You Are Not a Self Improvement Project

As we’ve shifted into autumn, I’ve been doing another round of pruning who I follow on social media. Like I find in my backyard garden, it is way too easy for things to get unruly if I don’t take semi-regular wanderings through, searching for what needs to be snipped or tidied up.

And also like my garden, I’m usually surprised how quickly things can take on a chaotic momentum of their own. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the wonderful creators whose work I follow. It’s that there’s only so much space in my own brain to hold it all.

One thing I know about creative people is that we are always looking to grow and learn. New skills, new curiosities, new possibilities — we are forever on the lookout for creative fodder that can add fresh energy or colour into our lives. It’s how we’re built.

And for the most part, the online world is eager to offer up that inspiration.

But, it’s also very easy to get swept away.

Because the internet is ruled by clicks (which are ruled by emotions), content that snatches us from our own current as though we’re fish on a well baited hook is often what gets the most play.

You’re not offered a quick quinoa salad — instead you’re given a “life-changing salad”.

You’re not shown a quick tech tip — you’re given a “shockingly easy hack to save you HOURS OF YOUR LIFE!”

You’re not learning a new way of note-taking, you’re “becoming an epic master of digital brain-spacing so you can rule your workday.”

Click click click.

Don’t. Be. Lazy.

Fix. That. Problem.

And don’t just fix it now — fix it, improve it, or enhance it to the level that you know you should be aspiring to.

As consumers of the Internet, we’re not just faced with an endless barrage of opportunities to improve ourselves. We’re also propositioned with the chance to improve everything everywhere all at once, at such a hyper-amplified narrative and pace that can somehow make you feel behind no matter where you are.

As a result, two things happen.

1) We can feel like people are talking at us, and that whatever it is they’re trying to share with us is non-negotiably important. Hence, your scroll has thus been stopped!

2) We’re not doing enough to improve in all the areas that make up a life.

It sounds like a lesson we’d learn back in kindergarten, doesn’t it? That everyone gets to live their lives as they choose, and that what works for Jimmy might not be right for Kate.

Yet it can be unexpectedly hard to not feel lazy for not attempting to better ourselves at every waking moment. The so-called ‘answers’ are right there, after all.

We can start to believe that the trailing grains of sand that make up our lives aren’t being properly experienced if they’re not productive.

That anything less than life-changing or perfectly finessed is mediocre. 

(This is a great time to remind you that the word ‘mediocre’ comes from joining up medius "middle" + ocris "jagged mountain" — so literally, “halfway up the mountain.” The view may be great from that mountaintop, but the air is also toxically thinner for a reason.)

It’s not bad to want to change — or improve — yourself or your life. It’s natural, healthy, and typically a sign of a tuned in creative spirit.

But hyper-productivity, perpetual self betterment, and the overall “life-refinement” that surrounds us can make even the most motivated and capable of us feel like we’re somehow wrong for being necessarily messy, in-progress humans.

There’s an ocean of space between wanting to challenge, improve, and cultivate your life and treating yourself like a never-ending self improvement project.

I’m all for a life-changing salad. But it’s also worth noting the words of author, Robert Pirsig:

It’s the sides of the mountain that sustain life, not the top.

With you on those mountainsides, my friend.

With that, Your Thursday Hilltop Questions:

  • Where are you on the scale of “I enjoy healthy growth” and “I’m a constant self improvement project?”

  • What areas of your life never feel enough to you? Health? Money? Follower counts? There’s no wrong answer, but it’s worth noticing if these areas have just become addictive pursuits for the sake of having something to pursue.

  • What areas of your life are you content with? What could not change or improve, and still feel right to you?

  • Be honest: How exhausted are you right now? Do you just need to let yourself be — without judgment? The changes, challenges, and self improvements will wait.

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