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The End of Self-Improvement: Why a Focus on Improving Yourself Can Be Disempowering

Jason Drees
4 min read
The End of Self-Improvement: Why a Focus on Improving Yourself Can Be Disempowering

Self-improvement is a widely accepted approach to transforming your life. Booksellers commonly assign books about transformation to the self-help or self-improvement category or section. My first book, Do the Impossible, does not address how to work on self-improvement, though I have a feeling it may inevitably end up being categorized as such.

People seek self-improvement because they want to transform their lives. My question is, “If the goal is to transform your life, does that mean you have to transform yourself?”

At first glance, self-improvement appears positive. It seems logical to think, “To get a better life, I need to be better.” 

But if we take a step back, and look at what self-improvement really means, it is clear to me that relentless introspection is not the best way to approach a journey of transformation.

When someone navigates to the self-improvement section of their local bookstore, what is their real goal? Their ultimate target is most likely to get more out of life and to get better results. In my experience, the most empowering and enjoyable way to improve results is not based on improving oneself. It starts with accepting oneself and getting in touch with the internal guidance system within all of us.

As a performance coach, my discoveries of how life works continue to evolve. This led me to ask, “Why is self-improvement important?” The answer is, “It’s not.” It’s actually disempowering.

What does self-improvement mean?

Over my nearly decade in performance coaching, I’ve had a lot of clients say, “I want to improve.” This can sound like a positive goal. But what I hear from the phrase, “I want to improve” is “I want more out of life, and I don’t think I am good enough make it happen.”

Let’s break it down. What is self-improvement? The definitions of improvement include, to raise to a more desirable quality, to elevate to a more excellent condition, and, more simply, to make better.

By looking at yourself and saying, “I want to improve,” you are also saying, “I’m not good enough.” When we hold a belief, we unconsciously accept the opposite of that belief as true. In my recent BiggerPockets’ blog post, How to Develop a Growth Mindset: Start from a State of Abundance (Insert Link), I discussed mindset and how limiting beliefs, such as “I’m not good enough,” can keep us from getting what we really want out of life.

By believing the path to getting better results is improving ourselves, we also believe we aren’t good enough to get better results. And when you believe you aren’t good enough, you are approaching life from a disempowered mindset. 

Seeking self-improvement makes perfect sense from a disempowered mindset.  If I believe I am not good enough to improve my life, the first step must be self-improvement. This is why I’m calling for the end of self-improvement.

Focusing on self-improvement establishes your starting point in a place of judgment, where you believe there is something inherently wrong with you that needs to be fixed. Instead of chasing a better version of yourself, I encourage you to explore true transformation, which comes from realizing and accepting what and who you are – as you are.

BP self improvement

Radical transformation comes from self-acceptance, not self-improvement

To transform your life and get better results, you don’t need to improve yourself.  You need to accept yourself and do things differently.

The fastest way to create radical transformation is to shift your mental environment. I call this environment your frame. In my book, I explain what frame means—and the technique of framing. For this discussion, all you need to know is your frame is the internal environment that creates your mindset. It can also be thought of as your expectations. By taking responsibility for your frame and consciously aligning it with self-acceptance, you have the power to change what you believe about yourself in an instant. Doesn’t that sound more appealing than months or years spent on self-improvement?

The greatest results that I’ve helped clients create have all taken place over the last few years. During this time, I have focused on helping people cultivate a mental environment where they can accept their natural self. By embracing yourself, just as you are, you can more fully access what I call your “knowing.”

Find your knowing to take the right action

Life is not about becoming more than you are. Life is about discovering more about who you are. Trying to be more than you are typically involves comparing yourself to other people and judging yourself. When you see yourself as something that needs to be fixed, you are putting too much importance on external input, such as other people’s opinions and social conditioning.

I have experienced great transformation and accelerated expansion in my life. It all started with a decision to leave a high-paying job in tech sales and follow my passion by becoming a coach. People thought I was crazy, but my internal guidance system (my knowing) told me this was my mission. I would not have achieved the level of success or the passion for life I enjoy today if I let external input stop me from doing what I knew I needed to do.

Focusing on self-improvement resists the acceptance of your natural self and creates an underlying resistance to your knowing. Your natural self is where you find your gifts and your true path. Following your knowing is how you find your mission. As someone who has found their mission, I assure you it is the best feeling in the world.

Do the Impossible 3D 2 1

Shift your mindset and make the impossible a reality.

Life is just waiting to give you everything you deserve and desire—you just need to shift your mindset to achieve it.

Start to discover your knowing

Here is an example of following your knowing that involves my good friend Brandon Turner. One day I asked him to name something he knew he needed to do but wasn’t doing. He said, “Get a massage.” I told him to make it happen, and he started making time to get massages regularly. He later told me that time often produces some of his best ideas. A massage does not seem like a way to be more productive or follow your passion, but his knowing told him it was important.

Write down one thing you know you should be doing. Don’t overthink it. Go with your gut instinct. What is the very first thing that pops into your mind? Do it this week. It can be something work-related, a step toward following your passion, or something as simple as spending more time with family.

Whatever you wrote down is an example of an action that came from your knowing. Whatever it is, make it happen. So often we know what we need to do, but we put it off until some fictional date when we are good enough or the time is right. Maybe you say things like, “After I close this big deal, then I will spend more time with my family.” Don’t wait. Start following your knowing now. You already are good enough.

Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.