It didn't start out to be a Thing; it's not like I sat down and said “I will now Work On Improving Myself.” But at some point last month I realized there was a pattern, that in the previous few months I had started making progress on some things that I'd been blocked on.
I'm not sure it makes sense to lump all these things together; some of them are steps toward becoming a closer approximation of who I want to be, some are just dealing with some tasks I've been putting off for a long time. But to me, they all feel like steps forward.
Here are some of the things I've been doing. Half of these are things I want to write full entries on at some point, but for now I'm just going to list them:
- Sorting and putting away vast stacks of papers.
- Walking more often. (Some walking on treadmill, some walking to work.)
- Eating less meat.
- Flossing almost every night.
- Learning some Spanish.
- Asking for help when I need it. (In particular, help with a task that I'd spent years being unable to push myself to move forward on, for no clear reason.)
- Finally making some long-delayed purchases (beds, speaker for my TV, etc).
- Working on my will. (Don't worry, this is just a general-principles thing; I don't have any plans to need it anytime soon.)
- Getting back some mistakenly lost vacation time at work—which is on this list because I spent a year and a half putting off dealing with it.
- Trying anti-anxiety meds.
- Going to the doctor for an annual physical. (I unintentionally skipped last year's.)
- Getting my taxes done two months early.
- Spending less time on Facebook.
(There was another thing on the original version of this list, a month ago, that I was starting to do but have been backsliding on: Doing more fiction writing. We'll see if I can get back to that. A couple of the above items are also too new to tell whether they'll persist, but I'm listing them anyway. But this paragraph is a good reminder to myself that none of this stuff is linear or binary; it's an ongoing process, and it's easy to revert to old habits.)
And here are a couple of things I haven't done yet, but am contemplating in a semi-serious way (not just a vague sometime-in-the-future to-do list):
- Going through more boxes of unsorted papers.
- Getting my house cleaned regularly.
- Hosting writing days again.
There are, of course, many many other things that I would like to do or start doing, but most of those are on my vague-future list, rather than likely to happen soon.
What about you? In your comments on this post, I recommend avoiding fretting or self-criticism about things you haven't done but would like to; instead, I'm more interested in hearing about what positive steps you've taken lately, or are about to take, toward becoming more like who you want to be or getting unblocked. And if the answer is “none” (as it might've been for me a year ago), are there any such steps that you'd like to take?
There don't have to be any such steps; I couldn't have done any of the above stuff until I was somehow ready to do it, and people pushing me wouldn't have helped. Somehow the time has just been right in the past couple months for me to work on some of this stuff. So I certainly don't mean this post to be one of those “Everyone must go out and improve themselves, and you're a loser if you don't!” kinds of things. I know very well the feeling of wanting to move forward but not being able to; and reading stuff that tells me to just get over the inertia and start doing stuff is always more annoying than helpful.
But if you do find yourself moving forward, even in small ways, I'd be interested in hearing about it.
I'm also interested in hearing about what's different, if anything, that's letting you make progress that you couldn't make before. For me, it's been a confluence of a bunch of factors—the proximate causes have been things like discussions with friends, helping friends deal with some hard times, and watching a particular movie—but I think none of that would've made a difference if it hadn't just somehow been the right time for changes.
I'm reminded obliquely of a bit from a 2000 Salon article about quitting smoking:
But somewhere in the middle of the addiction [...] my body just gives me an escape clause, a ladder is lowered, and if I take it, then quitting is fairly easy. If I don't quit then, I'm trapped again. Eventually, weeks—maybe months—later, another ladder is lowered. I wonder if everybody's body gives them these little escape hatches, times when quitting is so much easier and more imaginable.
I wonder if something like that is true for other kinds of changes as well.
(Thanks to Addiction Is for the quote from the Salon article.)