While we generally regard striving to better ourselves as a good thing, there's always the flip side. In this case, that comes from an article in this month's New Yorker called “Improving Ourselves to Death.”
As you might guess, the piece is fairly cynical, with a healthy heaping of hipster snark. Still, valid points are made.
One undeniable aspect of the massive industry that surrounds any form of self-help are the so-called gurus. While their ostensible function is to help you get where you want to be, too many commercial endeavors find little profit in getting you well adjusted and on your way. There's always the next thing about you that's “deficient,” and if you just buy this one more book, seminar, product … you get the idea.
That's why I truly believe you should be your own life coach. If a certain resource helps you, then by all means, make the purchase — but only because you've determined that this is something you want to improve. Don't let others tell you what's wrong with you; instead resolve to become the person you inherently want to be, and then take sound action.
Which brings us to the next negative aspect of self improvement. It's certainly possible that many people seeking a better version of themselves are doing it to appear special — even superior — when compared to others. That type of external validation is not only superficial, it's also highly unlikely to lead to anything resembling happiness and well-being.
Remember, intrinsic motivation — pursuing improvement because it's naturally satisfying to you — is where it's at. And generally, trying to emulate what someone else thinks you should do or be doesn't qualify.
Striving to get a little better every day, on my own terms, is one of the most positive aspects of my life. I hope that's the case with you as well, and that Further helps you along your chosen path.
further: top ten
Slip and Slide
As hard as it is to get started pursuing a new habit, it's so much easier to slip up and get off track. Rather than giving up, use these tips to get yourself going back in the direction you want.
From Fish to Nuts
We know that nuts and fish oils are generally good for us, but there's more. Two recent studies out of the University of Illinois revealed that certain brain structures that tend to deteriorate faster as people age are positively affected by the levels of omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the bloodstream.
Strong Lungs, Weak Muscles?
Conventional wisdom says that intense endurance training and muscle building don't mix. But with a few adjustments, you can minimize the “interference effect” between high mileage and your ability to build muscle.
Friends: How Many of Us Have Them?
Online relationships simply cannot replace real, live, in-person connection. And science tells us that close friends give us confidence, bolster our sense of self, and increase our sense of purpose and belonging. Bonus points if you got the Whodini reference.
I touched on the allure of solo travel just before I headed out on my Euro expedition last fall. As was the case then, this piece focuses on solo travel by women, which is very cool. Still, don't get left out, gentlemen.
People don’t quit a job, the saying goes — they quit a boss. But a new study suggests that the decision to exit is because of the work. People leave when their job becomes unenjoyable, their strengths aren’t being used, and they aren’t growing in their careers.
Paul Is Dead
Complexity bias is a logical fallacy that leads us to give undue credence to complex concepts. This not only leads us to ignore simple solutions in favor of unnecessarily complex ones, but also leads some to adopt ridiculous conspiracy theories.
Too Broke to Pay Attention
When your attention shifts from one place to another, your brain blinks. A team of Vanderbilt psychologists studying the benefits of attention found that the blinks are momentary unconscious gaps in visual perception. More evidence to maintain concentrated focus on one thing at a time.
The thing that no one mentions about stretching yourself is that it really sucks sometimes. Yes, trying new things is exciting and mind-expanding and all that, but it can also be awkward and embarrassing.
Among philosophical ideas about how we should live, “the good life is the simple life” is a favorite; from Socrates to Thoreau, from the Buddha to Wendell Berry, thinkers have been peddling it for more than two millennia. It may soon become an overdue requirement.
Please use the social media buttons below to share this issue of Further. Thank you!