The Better Me (A Self-Improvement) Project

I’ve been reading a lot lately. I know that’s not a crazy concept considering reading is pretty much my number one favorite hobby—other than, you know, fishing the kids’ socks out from underneath the couch cushions. I usually have a book in the car, a book in my purse, a book on my nightstand, and one floating around the house…at all times. The crazy part is, I’ve been reading non-fiction.

Reading has always been my escape from the world so when people started suggesting that I read more non-fiction, I immediately poo-poohed that idea. How boring! I thought. Who wants to read about real people? I want to read of about imaginary characters.

Still, I found myself holding my library’s copy of “You Are a Badass”, a non-fiction book about self-improvement by Jen Sincero—basically about how to become more successful in all areas your life. It was a little out there at times and I definitely found myself disagreeing with some of the author’s assertions, yet, I found myself nodding in agreement more times than not. I found myself saying Why yes! I can make these changes in my life and maybe I can create my own success story. 

Immediately inspired by the author’s positive attitude, I started applying some of the ideas I had gathered from the book. For the next few weeks, I continued and I really started to notice a difference in me. Was it instant success? Of course not. I’m a work in progress, but it motivated me to try harder, achieve more. It motivated me to learn more.

Hungry for more tips, I took out “The Happiness Project”, by Gretchen Rubin. Once again much of what she talked about had me bobbing my head and muttering out loud. It was real and inspiring—who doesn’t want to be happier? I mean, I’m essentially a content person, comfortable in my life in a way most relatively successful people in their forties are. But could I have more? Could I be more? I immediately wanted to do my own “Happiness Project”. But my project wouldn’t be about being “Happy”.

Happy is such a weird word. While I think of myself as a generally “happy” person, I get overwhelmed and angry on a daily basis. I’m not sure someone else would describe me as “happy”. And what is happy anyway? I’m happy right now, eating a bowl of soup and sitting in the den with my hubby on a Friday night while he watches golf. Does this always make me happy? Absolutely not. If he had promised me a steak dinner and a night out, this would make me the absolute opposite of happy. Happiness is about perspective and unfortunately how we define happiness can be fleeting. Tomorrow tragedy could strike, and as hard as I try, happiness may evade me for a long time. I didn’t want my project to be for naught, for the possibility of it abruptly ending, so I decided instead of “happiness” being my goal, I would strive to be a “better” person. My project would be 30 Days to a Better Me.

We all want to leave this Earth better than it was when we arrived (well, most of us do), but what makes it better? Is it the mark we leave on the people around us? Is it our successes? Or is it the simple fact that our time on Earth was an enjoyable one? Is there a formula that we can actually follow?

In the month of March, I challenged myself to be alcohol free. Hubby refused to participate with St. Patrick’s Day and uh, other days ending with Y (insert eyeroll here). No matter—I’m a very goal oriented/ competitive person…even when I’m competing against myself. I was going to get through 31 days without a drink. Not that I’m an alcoholic or anything, but I like my wine and an occasional Moscow Mule after a long day at work. It wasn’t the easiest thing to do, especially when I’ve been out with friends (peer pressure doesn’t end when you graduate high school, by the way), but what I discovered about myself very early in in this month actually became the incentive to my “Better Me” project. Forming and breaking habits are what motivates most people and what shapes their personality and how they go about their daily lives. So many times people try to change their lives (dieting, quitting smoking, etc.) in one fell swoop rather than breaking their challenge up in manageable pieces.

I started off the project by making a list of what I wanted to accomplish—it was a shmorgash board of goals ranging from being more pleasant to the people in my everyday life, to reaching more readers. Then, I listed some of my biggest hurdles standing in my way—what did I think would help me accomplish these goals. There were A LOT of things on that list, but many were linked together—many were dependent on each other. One of the most difficult parts of this project has been how to actually ORGANIZE it so it makes sense. But then again, letting go of my rigidity is part of the project.

Inspired by the book “Wonder”, I created a “daily precept” that would help me either form or break a habit every day for 30 days—I wrote these out on notecards, which excited me wayyyy more than it should—I’m such a stationary nerd. My goal at the end of the 30 days was to at least be heading in the right direction to make a change for the better. Some days I succeed. Other days I fail. No matter what, I have been journaling my observations and my feelings which I want to share with you. This is not to say this journey is necessarily something that you want to do, but if you do choose to create your own “Better Me” project, some of my ideas and precepts may be a helpful jumping off point. Everyone’s project will look different—yours might be more specific tasks rather than an eclectic combination of desirable concepts, vague goals, and specific tasks like mine has been.

I’m still not done with my project, even though the 30 days is nearing to a close. Still, I wanted to share this project in as close to real time as I could. Maybe it’ll end up being “37 Days to a Better Me” (probably not because that’s an odd number and there’s no way I’m going to work with such a random number…). But however it turns out, I’d like share my findings with you. I’ll post once a day in the month of April—at the end of the 30 days, I’ll reevaluate and let you know how I did. Wish me luck!

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