Self-Improvement is Something to Be Enjoyed

Personal and professional growth should not be treated as a chore. Instead, derive joy from your betterment efforts by treating them as play.

Harvard Business Review's Herminia Ibarra makes an interesting observation at the outset of a recent post. Personal and professional development has become a hot commodity on the internet, what with the utter quantity of various top 10 lists and informative self-betterment how-to's. It's like thousands of ...for Dummies books reared up and vomited their contents upon the annals of the web. You could even make the case that Big Think exists as some sort of iteration of this phenomenon, though I like to believe we're a step above informative vomitus. 

But Ibarra's main point is that no one has ever stumbled over themselves in anticipation of reading a ...for Dummies book. Self-improvement is almost universally seen as a chore. "Oh bother, I'm absolute rubbish at delegating work to my teammates. About time I attended a seminar. Rats." There's no way to make the word "seminar" sound appealing and, likewise, there are very few avenues for enjoyment innately available when we talk about the pursuit of professional development.

That said, Ibarra offers several suggestions for improving our ability to self-improve, the most notable being an engineered context change. Instead of seeing personal growth as a chore, she says, try instead to make it play:

"Much research shows how play fosters creativity and innovation. I’ve found that the same benefits apply when you are playful with your self-concept. Playing with your own notion of yourself is akin to flirting with future possibilities. Like in all forms of play, the journey becomes more important than a pre-set destination."

Not only does play appear to lead to more fruitful results, but also the fun factor involved allows you to enjoy yourself. Why processes of introspection and personal growth are seen as work is beyond me. Anyone with a shred of moral ambition should be able to derive joy from the pursuit of self-improvement. Ibarra's piece (which I've linked again near the bottom of this piece) offers strategies to achieve that very goal — the most interesting of which she describes as "committed flirtation," an experimental flirtation with oneself. 

How do you self-improve? Do you treat it as a chore or is it something from which you're able to draw power and pleasure? Feel free to share any strategies you've developed in the comments below.

In the interview below, Big Think expert Gretchen Rubin discusses a goal everyone could afford to pursue: being happier.

Read more at HBR.

Photo credit: Blinka / Shutterstock

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

4 reasons Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for universal basic income

In his final years, Martin Luther King, Jr. become increasingly focused on the problem of poverty in America.

(Photo by J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Despite being widely known for his leadership role in the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. also played a central role in organizing the Poor People's Campaign of 1968.
  • The campaign was one of the first to demand a guaranteed income for all poor families in America.
  • Today, the idea of a universal basic income is increasingly popular, and King's arguments in support of the policy still make a good case some 50 years later.
Keep reading Show less

Why avoiding logical fallacies is an everyday superpower

10 of the most sandbagging, red-herring, and effective logical fallacies.

Photo credit: Miguel Henriques on Unsplash
Personal Growth
  • Many an otherwise-worthwhile argument has been derailed by logical fallacies.
  • Sometimes these fallacies are deliberate tricks, and sometimes just bad reasoning.
  • Avoiding these traps makes disgreeing so much better.
Keep reading Show less

Why I wear my life on my skin

For Damien Echols, tattoos are part of his existential armor.

  • In prison Damien Echols was known by his number SK931, not his name, and had his hair sheared off. Stripped of his identity, the only thing he had left was his skin.
  • This is why he began tattooing things that are meaningful to him — to carry a "suit of armor" made up the images of the people and objects that have significance to him, from his friends to talismans.
  • Echols believes that all places are imbued with divinity: "If you interact with New York City as if there's an intelligence behind... then it will behave towards you the same way."
Keep reading Show less