Everyone wants to be a better person, but what if you don’t have an extra two hours in the day for navel gazing and working in a soup kitchen? The good news is that self-improvement doesn’t have to feel like a chore, otherwise you’re going to end up feeling like you’re punishing yourself instead of feeling and becoming better.
There isn’t a single plan for self-improvement; it’s more of an a-la-carte option.
Start by identifying the five biggest things you’d like to improve about yourself, and write down why. Maybe you want to practice more empathy because when a friend tells you her troubles, you don’t quite know how to act. Maybe you’d just like to pay your bills on time.
No matter what you’re after, here are seven small steps that can drastically boost self-improvement.
1. Know your weaknesses
By now, you already know what your weaknesses are, but you might not address them on a regular basis. If you always forget to pay your monthly bills, set up automatic withdrawals or put a pop-up reminder on your calendar.
If you’re late everywhere you go, start giving yourself a buffer and stick to it. Knowing and doing are two very different things.
2. Buffer every day
Buffering isn’t just a tool for late arrivals, but something everyone deserves every day. Sure, you can cram in another meeting, but if your schedule is jam-packed, that’s not good for you.
Your health will suffer and stress levels will rise, which means you won’t be the best boss, employee, partner, parent, or friend you can be. Spread yourself too thin, and everyone will suffer.
3. Embrace peace
Most Americans can do with a little quiet time when they aren’t being bombarded with images on a screen. Even if it doesn’t seem like it, watching TV before bed can lead to lighter sleep.
Try instituting a TV limit for just one week and enjoy the changes. Do the same for personal PC, smartphone, and tablet use. You’ll suddenly feel like you have a lot more free time for the good stuff.
4. Fuel your body
A “diet” doesn’t equal starvation; it’s simply a way of eating (good or bad). You can eat healthy without feeling deprived as long as you understand the nutritional content of your choices.
Indulge daily if you’d like and seek out treats you enjoy that don’t double as one of those 2,500 calorie survival protein bars. You get out of anything what you put into it, including your body.
5. Move your body
If you hate the gym, simply spend 30 minutes of your hour lunch going on a walk. If you hate to run but love to dance, sign up for a class. Stretch at least once every two hours, and set a pop-up if you need it. Your body is both an instrument and a machine, and it has its own versions of warping and breakdowns.
6. Get financially savvy
If finances don’t come easily to you (which is common), get professional help. Start by making sure you, your loved ones, and your family are covered with the right insurance.
This includes car insurance to protect your latest investment, kid transporter, or commuter. Actually read your policies and comparison shop. Everyone should have a budget, savings accounts, and a solid retirement plan … and it’s never too late to start.