You have all you need to do the best you can, so why wait? Is something is holding you back, treat that as an option. Don’t let it define you. Aim to be the best version of yourself that you can be.

“Right now, I am making the decision to live up to my aspirations and be the best version of myself that I can be”

Most of us want to improve something about ourselves, but few of us ever get round to it. Reflecting on what a better version of yourself would be like – how you would feel, how you would act towards others, for example – is a starting point for self-improvement.

Making a conscious effort by choosing to live up to your aspirations is a simple matter of deciding to do it. 

Try this for size

Take a moment to think “Right now, I am making the decision to live up to my aspirations and be the best version of myself that I can be”

What happened? The sky didn’t cave in, there was no catastrophe, you simply tried the thought on for size. What may well have happened immediately after you thought it was that a troupe of negative thoughts crowded in to tell you that you were being unrealistic, or even, stupid.

Practice that thought regularly. That will give you the opportunity to replace the intrusive automatic thoughts with something that will actually help you move towards a constantly improving version of yourself. Here are another nine pointers to help you on your way:

Set your own standards

The best version of yourself should be your vision, not someone else’s. Avoid wasting your energy trying to live up to what somebody else’s idea of what you should be. 

Keep a journal

The benefits of journaling are well documented. Regularly writing your reflections, observations and reactions as you journey towards the better version of you will help you keep your thoughts organised, note progress, and learn from your feelings and emotional responses to the things you encounter along the way.

Get a clear idea of who you are

Personal improvement starts with the raw material, you. No amount of self-help chatter can change who you are now, so start with self-acceptance and work from there.

Play to your strengths

Most of us fail to appreciate our positive qualities and strengths. Step One, therefore, is to understand your strengths (use the VIA Character Strengths Questionnaire to confirm yours). Understanding what these are is the foundation you’ll work from, and it helps with self-acceptance and feeling good about yourself.

Be honest about your fears

There is no shame if having fears, we all do. Though it may seem a little scary to examine what yours are, it pays immediate dividends. For a start, fear has more power over you when you try to suppress it, so ‘owning’ what makes you afraid makes you stronger. Fear is valuable emotion, it helps keep us safe, but it is sometimes misplaced or out of date (a childhood fear carried into adulthood, for example). Knowing what your fears are will mean that you can edit them and manage them. 

Be compassionate towards yourself

Self-compassion means that you treat yourself just as you would someone you care for or love. Instead of harsh judgements and self-criticism, be kind and understanding towards yourself. While you are at it, making a conscious effort to be non-judgemental of others and show extra kindness to them helps to train your mind towards compassion for yourself as well.

Look for learning opportunities 

Personal growth requires you to begin to stretch yourself. Move outside your comfort zone – gently at first, don’t scare yourself – by trying new things and developing new interests. Your curiosity is a great attribute, so use it.

Focus on improvement, not the destination

Remember when you were a kid, how things seemed to take so long to arrive? Christmas, for example, or going on holiday (“are we there yet”, is a phrase familiar to parents everywhere). Personal change is the same, the more you long to be at your destination the longer it seems to take. Focus on small, regular improvements, they’ll eventually add up to big change.

Congratulate yourself

Personal transformation is a continual process. Stay with it and congratulate yourself regularly on your positive intent, your efforts, and each little improvement you notice. Allow others to congratulate you too and accept compliments gracefully.

Three don’ts

Here are three tendencies too avoid. Stick to the points above and your won’t have a problem. But the sneaky habits below might still try to weasel their way in, so beware.

Don’t look for shortcuts 

There is no miraculous shortcut to the better version of yourself. Progress will be steady as long as you remind yourself regularly of the points above and work towards your aspirations.

Don’t compare

Don’t compare yourself with others nor try to match an idealised image. Avoid comparing where you are now with your ultimate goal because that just emphasises the difference. The goal seems far-off and that can be discouraging.

Don’t put yourself down

Whatever happens, however slow your progress seems, or if you slip back into an old habit which you feel doesn’t live up to your new ideals, be kind to yourself and NEVER put yourself down nor diminish yourself by believing you are not making ‘sufficient progress’.

Assume success

The mind works to keep us safe by assuming the worst will happen. As an evolutionary strategy, this was fine. In your daily life, it’s a hindrance if you don’t control the habit.

Assuming success means that you begin to think and act in the way you eventually want to become. It will be hit and miss to start with, but each tiny step in the right direction takes you closer to your goal. It is also the start of training the mind to think more creatively, seeking opportunities rather than predicting failure.

You are already doing this anyway, it’s just that it’s the wrong way round. Thanks to the mind’s default mode, assuming the worst, it is creating obstacles rather than allowing you to believe that a better version of who you are really is possible