On Self-Improvement

“There is no heavier burden than an unfulfilled potential.”
– Charles Schulz

Aside from them being listed in the Forbes’ list of richest men in the world, what else do Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk have in common? They are all certified bookworms. They love reading.

Include in the list of those who surrounded themselves with books famous people like Barack Obama, J.K. Rowling, and Oprah Winfrey. Even Mahatma Gandhi was reportedly a voracious reader. The list of the bookworms who became wealthy and famous is long.

There are no doubts about two things. The first one – that the personalities aforementioned succeeded in their chosen careers and gained wealth and renown in the process. And the second one – that reading contributed to their success. I doubt that reading for them  is just a hobby done to kill time but something they deliberately do for learning. They are what we call “lifelong learners.”

One common denominator among extremely successful people is this – they decided to be lifelong learners. They did not stop being engaged in the endless process of personal growth and development. They want to accumulate more knowledge and to either develop further their skills or learn some new ones. They have the humility to admit they don’t know everything. They acknowledge the need to continue growing as a person.

They (the few people who succeeded)  knew that schools cannot teach everything that they ought to learn. This is so true. There are  essential knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values which the academia do not teach. There is a gap between what the schools teach and what should a person learn and develop for them to be holistically functional and live life to the fullest. They considered it their duty to fill in those gaps. They knew that nobody else will do it for them.

Their main objective in getting involved in personal growth and development is to unlock their full potential knowing that it is only when people become the best version of themselves that they could have the best chance to succeed in whatever endeavors they initiate. Self-improvement is a quest that they undertook to make themselves better.

You should do the same. Self-improvement is something that you owe to yourself.

Philosophers have actually disputed the notion of self-improvement as a moral duty. Arguing if it is or not (a moral duty) is a case of analysis paralysis. For me it’s simple – self-improvement is a MUST.  For me it’s plain common sense, it is my duty to improve myself in all aspects of my being a person in order to increase my chances of getting what I want and in becoming what I envision myself of becoming.

Let me, however, mention some assertions made by Immanuel Kant about the subject, not to refute them but to use them in support of the contention that self-improvement is important.  He asserted that “man should find in himself a talent which could, by means of some cultivation, make him in many respects a useful man.”

In case you haven’t discovered yet, lying dormant within you is a particular skill (or a set of skills) waiting for you to uncover and develop. You have a natural talent (or talents) that you need to hone, or cultivate (as Kant suggested). Others don’t have natural talents but they chose one particular skill they are interested with and spent time (hundreds to thousands of hours) and practiced complete dedication and focus to develop it. There’s no magic pill you can buy anywhere to help you master a skill or talent. You need two things – grit and hard work.

Kant  continued by saying that “man cannot possibly will that self-improvement becomes a universal law of nature but as a rational being, he necessarily wills that all his faculties should be developed.”

I consider the decision not to develop one’s faculties to the fullest as irrational. It’s just hard to fathom why people would not try to explore to what extent they could develop themselves as a person.

Kant also posited this – “Poverty is the result of lack of self-improvement?” What if this is true? What if people who are currently mired in financial and other forms of difficulties got to where they are now because they failed to improve themselves in areas that need improvement.

But whether you accept that self-improvement is a moral duty or not is a matter of choice. And I hope and pray that you make the right choice. No adults capable of making decisions for themselves can be forced to do anything they don’t want especially if doing so would require them to leave their comfort zones. It is hard to convince people to learn something new even if doing so would mean them reaping great benefits in the long run. It is even harder to persuade people to unlearn something they have gotten accustomed to doing even if clearly continuing a pattern of habit and holding to a set of beliefs and practices are harming them personally and ruining their chance of living a better and happier life.

Whether you like it not, self-improvement is necessary. Yes, it’s not easy but it is a journey you should take and not doing it is like living a meaningless life. Let me add another one from Immanuel Kant – “Self-improvement is an obligation that each person owes to himself/herself.” Imagine self-improvement as a road that leads to success and happiness. Would you not like to traverse it? How long it will take before you take your first step?

Self-improvement can be achieved by patiently putting a workable personal growth and development  program. It is the only path to go towards unleashing your full potential for you to become the best you.. There are lots of self-help books and plenty of resources in the Internet that can help you get started.

Being at your best will make you more equipped to face challenges and rigors of having to exert your best efforts towards the attainment of your dreams and ambitions. It will give you a better chance to succeed in all your undertakings.

This is not saying that you will not encounter failure. There are times you might but failing would make you wiser and more careful so  you will try better on your next attempts to succeed and will not stop until you get your desired results. The function of failure is to tell you what does not work, not to prevent you from trying again.

Is trying to unlock one’s full potential an attempt to be perfect?

It is not. It is simply an attempt to attain complete and holistic development. It is an organized effort to discover and cultivate one’s natural powers and abilities.

There’s one personal duty that we are free to perform or not – that is discovering how far we could develop ourselves – how productive we could become. It is an opportunity that some people chose to pass up. We indeed have the freedom to choose. It is just unfortunate that some people would choose not to make themselves better.

When you try to develop fully as an individual, you are not attempting to be perfect and blameless. No person could ever attain perfection in the areas that Psychology refers to as different dimensions of individuality, namely physical, intellectual, emotional, moral, and social.

Trying to be holistically developed is not about becoming perfect. For me, any attempt to be perfect would end in a disappointment for nobody would ever be perfect. Hara Estroff  Marano, as quoted by Jim Kwik in his book “Limitless,” said, “perfectionism reduces creativity and innovation. It is an endless report card; it keeps people completely self-absorbed, engaged in perpetual self-evaluation – reaping relentless frustration and doomed to anxiety and depression.”

Attempting to be holistically developed is trying to attain your best form in the different dimensions of individuality until you reach the full extent of your capabilities. And while some people would not bother to discover what talents and skills they have, some are trying to go beyond the limits of whatever they discovered they are capable of doing.

We often hear people say that despite them working hard they could not reach their goals, have what they want, and be where they want to be. They don’t understand why for them success is so elusive.

When people do not achieve their goals it is possible that they have either not done everything right or have not exerted enough effort.

People may reason out after not getting the results they want that it was the best they  could do. And that’s another problem – them  setting their limitations or allowing other to set the limitations for them. There are no odds so insurmountable for those who do not know how to give up.

One of the reasons why people don’t get what they want – – they did not do their best or they thought their best is already their best not knowing what they thought is already their best is only the tip of the iceberg which we call their full potential – their maximal capability.

People fail to get what they want and become what they envision themselves to be because not they are not good but rather they don’t know how good they are. They have not discovered yet their maximum potential.

We would  know our ceiling only  after we unleash the best version of that person within us. This is the reason why we should not pass up the opportunities for self-improvement. And if those opportunities don’t come, we have to create them.

Those who succeeded in climbing mountains of success have left trails. They put markers and painted trees with blazes along the way. They paved the way for those who intend to do what they have done.

There are many trails you could follow if you really want to reach the pinnacle of success in the same manner that there are also a lot of justifications you  could give if you don’t want to. Which one would you like to do – follow the trails or give a justification for not trying?

It’s all up to you.

You might ask – “What if there are no trails?”  What if no one yet has tried climbing the mountain you wish to scale thus the way is not paved yet? What should I do?

Remember what Hannibal said when the only way to defeat the Romans was to make his soldiers, horses, and elephants climb the  Alps – “I will either find a way or make one.”

In his book “The Direct Line,” Earl Nightingale explained why only  a fraction of people really succeeded in life. He cited among others the Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset who bemoaned people’s laziness to study. The said philosopher compared studying to paying taxes – something  people don’t like to do and something practically no one does when he doesn’t have to. He added that the great majority of people will go to school just as long as they have to during that time they will learn only what is absolutely necessary which isn’t very much and they will stop on any subject that moment they’re allowed to.

Nightingale mentioned about people complaining because they’re not successful. He was aghast because those people would most of the time  sit dull ahead and slack-jawed in front of their TV sets instead of going to libraries to read.

Are you one of those who stopped learning after schooling? Are you one of those who consider that self-improvement is just  a waste of your precious time? If yes, then you might want to consider St. Paul recommendation, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”




Teacher-Writer-Lifelong Learner I have three passions - teaching, writing, and learning. I am a Filipino currently residing and teaching in South Korea. I blog and vlog the things I write. I have two websites and two YouTube channels where I publish my works in my areas of interest. I also use Wattpad and Pinterest to publish my creative works. I am into research as well. Some of my articles were presented at conferences and published in indexed-journals. TO GOD BE THE GLORY!

Posted on August 31, 2020, in Personal Growth and Development, Self-Improvement and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Self improvement is the key to mastering life. Self improvement changed my life from the inside out in only 6 months…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So true, reading and reflecting are major factors to self-improvement

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I try to read every single day, and I often do, but I feel like I’ve got to step it up. There are people out there finishing like 50 books a year, I have to get on that level!

    Liked by 1 person

  1. Pingback: The Road To Self-Improvement: A Collection of Essays | M. A. D. L I G A Y A

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