Everyone wants a better life.
If you polled a crowd of people and asked them if they desired a better quality of life almost all of them would answer with a resounding “YES”! Most people desire a life with more joy and happiness, less pain and problems, deeper relationships, more time to do what they love, and more financial resources. Yet, so few people actually see their lives improve over time. Most settle for an average life, a quality of life that is less than desired and beneath their potential. Why is this? Why have we settled?
Life gets better when YOU do.
It was Brian Tracy who said, “Your life gets better when you get better.” Many people feel that their life should get better because time has passed. The thinking is that if we just wait long enough, our “big break” will come. This is simply a myth! A better quality of life is attained when we make the intentional choice to improve ourselves. And this is where the problem lies. Most people simply haven’t been willing to do what it takes to improve. James Allen said this perfectly in his little book, As A Man Thinketh, “Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; therefore they remain bound.” Why are most people unwilling to improve themselves?
It takes work.
It was Thomas Edison who famously quipped, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” At some point most people realize that in order to move forward and get better in any area of their life, it is going to take work. Lots of work! And at the end of the day, we simply don’t want to do what it takes to get better.
It takes work to stop doing all the things things that undermine your progress, whether it is procrastination, laziness, doubt, or fear. It was Theodore Roosevelt who said, “If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”
It takes work to get better at your people skills and to add new habits that push you forward. If it were easy to get better, self-improvement would be an epidemic. But we know it’s not. Average is normal.
How do we get better?
1. Become discontent
The first step to improving yourself is to become wildly discontent with where you are. You must decide that you want something better. Something better in your relationships, your health, your financial situation, or your faith. Thomas Edison put it this way, “Discontent is the first necessity of progress.” When we have become thoroughly discontent with our current condition we will have sufficient motivation to do what we need to do to change.
2. Become a reader
Everything you need to know to improve your life has already been studied and written about. People are amazing! Through life experience, study, and reflection they have learned how to do almost everything well. From investing to organizing, to taking care of pets, to starting business, to solving marriage problems… it has all been written down for you. What an amazing truth! All you have to do is find the books and put the time in to read them. Mark Twain has been credited for saying, “The man who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.” If you want to improve your life read for 20-30 minutes a day.
3. Get help from others
In all areas of life there are people who have arrived where you want to go. They have succeeded in achieving what you want to achieve. It doesn’t matter what it is, they have done it. And guess what… they have revealed how they did it. They have put it on a CD, podcast, in a book, or in a talk. Many people are even willing to respond to an email inquiry. This principle helped Tony Robbins, the famous human development expert, to radically alter the course of his life. He wrote, “Long ago, I realized that success leaves clues, and that people who produce outstanding results do specific things to create those results. I believed that if I precisely duplicated the actions of others, I could reproduce the same quality of results that they had.” He did just that and far more!
4. Evaluate consistently
When we don’t take time to reflect on how our lives are going we don’t learn anything. Without reflection and evaluation we slip into patterns and habits that are comfortable but not helpful. The result is more, or worse results. King Solomon of Israel wrote, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly” Proverbs 26:11. Kind of gross, I know. But so true! Breaking bad habits and patterns requires that we look back at our days. We must ask questions like:
How did I use my time?
Why did I do the things I did?
Did I spend a majority of my time on my highest priorities?
Were my choices in line with my values?
Living your life with built in times of evaluation leads to self-improvement. Seneca wrote, “As long as you live, keep learning to live.” The only way to keep learning is to consistently evaluate your life.
5. Practice, Practice, Practice
The only way to improve your skills is to practice. There is no other way to get better. In order to become a better writer, a better athlete, or a better spouse your have to work at it. The “10,000 hour rule” was published by Professor Anders Ericson. It has been written about in several books including Outliers, The Talent Code, and Talent is Overrated. Ericson discovered that the highest performers, whether it be music, sports, or whatever, had consistently put in 10,000 hours of practice before they reached their peak level of performance.
The proverb says, “Despite their desires, the lazy will come to ruin, for their hands refuse to work” Proverbs 21:25. The bottom line is that if you want to improve, you must be willing to grind day in and day out. There is no other way.
Remember, in order to experience a better life, you must improve yourself. I hope these 5 tips can help you get started.
Danny Anderson is the Senior Pastor of Emmanuel Church located south of Indianapolis. Danny has hands-on experience in transitioning a church, creating and casting a new vision, simplifying programs, building teams, and launching new campuses. He enjoys spending time with his wife, Jackie, his sons Andrew and Beau, and his daughter Ruby.