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.