5 Ways You Can Improve Your Life Today.
Updated: May 11, 2020
What is one thing you can forgive yourself or someone for today?
A few weeks ago, someone asked me for a few tips I could give them to help heal from within. For some, healing from within means something health-related. For others, it's a matter of the heart.
Healing and personal development are the same. Whether we call it healing or working on developing ourselves personally, we’re taking action to improve our lives. The action we take is a practice we commit to over and over again. It’s not something we do once and then are finished.
Personal development is like going to the gym. We don’t work out and get our bodies or health to a certain point and say, “Great, I’m in shape. I don’t ever have to work out again.” Personal development is something we make a commitment to so that even when things are going well, we’re ensuring an inner state of well-being when life happens.
Personal development can be a little tricky because unlike going to the gym, life doesn’t supply us with a specific guide on how to handle situations like an exercise plan does for better abs. Our lives and relationships are a little more complex.
Before I made a commitment to my personal development, I wasn’t very happy. On the outside, I seemed fine. On the inside, I was in a constant state of comparison. I constantly compared myself and my life to everyone else’s, not realizing the damage it was causing my self-esteem.
When it comes to physical health, there are many diets, fitness routines, or exercises we can do. My roommate loves CrossFit and says it’s improved his health (as well as his butt and abs). Running has always been something I’ve loved. It’s not so much the exercise or routine that matters, our improved health comes from finding something we enjoy doing and committing ourselves to doing it.
The same is true for personal development. If we don’t enjoy a particular method of inner-work and aren’t dedicated to a consistent practice, we won’t reap the benefits of a peaceful life.
The ultimate goal of any personal development practice is to experience more peace. The way in which we achieve more peace can vary, but what I’ve found in my own life is that by committing (and recommitting) myself to the following five exercises, I strengthen my experience of peace and my life continues to improve:
1. Love yourself.
I once had a high school student ask me in class, “how do we love ourselves?” I told her, “it begins with letting go of who we think we should be and embracing who we are.” When I was her age, I had never heard the concept of self-love. But just like physical exercise, unless we actively do the work, we won’t see the results. By consciously committing to loving ourselves, we begin the first step to improving our lives. The moment I became willing to look at the parts of myself I didn’t want people to see and accept that even those areas are worthy and deserving of love, my life began to improve. We can only learn to love ourselves if we are willing to learn who we are.
2. Cultivate a spiritual connection.
Life is beautiful and it’s also very big. There is so much beyond our understanding and control. A spiritual connection is something we can lean on to help navigate through life’s most difficult moments. It requires nothing from us, but it gives us everything. This can be a sensitive area, especially if we’ve been hurt by religion. As a gay man, I didn’t think God was available for me growing up. But whether I call it God, love, universe, Divine, or nature, reestablishing a relationship with my version of a higher power and cultivating a spiritual connection was the best decision I ever made. What is your spiritual connection and if you could set aside 20 minutes every day, what would bring you the most peace?
3. Be willing to change your thinking and challenge your beliefs.
I recently had a 6th-grade student tell me he believed money was the root of all evil. When I asked him whether that was his belief or something he heard, he said it’s what his mom says. Most of our beliefs aren’t our own. There are certain collective societal messages we hear growing up, from our families and outside world, we either consciously or subconsciously learn. They formulate our beliefs and our beliefs become the lens through which we interpret the world. One of my favorite exercises to do is called, “the belief dump.” Write a word at the top of a piece of paper, for example, “money.” Then, set a timer for 2 minutes and without stopping, write all the things you think, believe, and have heard about money. Circle anything negative and see if there are areas of your life that reflect that negative belief. Challenging our beliefs gives us the keys to unlock a life that’s true for us.
4. Take full responsibility for your life and choices.
This isn’t always easy. In fact, it’s the exercise I find most confronting. But taking full responsibility for our lives makes us powerful. If I’m stuck in resentment, I’ll take the time to write down my current version of the story. There’s usually blame in this version, so I’ll set it aside and review what I wrote the next day. Then, I’ll ask myself if I were to retell this story as if it were happening to support me and my growth, what could I say? I give myself permission to rewrite my story from a new perspective.
5. Forgive yourself and others.
A young girl I once taught in juvenile hall asked me if it was okay if she forgave herself for having a miscarriage. It was as if she became lighter just by asking the question. It reminded me that one of the biggest obstacles to forgiveness can be self-forgiveness. I told her forgiveness is courageous and an act of self-love. What is one thing you can forgive yourself or someone for today?
Each of us has gifts we came here to share and I believe the more at peace we are with ourselves and our lives, the more we’re able to share our gifts with the rest of the world.
Maybe you already have a personal development practice that works for you. If it does, great. May this serve as a simple reminder for you to keep going. If not, give these a try. I can’t promise your abs will improve, but your life most certainly will.