In the time that I’ve spent writing about various elements of improving slowly, I haven’t sat down with you and spoken about what it means. I hear the cries already.
“It’s bloody obvious! Rather than improve quickly – improve slowly!”
But I promise, there is more to it. I want to talk about the values of improving slowly and why they’re important.
The principles of slow self-improvement
Self-improvement is important to a lot of people. Especially to those who feel bad about their skill set and general abilities. Or to those who want to live happier and more fulfilling lives.
The literature is broad – much of it very good (and terrible, but we can ignore that for now). The experience of self-improvement is not spoken about as often as it could be. Largely because blogs and books tend to give advice (as my blog does too) without talking about what it’s like to actually live that advice.
I started my blog so I could do that but I feel that I’ve strayed from that (or never really started). So I’ve been thinking:
What are the principles of slow self-improvement?
When we challenge ourselves to go as quickly as possible (for whatever reason) it’s easy for that doubt to become more and more intense. It’s helpful to slow down, be mindful and enjoy the process of improving as much as we can.
This brings us to the first principle – We are working drafts
I explored this briefly in the last post on self-forgiveness. When we decide to improve certain things, we do so because we believe it could be better. However, it’s easy to slip into perfectionism without noticing. As a result, we might see how quickly we can learn something (in order to get rid of the deficiency quicker) or become overwhelmed by the task and never start.
There’s nothing wrong with learning quickly if we have the right foundation. If we start with the belief that we aren’t perfect and need to be, learning quickly will not solve that.
We take a mindful breath, assess our intentions and remember that we’re a work in progress. We always will be.
And that’s OK.
With this in mind, it becomes much easier to catch those harmful storylines which can often plague our thoughts.
“I’m not moving fast enough!”
“I’m not smart enough to learn this so quickly”
“I’m falling behind!”
And instead of focusing more on the improvement and being kind to ourselves in the process, it becomes much easier to lose ourselves in the storyline or give up when we realise that learning a language or writing a book isn’t as sexy as we first imagined.
Improving slowly is about improving with compassion.
Self-forgiveness is one facet of self-compassion. There are a many others. Small things such as:
- Cultivating kinder thoughts towards yourself
- Allowing yourself to relax
- Appreciating how far you’ve come and your courage to keep going
In the journey of self-improvement and as a result improving the world, it helps to start from a foundation which isn’t infected with hate. Of course, this takes time – I struggle with it every day. But it’s a worthwhile struggle.
One day I’ll see myself in the same positive light that I see my friends and family. I hope the same for you.
Another important principle of slow self-improvement is a deeper adoption of helpful habits.
When we improve slowly, we spend more time with the habits we want to adopt. As a result, we’re far more likely to keep the habit than for it to be a fad.
For example, a study from University College London showed that it can take an average of to 66 days to form a habit rather than the conventional “21 day challenges”.
Next, we resist apathy and cynicism – and fight against it.
Apathy and cynicism are only around the corner and come knocking when we experience multiple setbacks. We must remember that we cannot give up on ourselves. Especially when it is most tempting. Simply remembering that we can be champions for ourselves is a helpful reminder to remain engaged with the world.
Even in the simplest form. There have been times when all I’ve done is reminded myself “I want to be engaged in my own story”. Then gone back to bed.
It can be difficult, but on reflection I’ve understood it as an act of compassion.
Lastly, we become better one step at a time.
It is better to work with focus instead of attempting everything at once. To do this, we slow down, take a mindful breath, and take it step by step.
This journey of improving ourselves and adding value to the world is a life-long one. Our time is valuable but this doesn’t mean we try to complete things as fast as humanely possible.
I ask that we slow down. Savour our improvement and as a result develop a healthier relationship with setbacks and disappointments.
While we improve, we’ll experience many of our ten thousand joys and ten thousand sorrows.
And that’s more than OK.
Onward we go to improve ourselves and improve the world. With presence and mindfulness.
We improve slowly.
Here are the principles again:
- We are working drafts
- We improve with compassion
- We spend a lot of time with positive habits
- We resist apathy and cynicism – and fight against it
- We become better one step at a time
As always, thank you for reading. If you found these principles helpful, please share! Let me know what you think of them below :)