On Forcing Self Improvement

Discussion in 'Self Improvement' started by A_Thousand_Wicked_Thoughts, Feb 23, 2021.

Should people try to force self improvement, or strive for a more leisurely approach?

  1. Force

    1 vote(s)
  2. Leisure

    2 vote(s)
  1. Notice - this writing is not meant to cause any offense to anyone on these forums, they are only my speculations which I chose to write down and share with this community I so enjoy.

    A good friend of mine has always been a leisurely athlete. He has run a few marathons, and won cycle racing competitions. He also enjoyed playing the guitar, and did so in a band he himself set up with some of his high school friends. For as far as I could see, he always enjoyed these habits a great deal. Two months ago I got a message from him saying he was starting a self-improvement course to get better in those habits. The course asked the participants to make a list of daily goals for their chosen habits to improve them over time, and to check off if they succeeded that day or not.
    Last week I spoke again with that friend, and much to my dismay found that he stopped exercising and was having difficulty playing the guitar regularly. The reason he gave me was that he did not feel like doing those habits that day, or any day over the past few weeks for that matter. He felt they were too much of a burden on top of the stresses of his normal dayjob. His hobbies - which he always found time to perform with the utmost enjoyment - now felt as mere burdens in his daily schedule. This left me wondering, how did that happen?

    I'll tell you my own personal experience with self-improvement over these last few weeks, and maybe we'll come to an anwser. For three weeks I've been on this community keeping up a daily list of constructive habits. Some of which new, but some of which I have been doing daily for a long time with much enjoyment, like reading. Yet the last week I've been doing this I've been finding more trouble getting them done, finding myself late in the evening doing the habits to get to my daily goals. Never before did I have to force myself to read a good book, but there I was. Trying to get to the 15 pages a day, while before I easily read double that. The habits started feeling like work, where before they were a form of play.

    Shouldn't self-improvement feel good to do? Should we not enjoy the process of improving our own character and talents? Shouldn't self-improvement come in the form of leisure and play, instead of necessity and force?

    When we force ourselves to continual improvement, even the most enjoyable habits of our life can start to feel like work. Play is an important aspect in the enjoyment of any action we learn in this life. For this we don't have to look further than babies. They don't have to force themselves to improve their habit of moving or walking. They don't have to set any daily goals to learn to move succesfully. They do so willingly, by means of play and fun achieved from the enjoyment of learning a new skill.

    Of course, self improvement is not meant to feel good all the time. When we run more miles than ever before and we feel our legs hurting a bit, we won't stop immediately. When we put ourselves out of the comfort zone and we do not perform as we would've hoped, it is not a good feeling. But we know these are positive stressors, and there is even some enjoyment to be found in those stresses. However, these positive stressors can become negative stressors by forcing ourselves too much.

    I believe self-improvement can become compulsive and detrimental to our mental well being when pushed too far. For example, my friend is not feeling any better than he did before now that he can't enjoy his hobbies the way he used to. There are people who literally break down their bodies to improve their physical fitness, by not giving themselves enough rest, and striving for that ever continual improvement. There are people finishing more than two good books a week. Not realizing that by doing so they are not giving themselves the enjoyment of internalizing that knowledge, which comes with a more leisurely reading. These are just examples, but I know they're out there, and they're no happier for their rigorous self-improvement journey.

    There is nothing wrong with self-improvement per se. What I am pleading for is a more leisurely approach to the subject. We should enjoy improving ourselves in a playful manner, not force ourselves with daily goals which start to feel like work. Too much of a good thing starts to change into a bad thing, maybe we'll all do good to remember that. My friend has stopped trying to force himself to improve his exercises and guitar skills, and now he once again is finding enjoyment in these habits. The funny thing is? He has the feeling he improved more in the last week than in the entirety of time he followed the course.
  2. smh_fam

    smh_fam Fapstronaut

    I think that's true, you have to find a way to work with yourself rather than force yourself to improve. You only have so much willpower and overexerting it will just make you feel burned out.
  3. PeterGrip

    PeterGrip Fapstronaut

    Very interesting idea. I'll share my own experience in this matter:
    I've been wanting to create a website as a hobby project aside my studies, and the approach to getting it done has been 'do ALL school work for the week, then you can focus on the website' - because, well, it's OBVIOUSLY work I'd argue. And you do the more important work first, which is school in this case. So in the evenings, at the end of a tough day of studying, I'd say to myself: "You are tired. You need to relax." This of course implies that working on the website is not an option - it is work after all, right?

    Another hobby I have is studying the material regarding the effects of keto/carnivore diet, which has kept me enraptured for several years now. So I'd use my break in the evening to 'study' this material - of course, that's not what I would call it. I would say I'm casually looking at the stuff, and whenever I wouldn't feel like it anymore, I would just put it away. Some days I wouldn't care for it, other days it could be for hours. You could say I did it in a more leisurely way - I like how you phrased that, and it certainly seems to resonate with my experience.

    Back to working on that website, my mind one evening started wandering about it, like there was some technical detail I was interested in, and I caught myself using my resting period in the evening to research it, and ended up spending like an hour on the website.

    So I guess the point is that the way I worked on these hobbies was fueled by pure interest, like a pulling force, whereas 'work' would be pushing yourself towards it instead.

    I've had this thought from time to time, that my ideal life situation is one where I naturally get up to work on things that I want to do. Like, you just 'feel like it' as much of the time as possible. This is just speculation, but let's say 'self-improvement' in the form of what others try and convince you is the better thing, let's say that speaks to your rational mind, your intellect. But that is not the entirety of you. You have other wants and needs, that are not necessarily clearly formulated in your mind. It's that part of you that you are struggling to get to know your entire life. So maybe, instead of forcing habits from your intellect, you try and agree on what to do with your unspoken self, and you might just find yourself improving your situation very naturally.

    I get that this thought invites PMO into the picture. OBVIOUSLY you shouldn't let go completely. We are conscious for a reason. We need to regulate ourselves. But regulating through this min-maxing work structure with the thought of not wasting any second during the day does not seem to be the way. Again, just speculating, but it's probably more the other way around - someone successful extracted a pattern out of their daily life that they believe contributed to their success. The problem is that they only extract the articulated parts, ignoring other parts of their whole being.
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2021
  4. ruso

    ruso Fapstronaut

    To add to this: Self improvement, also means improving the types of work breaks, recreational activities and vacations you take.

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