Join the Battle

Practical philosophy is the way to improve your life and the chances are that you are already doing it, whether you have realized it or not.

We are all fighting the same battle, the battle against our bad selves. But it’s not a lost battle. Quite the opposite, actually. But first, you’ve got to do one thing and it is 100% within your power to do it.

You’ve got to take control of your life.

Stop blaming other people -or bad luck- for your own problems and stop hoping for messiahs to solve them for you. Start solving your problems yourself, start making your own decisions and being responsible for the risk involved.

Sculpt a new version of yourself, form strong relationships with the people you choose, overcome the hardships of life without losing your courage, find what makes YOU happy and chase it unconditionally.

This is what being a philosopher means, that’s what practical philosophy means.

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