Self-Improvement relies on consistent, intentional choices. But why do you choose what you choose? Why do you act, speak and think the way you do? The answer could be vital to your success…
Do you go with the flow or stand out from the crowd? Do you fit in or do your own thing? Being a successful Self-Improver often involves breaking from the norm and taking a stand. This might take you out of your comfort zone, but the benefits are considerable…
Swimming against the tide
My Morning Ritual (more details here) involves getting up at 5:00am and preparing myself for the day through a series of consistent tasks, repeated daily.
I was fortunate to spend last week aboard a cruise ship with my wife and two of our close friends. I still surfaced at 5:00am each day (almost) and completed as many of my usual tasks as possible. I couldn’t walk the dog (he was at home with my daughter) or make my morning coffee (it was too early for the breakfast buffet) but I managed to continue with other items, such as reading, prayer, meditation, checking the weather forecast and writing my journal.
Between 5:00 and 6:00am the public areas of the ship were deserted. I walked the corridors, went up on deck, sat in the library: all quiet and still. It was like having my own cruise ship!
Almost all the other 1800+ passengers chose to stay in bed (or at least in their cabins) while I walked and sat alone.
Following the crowd
Being alone wasn’t unexpected. A cruise holiday generally follows a set pattern, including plentiful mealtimes, quite a lot of alcohol and excellent on-board entertainment until late in the evening. Not everyone followed exactly the same pattern, but the huge majority did.
For me, it didn’t fit. I still enjoyed the food and a few drinks, but I chose the early show and went to bed around 9.30pm so that I could get up early. My Morning Ritual is important to me and forms a crucial part of my Self-Improvement. I always try to maintain it even if I’m travelling; this was no exception.
And so I found myself alone: wonderfully, beautifully, fascinatingly alone on my own personal vessel, at least for an hour or so. I loved it!
Going along with the crowd has its value. Laws, rules, guidelines and etiquette are there for us all to follow most of the time. Walking to the front of the movie queue and demanding immediate entry won’t make you a lot of friends. And choosing to “Go” at the Stop sign while others follow the rules is definitely not recommended!
Social conformity can work. If enough people are willing to do the same things in the same way, then clubs, churches, towns, cities, countries and even empires are built. Supporting and encouraging one another around a set of agreed values can make us stronger and more influential, whether at home, school, work or leisure.
But it’s not the whole story.
Be different to be better
I’m not claiming any moral high ground here: everyone has a right to their own choices. I don’t believe rising at 5:00am makes me any better than the next man. On my vacation I chose to rise early before everyone else because it made sense and worked for me. My point is, I made a deliberate, conscious, intentional decision to behave differently from others, in order to feed my personal Self-Improvement.
Historically, if people hadn’t been willing to take risks, think outside the box and break out of the mould sometimes, we would be without much of the technology and achievement we enjoy. What if no-one had ever looked up and decided to go to the moon? Or imagined a telephone in their pocket? Or challenged the conventional wisdom that said you couldn’t run a mile in less than four minutes? Innovation, by its very nature, breaks free from what is normal and accepted.
Thinking and acting differently should not be the preserve of the great and the few. In our own way, we should all try to be visionary about our Self-Improvement.
Follow or lead?
We can easily underestimate the power of social conformity and peer pressure. When my wife’s mother joins us for a meal out, she looks at the menu and then asks everyone else what they are having. She invariably chooses the same as someone else around the table…
There is comfort in being the same as others. Sharing experiences feels good. But slavishly following those around us can also lead to a “sheep mentality”. At its worst, it’s what drives mob culture and crowd violence. On a more subtle level, it can prevent us from experiencing the variety and richness of life’s choices.
On the other hand, some people are determined to be different at any cost: have you met them? If you say black, they say white; if you say hot, they say cold. Everything has to be an argument! I’m afraid to admit I used to be a bit like that (perhaps I still am sometimes.) But being different purely for the sake of being different is anti-social and ultimately counter-productive. Rather than improve yourself, you just end up stuck in a rut of rebellion.
Find your difference
I believe there is an important balance to be found between conforming and “rebelling”. When choosing the pathways of our lives, there’s always room for the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach. But finding and intentionally acting on our own “points of difference” helps us to express our individuality and explore more avenues for Self-Improvement.
When considering our choices, a key question is, “Is this genuinely my best option, or am I simply following what everyone else is doing?” Try asking yourself this question in relation to:
- how you do your job
- who you spend time with
- the language you use (including foul language)
- the times you go to bed and get up
- how you use Facebook, Twitter and other social media
- what you read
- the TV you watch
- what you believe (or don’t) about God
- how you vote
- how you speak about your spouse or partner
and any other areas in which you suspect you might tend to mindlessly fall into line.
Courage to change
Are you brave enough to be different when it matters? Taking a stand and daring to be different is not about acting against other people, it’s about choosing for yourself. You can be innovative without being offensive.
Change is seldom easy and often takes courage. But if you can see a way forward to becoming a better version of yourself, don’t let social conformity or the opinions of others hold you back.
- Where might you be guilty of falling into “sheep mentality”?
- When do you follow the crowd even though swimming against the tide might be better?
- What personal changes have you dodged because of what other people might think?
- What Self-Improvements have you avoided because they seem a bit out-of-the-ordinary?
- Does your life sometimes feel a bit “same-ish”? When?
Daring to be different doesn’t have to involve sudden, major change. Self-Improvement comes when good choices are followed through in small, simple, consistent steps. Most importantly, those steps should start right now.
- Consider where you might be “stuck” and need to change.
- Resolve to go against the flow if you have to.
- Find the one, single, most important improvement you need to make.
- Act on it NOW.
If you’ve made a choice to “go it alone” and improve yourself, either now or in the past, “Leave A Reply” below and share your experience to encourage other readers. Or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me. I answer all emails personally.
To our continued Self-Improvement and success!
The Self-Improvement Guy