How to Be Better at Being You

From our biannual Stelter Olympics to my weekend soccer league, I can be a bit competitive.

Like most of us, I strive to be the best at what I do—especially in the professional sense. I believe this is because the better we are at what we do, the more profoundly we can affect the lives of others and the world as a whole.

It’s easier than not to become wrapped up in the competitive nature of the universe. When this competition gets you down, just remember this beautifully simple sentiment: It’s you versus you. The only person you need to “beat” is the person you were yesterday.

3 big things that’ll help you become a better version of your already awesome self:

  1. Stop caring so much about what others think of you.

No, really. Stop. Because they’re not thinking about you nearly as much as you think they are.

Not to be rude.

But we’re human, so you can bet we’re already too consumed with our own lives to spend as much time thinking about you as you think we are. Draw your energies in and instead use them to focus, feel creatively charged and full of purpose.

Besides, when we think too much about what’s on the outside, or what others think of us, we lose sight of ourselves and how we want to be in the world.

What you say or do or how you naturally are might be just what someone really wants or needs, in just that moment he or she is willing to receive it. You’re charming true self could be life-changing to them—and so freeing for you. Be brave and let it out.

  1. Stop being afraid to fail.

You will triumph, in time. (Just know that you will hit a few bumps on your path to victory.)

That’s the thing about reaching never-before-seen heights: You call the shots about how you’re going to do it. What will get you there, from wishing and hoping to doing and achieving, is perseverance.

Defined, perseverance is steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.  Simply put it’s not giving up when the going gets tough or the doubts creep in.

Cases in Innovative Nonprofits offers an enlightening and perhaps reassuring look at the payoffs associated with perseverance for new nonprofits, especially startups. “In many cases the path to a successful new nonprofit organization … came after a series of trials and errors,” write its authors.

In the book, they describe a Hungarian nonprofit whose idea was “cemented in a London pub” but its volunteer leaders spent long, countless hours making phone calls and appeals, and had to withstand major political resistance and opposition. “[T]he sustenance of the organization required more work and commitment than anyone could have imagined,” its authors write.

Be bold and courageous. When you look back on your life, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did.

H. Jackson Brown Jr., author, Life’s Little Instruction Book

  1. Continually learn, see & do new things.

Business author Josh Kaufmann believes that when learning something new, the trick is to do it “well enough for your own purposes. You don’t have to ‘master’ every skill you ever learn,” he says.

Even better, he adds, is that reaching that level of functional skill performance takes about 20 hours of deliberate practice, not the overwhelming 10,000 hours commonly associated with skill mastery. That amount of time is relegated for skill building to reach the top of ultracompetitive performance fields, like pro golf, chess, even politics these days.

Be prepared, however, to feel the plateau effect. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? If not, you’ve certainly felt it. The plateau effect is that feeling of leveling out or even sliding backward (feeling like you know even less) after a burst of learning and skill acquisition.

It’s also completely normal. In fact, you may feel this way several times along the journey to mastery and it can feel scary—and lonely. “Meanwhile it seems like everyone around you keeps climbing higher and higher, leaving you behind,” writes Walter Chen in 3 Tips on Overcoming Learning Plateaus from David Foster Wallace. “How you handle those plateaus, psychologically, will determine whether you remain stalled there forever.”

Other small steps to make great strides in becoming the better version of you:

  • Just do it. Do one important thing every day that makes you feel like you’re accomplishing something. Maybe it’s making that phone call you’ve been putting off or getting started on updating your resume. The key is to do it—start today.
  • Accept change. When confronted with something new and different, resist the urge to fall back on old habits. Take a deep breath and remember you can conquer it.
  • Don’t look back. Learn from past mistakes but don’t dwell on them. You’ll just get stuck in the past. Instead, keep moving forward, even in the mess or midst of mistakes, and heading in the right direction of where (and who) you want to be.
  • Tell the truth. It’s OK to not know everything and to ask for help. People, as you well know, like to share their expertise and knowledge. You’ll learn something new, from a new perspective. No one likes a know-it-all

Whether you’re 8 or 80, it’s never too late.

How will you become a better version of yourself? Only you can provide that answer. Seek knowledge then choose your path by starting with this short, inspiring TED Talk from Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert, “Success, failure and the drive to keep creating.”

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