Thursday, October 18, 2007

On improvement.

Self-improvement has a long history in this country. Ever since Ben Franklin started working under a pseudonym, America has long been the center of the self-help crowd. What other country, in the minds of people around the world, offers the kind of start-all-over paradigm that we do?

Hell, even the pilgrims knew they could start fresh somewhere else.

Maybe I was born in the wrong era, because - looking back - my life has been one big self-improvement saga. From awakening my thirst for involvement in high school, to my participation in activism and leadership at college, to my community awareness in the working world, it seems I've always strived to do more - and better.

Consider a few things I've been working on lately:

At the start of the summer I couldn't run for two continuous minutes. Now I can run a 5k. I tried out track in high school just so I could know what being involved in varsity athletics was like. And I was decently fast. These days I'm doing it just to say I can do it. The fun part? I have something else to talk to people about.

Financial peace
This one is ongoing. I've had a decent handle on my finances since graduation, but now it's a goal, and a project, and something I'm working toward improving. It doesn't involve just making more money, but doing more with the amount you have. I've learned so much.

Web site design
This is the one area where I'm lacking in graphic design, so lately I've decided to do something about it. With the web becoming so integral to business and organizations, it's silly not to learn the basic. Now I'm helping build web sites for work, Rotary, Recycling, and Katie's dad's business. I want to take a class at Jackson Community College to learn more. Why not?

I got turned on to a few meditation podcasts after reading an article in National Geographic that said Buddhist monks were, according to pure numbers, the happiest people on Earth. I wanted some of that, and started experimenting. Turns out, it's not that bad. My heart wasn't built for organized religion (probably because I tend to ask too many questions), which is probably why I've always been interested - or at least curious - in Buddhism. The best part is you don't even have to be a religious person to reap the benefits of meditation and mindfulness. Maybe we could all use a bit more quiet time.

This one's also almost always ongoing, but I'm always trying to get more done in the time I have. I started carrying around a thumb drive, and on it I have plain text to-do lists, listing my projects, ideas, and even a grocery list. I found a neat notebook I can carry in my car, in case I think of something at red lights. And the ol' note-on-the-back-of-my-hand trick works everytime. If it's not written down, it doesn't get done, so you'll find scraps of paper everywhere I am. All to GTD.

...and I've always been this way. From picking up a guitar to running for student government president to start a recycling program here at work - life is too much fun to passively watch it go by.

But what does it all lead to? Where am I going with all this?

Lately I've thought about the ultimate start-over technique: moving/working somewhere else. On all my trips over the past few years, I've explored each spot as a possible place to live and work. Not in any definite amount of time, but just to plant the idea. Over time I've learned where I wouldn't want to live, and where it might be kind of fun.

Shucks, with the country headed in the direction it's in, I've always thought of moving to that northern neighbor right over our heads.

Maybe all this self-improvement stuff is a type of monomania. Is the constant need for a better me a good thing, or even healthy?

Always, there's a burning in my stomach to try more, do more, live more, get more done. A lot of it is not even feasible, but then the only big expectations I have are for myself. I hope that, given any situation, I'd make the most of it. I'd probably have a lot of fun, too.

What's next? Who knows. But it'll be something. Maybe I'll land on my next big project by chance, but I'm starting to think that spending some time researching my big ideas might be the way to go. Go back to school? Live somewhere else? Run for office?

Poor Richard was right when he said, "Tis easy to see, hard to foresee."

But I do know a better me is within sight.

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