If you’re serious about personal development you’ll soon face a challenge: the tension between who you are and who you want to be. Between your current development level and the next one. Between your present and your future status. One of the most interesting challenges of personal development is the approach to the question “I can be better?”.
Keeping Your Identity
I guess every personal development technique will teach you to accept yourself. I don’t think I found any serious self improvement material teaching me to reject myself. Accepting yourself is normal, is one of the fundamental keys to a balanced performance in every area of your life: relationships, career or money.
But if you want to be “better”, you’ll automatically reject your current being in favor of a future one. Or at least this is how it’s happening. Being better than you are today means ditching who you are today. Am I the only one seeing a serious logical conflict here?
How can you be better than you are and not lose your identity? How can you create a better version of yourself, but keep all your features? How can you upgrade your inner operating system but keep all your filesystem intact? This was on my mind for quite some time.
When I first tried to explain this to myself, I came up with this model: you’re not actually changing yourself, you’re getting closer to your real nature. You are born a beautiful person, but somehow, during your life, you get derailed and you spend all your life regaining your initial heavenly innocence. So, becoming better, means in fact becoming more “you”.
But this model couldn’t explain why we experience new stuff in our lives. If our existence will be only a path to our initial point, then how we define novelty? How can we learn? How can we evolve? At this point I confess I had a headache. Trying to explain this logical conflict proved to be much more difficult than I thought.
I had to stop for a while and try a different perspective. Seeing myself as a perfect human being, compromised by some mistakes and then trying to regain my perfection just felt wrong. It was something static. No movement, no excitement. Still as a stone. But stones are dead. And I’m not.
The Comfort Zone
So, after a while, I realized this model was based on something called “comfort zone”. There was this idea of a perfect place for which you should aim and in which you should live. A place with a perfect proportion, with no challenges and no dramas. A place of equilibrium and perpetual happiness. The comfort zone.
But the comfort zone lacks some of the fundamental ingredients of what I call a fulfilled life: enthusiasm, excitement and surprise. Of course, it has security, stability and predictability. The comfort zone is safe. Life isn’t. The comfort zone has lots of achievements, rules to be respected and, as the name says, comfort . But it has no fun. Staying there for too long couldn’t be something somebody would die for. Because, of course, he would be already dead inside.
So, instead of taking the destination as the cornerstone of my model, I switched and tried to find the model within the traveler. It was not the destination which was important all of a sudden, but the desire of the man who wanted to reach there. So, what was the real trigger for being better? What is that thing which can make somebody leave the comfort zone? Again and again?
And then it hit me. Simple and yet so complicated. The only reason somebody will leave the comfort zone is dreaming. Yes, dreaming, that ability of seeing things which are not yet reality. The capacity to first create a new version of yourself in your mind, and then acting to become like that version. Imagination. Creativity. Play.
No Risk It, No Biscuit
But dreaming without action is just… well, just dreaming, It’s nothing but a mental projection. In order to make things happening, you have to take risks. And that was the second ingredient of my model: the ability to take risks. The ability to engage in new activities, without knowing from the beginning the outcome. The ability to not play safe.
When you mix together dreaming and risk something beautiful happens in your life. First, your comfort zone is turned upside down. Second, you’re in the middle of a new world, most of the time completely new, trying to build a better version of yourself. And third, you’re actually living. Of course, if you’re taking too many risks, your face may hit some punches every now and then. Part of the game, I suppose.
Risking your current status in order to reach your dream is what makes you better. Not the next level, which you may or may not reach. You can’t always fulfill all your dreams. But you’re becoming better because you tried. There was some lesson in the process which made you experience something new. It’s not so much about your identity as it is about your life experience. Maybe your identity is just an illusion, and all you got in the end is just the thrill of trying something new with your life.
Making dream reality is one of the best things you can do with your life. Dreaming big and then putting those dreams into real life is what makes you alive. Not the comfort zone. Not shyness or social complacency. Not postponing. Not avoiding. It’s amazing how much energy people are spending just to avoid what they really want..
So, back to the first questions: is it possible to keep your identity and still be better? Well, the answer is a little bit complicated. You can keep your identity but you will lose some features. You will reach a new version, but some incompatibilities may appear. And you know why? Because your dream are sometimes incompatible with other people dreams. You’re dreaming your own life and some of the places you dream about are outside the others reach.
Let me give you a very simple example and hopefully you’ll have a better understanding of this. Suppose you’re dreaming about a new financial status for yourself and for your family. In plain English, you want more money. You take some risks, you engage in some new activities, forget about security and safety and, after a while, your dream is becoming reality. You do have more money.
But what happened in the process is that you lost some of your old friends, or connections or places you use to hang out. They’re now incompatible with your new dream. They’re not good or bad, just incompatible. They’re from another dream.
Getting better will always have that effect on you. Your dream will always be different and you’re going to lose some features in the upgrade process. But you know what? That’s the beauty of it. That’s the thrill. That’s excitement and fun and evolution.
You Can Be Better?
Do youÂ have a dream? Are you ready to take some serious risks in your life?Â Are you prepared to mix that dream with the necessary risks to make it happen?
14 thoughts on “I Can Be Better?”
I’m with Stephen on this. I’m ever changing and will be ever changing. Having accepted that I’m more comfortable in my own skin now than I have ever been. Are there more changes to make? Of course and they will occur in naturally. I plant the seeds of chnage, expose them to the sunlight, water them and they grow.
.-= timethief´s last blog ..Avoiding Online Miscommunication =-.
Dragos, I’ve struggled with this myself. I’ve finally resigned myself to the fact that I have changed and I’m not the same person I was last month, last, year, ten years ago, etc. In fact I’ve changed a great deal. Yes there are some common threads running through my life that have always been there but they are actually few and not important right now. My memories connect me to the past person I was, but who I no longer am. If I’m honest, I’m very different and I have no problem with that.
.-= Stephen – Rat Race Trap´s last blog ..Redefining Our Ultimate Goals =-.
That’s a leap many persons will find difficult to follow: sticking in the comfort zone looks like the best thing you can do, but in reality it’s always the worst. Taking that leap comes with the cost of letting behind some parts of what you considered to be “you”, but as you said, this is something natural. Thanks 😉
Dragos, This is an important article for everyone. By definition, personal growth and development means personal change. Life is all about change. The thing we need to decide is whether we are going to orchestrate the direction and pace of our personal change, or are we going to let circumstances and time do it for us. There really is no such thing as just staying the same. Life without growth is just stagnating. We can move toward our dreams and evolve in the process, or we can stagnate.
.-= Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills´s last blog ..What Does Midlife Mean to You? =-.
As always, once you put a comment here, there is suddenly more light in the page. Of course life couldn’t stagnate, otherwise it would be a disguised death. Thanks for being around here, Jonathan, I appreciate it 🙂
What a kind thing to say Dragos. Thank you my friend.
.-= Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills´s last blog ..What Does Midlife Mean to You? =-.
This is superb Dragos. The imagination and visualizing what you want to be and change into can let you overcome any complacency. I think the creative improvements that come to mind from personal development are the real motivating force to keep that change happening in life, and that is what life requires to be successful and happy.
.-= Mike King´s last blog ..Resources July 2009 =-.
Imagination could definitely be my main research topic for the next ten years, this is how fascinated I am by this topic. I mean, from where do we have this capacity of creating things into our minds, and then making them happening…
I think change is good but often not easy. We get use to a routine that is hard to break. So self – discipline is required in order to succeed. Then if you fall once back in to you the old habit knowing you can get right back on the track to changing immediately. It are often the little slips people make that discourages them from successfully eliminating bad habits.
It is necessary to accept a slip is a slip – and it is OK.
I like this idea of accepting a slip is a slip, goes well with that forgiveness shortage I was talking about. Twas just a slip, now we know where we’re heading, so let’s move on 🙂
I think that if you know you are working toward something, you know there will be sacrifices. But your end goals is much more important and valuable than the things you had too sacrifice along the way. It’s a matter of being confident in your choices and your values to know that you will be better off when you get where you are going.
.-= Kikolani´s last blog ..StumbleUpon Etiquette Faux Pas, Tips & Resources =-.
Confidence can really help in this process and it’s often one of the key ingredients in making your life not specifically easier, but so much full of fun and challenges 🙂
My own paradox was that somehow, making dreams reality is what destroys them. Itâ€™s like the reality is the opposite of a dream. The more real it gets, the less of a dream it is.
So my take, is to sacrifice some of my dreams and keep them in the dream world by not trying to make them reality. The hardest part is to accept the reality the way it is without trying to change its course. The hardest of all for me, is to accept is that I am not getting any better. No matter what you do, you have to let go of everything and accept the unavoidable, the death of everything.
.-= Doru´s last blog ..The surviving EGO =-.
That’s a little bit harsh for me 🙂 I’m not talking about accepting reality, that’s not difficult. Accepting reality is the only way to change it.
What’s a little bit strange is the “death to everything” part. I’m not sure I’m there…