Why do we do all this self-improvement stuff?

Why do we find ourselves going to bed at 9.30pm on a Friday night when others are out drinking & having fun?

Or jumping in a cold shower before 7am?

Or developing a new skill on your lunch break when everyone else is socialising?

What is the drive underlying this obsession with self-improvement?

Is it ego? Fear? Enjoyment?

It’s hard to say.

Maybe it’s a bit of everything.

But it seems to me that many of us — those into self-improvement in various forms — are so busy learning something new, improving ourselves, focused,that we fail to lift our heads up and ask ourselves a simple question:

Is self-improvement driven by fear?

At the heart of it — at least for me — lies fear.

A fear that, if I am not growing, then I am stagnating.

And stagnation is depressing, it’s boring, it’s not helpful for anyone or anything.

And maybe beneath that lies a fear that my life will lack purpose. That, without growth, my impact in the world is diminishing, is becoming irrelevant, is non-existent.

So I push myself hard in order to increase the chances that I will have an impact on the world.

I push myself to skill up, to become the best version of myself, so that when those rare opportunties in life come along, I am ready.

As a soldier trains for a war that may never come, the self-improver trains for some future, unknown struggle that may never come.

But at least, if it does, they’ll be ready for it.

Is self-improvement driven by ego?

Do we push ourselves to improve out of a sense of grandeur and self-importance?

Is it that we like to get up at 6am, exercise every day, journal every day, start a new business, etc., so that we can look down on others?

To say:

“You can’t do this, but I can. Because I have drive. I have commitment. I have persistance.”

And maybe we do this to shore up our own insecurities.

To look to others to benchmark ourselves against. So that we can feel like we are a winner, in some twisted sense.

Because without those benchmarks, we have fear, we have anxiety. We believe we may never acheive anything. We believe we may never be remembered by others.

We push ourselves to leave a legacy. But not one of positive impact (which may be a by-product).

Our legacy is one based on ego. A desire for others to remember us as one of the greats. One of those people looked up to. And emulated.

So we push ourselves every day to increase our chances of achieving greatness.

Is self-improvement driven by enjoyment?

Do we push ourselves purely for the thrill of it.

For the sense of satisfaction & motivation that comes from setting a goal & overcoming that goal.

An we become addicted to that feeling. That feeling that we are independent agents, able to create our own realities. That we are in control of our lives. Not driven by the winds of fate this way and that.

So we find goals in every aspect of life — exercise, sex, sleep, nutrition, entrepreneurship, writing — just to set a goal and overcome it.

It doesn’t matter too much what that goal is. Or what the outcome may be.

It just feels good, so we persist.

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Henry Latham

Henry Latham

Founder, Prod MBA

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