Professionals, in any discipline, know the importance of the basics. They are the foundations upon which the whole edifice is built; if the basics are mastered, everything else fall into place naturally and effortlessly. Virtuosos always start rehearsing with the basics; when grandmasters are asked for advice, they expound on the basics. How we master the basics determines our degree of proficiency in any discipline; including self-improvement.
Before we get into the basics of self-improvement, first we have to determine what the discipline is all about. It is evident that most people get into SI to make more money. That’s unfortunate because money is a byproduct of SI but not its main purpose. What SI is all about is helping people become whole and complete so that they can lead more effective and fulfilling lives.
It is evident that money is part of the picture. But, if money making is your only objective, I can tell you how to make money fast by using only three words. They are: cheat, rob and lie. That will get you all the money you want very fast and the program will even include a mandatory retirement with all expenses paid. They call it, prison. SI is about a lot more than money even if the bible of SI aficionados is called, Think and Grow Rich.
To be fair to Napoleon Hill, who wrote the book, we have to mention that he says the strategies he gives to acquire wealth can be applicable to anything else that we may wish to acquire. Here we must emphasize that there is nothing wrong with wanting money but it’s not the path to happiness; becoming whole and complete is – and it’s also an excellent way to acquire wealth if that’s an important part of what you desire.
Basically, it could be said that SI is mainly about attitude. It’s about the point of view that we take regarding the events in our life, our present situation and condition; along with how we envision the future. Attitude colors everything and gives it different meanings; the same situation, viewed from a different perspective, can empower and contribute positively as it can cast a dark shadow and be demoralizing.
The right attitude does not mean hiding our head in the sand and denying reality. It’s not about living in a fantasy land where everything is sunny and rosy. It’s about striking a balance that will work in our favor and looking at the brighter side of the picture. It’s about focusing on the solutions and not the consequences. It’s about seeing the glass half full and not half empty.
Kaizen or sharpening the ax
Following attitude the next basic in self-improvement is known as Kaizen. It’s is a Japanese word that stands for, “improvement” or “change for the better” and refers to philosophy or practices that focus upon continuous improvement. The word cannot be translated in English so the acronym, CANI (Constant And Never-ending Improvement) is used instead.
The story of Kaizen is quite interesting and bears noting. After the Second World War, Japan was left completely ruined and devastated. General Dwight Eisenhower, who was in charge of reconstruction, called upon Dr. Edwards Deming, an expert on efficiency, to advise Japanese leaders on how they could best improve their situation.
Deming instructed the leaders that they should implant a philosophy where everyone would make the commitment to improve each facet of their life every day. In less than a decade, Japan turned into one of the leading economies of the world. If such a simple principle can so drastically change an entire country, imagine what it could do for you.
Kaizen is above all a mindset. It’s the desire to improve. With that mindset, everything that we do, every experience that we have become a learning and growing process. And, that is what self-improvement is mostly about. An experience woodchopper will always sharpen the ax before starting to work. In our own way, we should do the same. Seek to be as sharp as possible so that we can be as effective, in every aspects of our life, as we possibly could be.
What good is anything if we can’t depend on it? Or, to put it another way, what good would all the work done on self-improvement be if it did not come to the rescue in difficult times; when we need it the most? Fortunately, SI includes a technique, or fail-safe method, to cushion the hard bumps of life; it’s called, “Having an attitude of gratitude.”
You see, states of mind tend to follow Newton’s Law of Motion which essentially says that a body in motion tends to stay in motion. Moods or states of mind tend to follow that law. When we are feeling good, we tend to keep on feeling good unless a considerable reversal of fortune (figuratively speaking) happens. And, the better we feel, the more we tend to keep on feeling good, no matter what.
Of all the technique known to feel good, one is way superior to all the other, and that’s, “Having an attitude of gratitude.” We can’t feel really grateful and be depressed at the same time. These two opposite feelings simply can’t exist simultaneously. So, if we keep on feeling grateful for all the bounties that have been given us, we build a strong layer of resistance against anything unfortunate that we may have to go through.
The basics, simplified
The best way of hardwiring a concept in our mind is to reduce it to its most common denominator. In the case of the basics of self-improvement it would be: (1) keeping a positive attitude, (2) having a personal growth mindset, (3) and maintaining an attitude of gratitude. Have this synopsis tattooed on your mind where it remains ever present and you’ll be amazed at how life can be wonderful.
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