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The Road to Self-Improvement. . .


In our slovenly, anything goes society of the 21st century -- The situation is nothing new and has been a long time in coming. . .  Race to the bottom is an apt descriptor. -- it strikes me that all of us could learn a thing or two from our son's school teachers, Tae Kwon Do instructors, and therapists.  

In short, it is we who have the power to change things about ourselves and lives.  Whether, or not we choose to do that, is the sticking point.  Nevertheless, the following points can help us all to assess, change, and elevate ourselves, becoming more pleasant and successful people in our personal and professional lives through continuing efforts to do more and become better individuals.  None of what I propose is about impossible standards to head off any braying naysayers out there.  What it is about is holding ourselves to a higher standard than has become the sad accepted norm in a relatively short span of time.

Now, before we get into this any further, let's address one key point.  In a time when so many material goods have become so accessible to so many -- the ubiquitous iPhone is but one example -- the very concept of self-improvement has become something that is unsavory to far too many in 2021.  After all, how dare anyone suggest that, for all of his or her 'things' on conspicuous display, someone might nevertheless need to use deodorant and mouthwash each morning after showering.  "Why should I change anything about myself?  I'm just fine down here in the muck and swill, thank you very much!" 

But if you're still with me and at all open to the idea that there is much we can do to refine ourselves in all kinds of ways through an ongoing process of self-improvement, keep reading.  In no particular order, here are a dozen tips to aid us on what ought to be a life-long journey.  Ready?  Here we go. . .

  • Be ready to learn (about things besides your own linty navel).
  • Examine the situation, (re-) assess, and take ownership of it.
  • Cultivate greater self-awareness.
  • Practice better self-control.
  • Be proactive.
  • Stop and think before you act.
  • Have greater respect for yourself.
  • Be more aware of and show more consideration for others.
  • Make better choices in your day to day activities.
  • Take specific steps to improve unfavorable situations. 
  • Change negative, self-defeating behaviors.
  • Be more consistent in your habits and decisions than you have up to this point. 


Besides enabling us to make changes in our appearance and behavior, the suggestions above -- based on oft-heard advice and reminders to The Young Master and other children from his teachers, TKD instructors, and therapists -- might also help those troubled by various kinds of more serious personal baggage to take control of unpleasant situations and turn their lives around.  You never know.  You will notice, however, that none of this costs any money, so there can be no argument about affordability, lack of opportunity, exclusivity, or that only 'the rich' can indulge in these aims.  On the contrary, the goals I suggest all come from within, and everyone has the same capacity to attain them.  It is simply a matter of awareness, decision, and attitude.   

On a related note, that there is much we can do ourselves to influence and change our lives and situations.  It is entirely possible to exercise a much greater degree of personal agency than many do, and, through that, control our own outcomes more effectively.  We simply must resist the all too human tendency to blame unexpected challenges on outside factors.  A few commonly heard bugbears include: bad luck, a mean teacher, conspiring colleagues, 'The Man,' the inherently rigged sociopolitical system, the evil 1%, the untimely death of your pet gerbil 'Happy' when you were five years old, your parents' failure to buy you another, and the traumatic fallout resulting in decades of psychoanalysis with no clear end in sight, etc. 

Here's an idea.  Let's get off our seats and take charge of the situation, ladies and gentlemen. 

The one fly in the ointment with everything I suggest is that an awful lot of people don't want to hear that.  After all, it is far easier to blame whatever troubles us on something, anything else besides ourselves.  It is easier to grouse continually about our trials and travails than it is to get up and change the channel if you'll excuse the decidedly mid-2oth century analog television reference.  After all, the known, as insipid as that might be, is less scary and thus far more palatable than the unknown to a lot of people.  Consider for instance I Dream of Jeanie, My Mother the Car, or Mr. Ed vs. Wall Street Week or The McNeil-Lehrer News Hour in keeping with the TV reference. 

Popular entertainment from the 1960s and in-depth news programs of the more recent past aside, our various dilemmas, troubles, and tales of woe often start closer to home than many care to admit, but we might do more to change our situations than a lot of people might at first think.  We could play a greater role in correcting whatever actual or perceived unfairness or slight ails us at a particular moment.  

Now, endless deliberation to the point of inactivity is hardly what I suggest.  There are people who fall into that camp, but that's not what we want to do.  Instead, we need to find some middle ground between stasis and. . .  well, stasis.  The key is to leave behind that all too common fatalistic acceptance of the banal and instead adopt a more proactive approach to life.  

Calm, rational evaluation of a situation, followed by informed decisions about how to move forward in a timely and productive way foster better conditions for positive outcomes in life than does passive sitting around with our feet on the metaphoric coffee table, arms folded across our chests, and belligerent expressions on our faces while we wait for the rest of the world to adjust itself to us, and for good fortune to fall from the sky into our laps with no greater effort from us than flapping our gums about how unfair X, Y, or Z is

Put another way, we largely create our own luck through our choices, behaviors, and related activities.  It's just a thought.  

-- Heinz-Ulrich


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