The Two Words Holding You Back
From Self-Improvement

There was a time when the idea of working on myself made me feel insecure. If someone gave me personal advice, I’d get defensive or lash out. (Sorry mom and dad!)

I did what most people do when faced with the necessity of change: I avoided it. The rare times I actually tried, I’d immediately give up.

It took years for me to be able to say that I honestly enjoy investing in myself. I attribute a lot of that to gaining power from the two words that used to be debilitating:

Better and Best.

Better is a tool used for comparison. 

“That person is so much better than me. Am I where I should be by this age? I have to be better than everyone else.”

You are basing your self-worth on these beliefs.

Better: All Progress Is Good Progress

Think about something that challenges you in a fun way. Maybe it’s a video game, musical instrument, or programming.

You can work for hours on end leveling your character in a game. You spend years practicing guitar and getting songs down perfectly. You’re constantly learning and tinkering with new code to become a more efficient developer.

You may “fail” and be frustrated at times but you still push forward. You don’t just give up. Why?

Because you’re not seeing those struggles as a reflection of your own value. You’re not saying, “I screwed up that note…I’m such a loser. I should be so much better than I am but I’m not. I’m not as good as famous guitarists and I’ll never be. I should quit.”

No, you may be stressed out but you see these as temporary hurdles. You’re still positive about the gains you’re making and stay motivated to try again.

`So change your “better” comparisons to:

“Am I bettering myself?”

It doesn’t matter by how much. As long as that answer is a yes, you’re good.

For example, I lost a lot of weight a few years ago. Now I’ve been trying to gain more muscle.

I could go to the gym and compare myself to all the built guys. I could see actors like Ryan Gosling and feel ashamed of myself for not having their bodies. 

But what will that accomplish? Will it encourage me or just dishearten me?

Instead, I see others as a good reference of what I want to strive toward. I’m just excited to take real steps in that direction. 

How To Stay Motivated While You Grow

Here are some tips to adopt this new mindset of “Am I bettering myself?”:

Praise yourself regularly

Show gratitude to the person who needs it most – you. I get so pumped over everything I do. I went outside for a 10-minute run? Hell yeah! I can do 9 pull-ups instead of 8 like before? I’m the man.

Always filter your efforts through a positive lens. Who gives a shit if I can’t do 10 pull-ups right now? It doesn’t make me less of a human being.

Am I going to be pissed off that Jan Kares did 4,620 pullups in 23 hours? No. I’m going to be thrilled that I made it to 9 and even more thrilled to see if I can make it to 10.

Learn to be happy with the smallest of strides.

Find your flow

Flow is the perfect state where you’re challenging yourself but not so much that it becomes unattainable and unenjoyable.

If you can’t swim and I throw you into the deep end of a pool, you’re going to have a bad time. But if you tried treading water in the shallow end or wearing floaties, you’d practice swimming while still having fun.

Take something you want to get better at and come up with an attainable goal. Do some light reading on what you need to do and how you need to do it to achieve that goal. Map out a set of progressively more difficult milestones and begin at the bottom.

Let’s say that goal is to meet and connect with one new woman a week. You could read a few of my articles on approaching to get familiar with what constitutes an effective approach and how to do it. Then create a gameplan like…

  • Start with eye contact drills while walking.
  • Then smile at women while making eye contact.
  • Then greet them in passing.
  • Then give a compliment in passing.
  • Then go up to a woman, ask for directions, and stay in conversation for 30 seconds.
  • Eventually, you work your way up to a real approach.

During the process, keep in mind when a task is too easy or too difficult at that time. Adjust accordingly as long as you’re making progress overall.

Those consistent, rewarding, yet challenging tasks will keep you in flow. And you’ll stay motivated to hit your goals.

When hitting a wall, evaluate what you can do differently

Getting better at something takes time. You have to be patient, especially with bigger tasks that require more investment.

If you feel your progress is slowing or coming to a standstill – do some self-analysis. Think…

  • Can I change my method?
  • Can I try a new approach?
  • Can I learn from someone more experienced?
  • Can I ask for help?
  • Do I need a break to start fresh?

You have to accept that self-improvement is not a competition. Your aim should not be to be better than someone else but rather to just be better.

There is no finish line because it’s a lifelong commitment to improving yourself, for yourself. There is no losing as long as you’re trying.

Best: Perfection Is The Enemy Of Good

Best is used as a measurement of perfection.

“If I can’t do something the best way possible, I’ve failed. It has to be flawless or I might as well not even try.”

There is no such thing as best.

We create an ideal of what constitutes the “best” and if we don’t reach it, we’re crushed. It’s an unattainable standard fueled by black and white thinking. Because… 

  • The best is not about being perfect. Mastery of anything requires you to be imperfect. It takes trial and error, failing, and learning from your experiences.
  • The best is always changing. Every record is broken. No sports team wins every championship. People retire and make way for new blood.
  • The best is subjective. How do you quantify it? Is it in one area or at everything? There’s no set standard everyone agrees upon and people’s opinions vary wildly on the subject.

Consider Michael Jordan – often considered the best basketball player in history.

There are 9 players with more championships than him. There are over 140 players with better field goal percentage. In fact, he’s not even in the top 25 for 3 pointers, assists, or rebounds. And Lebron James could potentially dethrone him as the greatest player by the end of his career.

Despite all that, do you know why so many people consider Jordan the best? I’ll let him tell you:

Michael Jordan knew it was all about the effort. He played an NBA finals game while severely sick with the flu. He was at his worst and still gave it his best. So reframe your “Am I the best?” statements to…

Am I giving it my best?

The best is about the work you put in and not the results. That’s the only thing you can measure and count on consistently. Coincidently, if you’re putting in the effort, it’s inevitable that your results will improve.

How To Patiently But Consistently Move Forward

Here are some tips to adopt this new mindset of “Am I giving it my best?”:

Understand your best will change daily

Some days you will be too busy, too tired, too sick, and too brain-dead (like me with my writer’s block) to get as much done as you’d like. And that’s okay.

Give a solid effort but know when to take a break. Everyone needs time to relax and you shouldn’t put yourself down for it. That being said…

Use your bullshit detector

You have to call yourself out when you’re making excuses for a lack of effort. Dig deep and analyze why you aren’t putting in the energy.

Are you afraid of failing? Are you procrastinating? Are you wasting time on stuff that isn’t helping you achieve your goals?

Or did you legitimately put your best in for the day? Do you have more pressing matters to attend to? Are you still excited about trying again in the immediate future?

This is your personal responsibility. No one can do this for you. So practice it regularly until it becomes habit. There are plenty of times when I would have preferred to sit around and take the easy route, but I called out my made up reasons.

Accept imperfection

It’s part of being human. No one is the best at everything and if you are, you won’t be for long. Let go of your pride and the ideal version of yourself.

Flaws are only flaws if you view them as such. The moment I started seeing them as ways to grow and be a better man, they became my strengths.

The way we speak inside our own head is a powerful influence over us. 

You already have the ability to improve yourself. You just have to choose your words wisely.