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Which Self-Improvement Strategy Is Right For You? Try One And Report Back

Source | Fastcompany : BY RICH BELLIS

In one sense, “self-improvement” is an oxymoron: If your “self” is who you fundamentally, authentically are, how can you possibly improve it? And should you want to in the first place?

These days, anyway, those questions aren’t strictly philosophical. Amazon stocks 67,586 self-improvement books, which suggests that one, there’s quite a number of people interested in learning how to better themselves; and two, that the same approach may not work for everybody.

This morning at the Fast Company Innovation Festival, three experts on mindfulness and habit change made exactly that point and offered some advice on finding the self-improvement strategy that’s right for you.


According to Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, it all starts by acknowledging a distinction many of us miss: “Where is this about acceptance”—the “self” part—“and where is this about kind of upping your game?”—i.e., “improvement.” Any efforts to change the way you work or behave, Rubin suggested, may fall flat if they aren’t true to who you already are.

If that’s the paradox at the heart of “self-improvement,” it’s precisely what strikes skeptics as oxymoronic. As the clothing designer Eileen Fisher, who joined this morning’s panel along with Rich Pierson, cofounder of the guided meditation app Headspace, pointed out, “A lot of people don’t like that idea that they need to improve, that there’s something wrong with them. That actually isn’t really true.” The goal instead is “to help people uncover their truest selves and to bring their fullest potential to their lives and to the workplace.”

“Authenticity” has inched toward buzzword status in recent years, but like most terms abused through overuse (including “self-improvement”), it underscores an otherwise obvious truth that’s still fairly new to the business world. Leaders haven’t traditionally felt much compunction to be “their truest selves” in the workplace. They just had to lead. But as the business world comes more and more to prize human qualities like emotional intelligence and soft skills, authenticity seems to be trading at a higher value, too.

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