Have you ever wanted to be a better, more rounded and more confident version of yourself? Have you ever imagined what you might be like if events and opportunities conspired you to let you fulfil your full potential?
The bad news is that you’ll probably never know what that perfect you is like. No one is perfect and there is arguably no such thing as a ‘perfect person’. In fact, this is for the best. After all, if you were perfect, you would have no need to grow. And growth is one of the things that gives our life meaning and that helps us to stay at the very top of our game.
The question you should be asking then is how you can accelerate this growth and how you can become the man or woman you want to be faster. How can you be even better than that?
Here are six of the most profound ways you can improve yourself and continue your journey toward fulfilling more of your potential.
Are you constantly worrying? Are you clingy and needy? Are you someone who needs constant reassurance?
If so, then this is something that likely radiates from you and it is likely something that is holding you back. The need for approval, the desire to please everyone all of the time: these urges prevent you from being fully happy and they actually hurt your relationship with others.
Likewise, the inability to take mental control over your emotional state and decide to stop worrying and start living will prevent you from fulfilling your happiness or from being content with what you’ve already accomplished.
So, you need to build your emotional resilience and your emotional discipline. How can you do this? One option is start meditating. Meditation is simply the practice of focussing your mind, which in turn can help you to improve your mental discipline. If you can empty your mind of distracting thoughts, then of course you should also be able to prevent yourself from worrying or feeling stressed.
Another useful tool is CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) which can be self-directed, or can be learned from a therapist. This teaches you to be more aware of your own thoughts and also to change the nature of those thoughts as you need.
Simply making the conscious effort to be in control of your thoughts and feelings can also make a big difference. Once you accomplish this, you’ll be able to stay more in control of your emotions, which will make you seem instantly stronger, more attractive and more confident.
In particular, aim to conquer your fear – which is what holds you back – and to learn to worry less about the opinion of others. Instead of trying to satisfy the standards that they set for you, instead ask yourself if you meet your own standards.
Travel really does make you into a more rounded and more cultured person. When we travel, we get to experience different cultures, different ways of life and different environments. This broadens our mindset to help make us more understanding of others and more well-travelled.
Whether your interest is being more attractive to others, or just having a better understanding of the world around you – travelling will help to make you a more layered and experienced individual.
In a broader sense, travel can help you to develop more resilient and potent ideas. If you subscribe to the philosophical ideas of George Hegel (dialecticalism), then you will have encountered the notion of antithesis, thesis and synthesis. The idea here is that the best way to test an idea is to present and consider its antithesis (opposite idea). In doing this, you can challenge that idea and you can develop it. The best solution to this challenge is not that one concept ‘wins’ but rather that the two are adopted into one new, improved theory.
If we look at evolution, it is clear to see that the synthesis of different information is superior to focussing on just one idea. Being insular and never exposing yourself to outside ideas is a recipe for stagnation and self-assured destruction.
Taking that idea further, it is also crucial that you keep on learning if you want to continue growing and developing yourself.
As you learn, you don’t just expand your skill-set and knowledge but also improve your very plasticity – your very ability to learn.
When we take on new challenges, this causes the brain to release neurotransmitters that are related to focus, determination, motivation and goal-oriented behavior. These include dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin.
At the same time, our brain also produces more hormones relating to mental growth and neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to grow and change shape, creating new connections between neurons as it learns new skills and develops new habits. These neurotransmitters include BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor) and nerve growth factor.
In other words, when you are in the process of learning something new, you don’t just extend your knowledge but you also change your brain to make it superior at learning anything new. You become quicker and wittier and you boost your mood considerably – more importantly, you become better at quickly learning any new task.
Many of us feel that our lives lack direction and that we are in a ‘rut’. As we age, our brains tend to deteriorate in terms of alertness, focus and memory (all measures of ‘fluid intelligence’ in other words). But most of these issues result from a lack of challenge and growth. The mind is either growing or it is shrinking – once you fall into a routine and lose variety in your life, that’s when you start to see degradation, low mood and eventually age-related cognitive decline.
If you keep learning, keep taking on new challenges and keep stretching yourself, then you will stay just as mentally agile as you were in your youth. Not only that, but as you develop many more skills and abilities, you might eventually become a ‘homo-universalis’ – someone who excels in multiple disciplines.
Adopting meditation into your routine is one of the very best things you can do if you want to improve yourself as a human being.
Meditation is nothing mystical. Simply, this is the act of practicing focus. In most cases, this means focussing on completely emptying your mind and removing distracting thoughts. It sounds simple, but our brain is hard to silence and you will likely find that at first, your mind is eager to keep wandering off.
But if you can muster the discipline needed to meditate, then you can harness that same discipline for all manner of other things and learn to become a much more focussed and self-disciplined individual. Moreover, if you meditate frequently, you will build neuronal connections and thicken your grey matter. Not only that, but you will find you are better able to concentrate and you even improve your working memory. Strengthening working memory can result in improved concentration, better verbal fluency/wit, enhanced special awareness and more.
And finally, meditation has been shown to significantly improve mood and reduce stress. This will help with the aforementioned emotional resilience and help you to react more calmly and moderately to events.
If you really want to become the best version of you, then it is not enough to simply train your mind. Of course, you also need to train your body so that you might become stronger, healthier, fitter and generally more powerful.
Creating a stronger and more athletic body will make you instantly better at a range of activities from sports, to moving furniture, to opening jam jars. At the same time, a stronger body will also make you more attractive to the opposite sex and probably more confident in your own appearance and capabilities.
Keep in mind too that neural plasticity and the brain’s ability to learn is mainly targeted at its ability to learn physical skills. If you truly want to keep your brain plastic, then perfecting your squat, learning martial arts or dance, or using bodyweight training is the best way to do that. Embodied cognition shows us that the brain and the body are intricately linked and you must develop one in order to develop the other.
If that wasn’t enough, strengthening the body also strengthens the mind. It is well known that cardio or resistance exercise can both improve memory and mood. On top of this, exercise can once again train your discipline and your ability to stick to goals.
This is why Socrates said:
“No citizen has a right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training… what a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.”
As you mature into an adult, it is crucial that you discover what you truly believe and that you discover what your calling is and what your purpose is.
It is important that you keep growing and that means assessing your views and your goals. But at the same time, you should always have a goal in mind and you should always have an idea of what is important to you. This sense of purpose will help you to gain that emotional resilience because you will have a ‘mission’. It will matter less to you what others think, because you will know what it is that you want to achieve. It hardly matters when someone calls you short if your goal is to become the world’s greatest violinist!
Likewise, knowing your beliefs and having a passion will make you a better leader and will make you less easily swayed by popular opinion. Having a sense of purpose will enable you to speak in a way that is truly passionate and enthusiastic – and this is when we are our most persuasive and our most inspiring.
Did you know that we rate people as more commanding and charismatic when they gesticulate more? And did you know that people gesticulate most when they speak about things that truly matter to them? The reason is that gesticulation shows congruence between what we are saying and what we believe. When we are truly passionate, we speak with our whole bodies – and this comes across in the way we use the space we are in.
If you want to become an inspiring leader and if you want to be virtuous and principled, you first need to discover your mission statement and what your own principles are!