Everyone has dreams, goals, and plans.
Some want to live on their own terms by transitioning from the corporate world into entrepreneurship. Others embark on a fitness journey to better their physique. And many try their hand at learning new skills.
In short, we all want to become better versions of ourselves.
“Better,” however, is not a destination. We don’t wake up one day, discover a magic potion, and metamorphose into the superman-version of ourselves.
As such, the only way to become a better version of yourself — on a personal, mental, physical, or professional level — is via continuous improvement.
You need to take the long route, and this journey requires lots of small gains that will compound into significant improvements over time.
We get it. Consistency is crucial to success. But what does it entail in the real world? What are the mechanics of staying on track every day?
To illustrate the inner workings of consistency, I’ve come up with five principles. Whenever I struggle with self-discipline or motivation, these affirmations remind me of the power of continuous improvement.
On this basis, here are five golden rules of becoming better every day.
Rule #1: You only have one competitor.
The first step toward mastering the art of tiny gains is to stop competing with everyone else and start focusing on your only real competitor: yourself.
Amid our current self-improvement craze, many people start looking toward other people’s personal growth endeavors.
That friend is reading 50 books a year. I need to do the same. Youtuber X does a home workout at 5.30 am. I need to start even earlier. And everyone seems to take on some kind of challenge and post about it on social media. How can I participate?
All of these comparisons won’t help you compete against yourself.
The problem with assessing other people’s challenges is that they measure other people’s growth, not your own. In other words, you look at how good someone else was two days, two months, and two years ago. You look at their tools, struggles, and wins. That might provide some fleeting inspiration, but it won’t help you grasp the concept of consistency in your particular situation.
Instead, do the following: start arming yourself to win the war against your past self.
Consequently, my first golden rule of daily improvement is to prepare for battle against yourself.
The enemy is the part of your brain that doesn’t want you to become better. The master procrastinator in your head. Your comfort zone. And most importantly, all the impulses and habits that prevent you from following a productive daily routine.
Once you know who you’re fighting, you’ll learn how to identify the right weapons, come up with a battle plan — and, ultimately, defeat your sole competitor every day.
Rule #2: There is no such thing as a free lunch.
The next rule of daily improvement concerns sacrifices.
Self-improvement is not a one-way street. It’s all about giving and receiving.
To become fitter, you need to invest time, energy, and sweat into physical challenges. Growing your wealth requires financial education, and most importantly, taking risks. And finally, you can’t become fluent in a foreign language without exiting your comfort zone and practicing.
In line with Milton Friedman’s quote, you can’t expect to become better at something for free.
In this regard, the first year of building my online business was a classic case in point.
I traveled to many countries in Asia, but I had to sacrifice lots of experiences. I couldn’t go on too many adventures because I needed to work in a coffee shop and make ends meet.
If I had given in to all the backpacker impulses, I would’ve ended up broke after six months. Consequently, sacrificing a few travel thrills meant building a viable digital nomad income and making the lifestyle sustainable in the long run.
Rule #3: The key to daily improvement is to simplify challenging tasks.
If you want to become a little bit better every day, tell yourself the following:
Things don’t have to be so goddamn hard.
The art of continuous improvement is all about small, consistent gains. And the secret toward achieving these gains every day is to make the systems that produce them easy.
In other words, simplify the tasks that secure your daily improvement. Find ways to incorporate these “essential things” into your daily routine to make them flow.
The concept overlaps with Grek McKeown’s “essentialist approach”:
“Essentialism is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless.”
For instance, if you are trying to build a freelance writing business, identify the most impactful task, such as writing a blog post every day. Find ways to simplify writing that blog post. You could, for example, prepare all your blog posts on Sundays and take one hour every weeknight to write them. The next day, you edit and post them in a 30-minute pre-breakfast stretch.
As such, the more you streamline and simplify, the more you’ll achieve daily improvement.
Rule #4: Forget about eureka moments.
When we look at people’s failed self-improvement attempts, we tend to see one overriding reason: they expect some kind of once-in-a-lifestyle transformation. And that’s not surprising.
Social media is full of supposed transformations.
One video made Youtuber Y famous. Investment guru Z found one product that provided a 10,000 percent return. And startup founder X discovered one business technique that took his company to the next level.
In truth, most of these eureka moments are fake. They are the tip of an iceberg that camouflages years of hard work and small, consistent gains. These tiny improvements might not sound spectacular, but they make the difference in the long haul.
As James Clear writes in a blog post:
“It is so easy to dismiss the value of making slightly better decisions on a daily basis. Sticking with the fundamentals is not impressive. Falling in love with boredom is not sexy. Getting one percent better isn’t going to make headlines.”
Consequently, if you want to become better every day, focus on making better decisions every day. Forget about transformations, and harness the power of long-term evolution.
Rule #5: Improvement requires the right mental and physical fuel.
Finally, my last rule of becoming better every day is all about starting in pole position.
To understand the competition, make the right sacrifices, and simplify high-impact tasks, you need to set yourself up for success. And this pole position requires mental and physical sharpness.
In this context, I am not going to write about morning routines and mindfulness rituals. There are countless ways to start your day right and attain mental clarity.
The primary point is the following: find your best rituals to feel energized throughout the day. In that same vein, practice mindfulness to create awareness of decisions that will safeguard daily improvement.
To conclude, you are on track to achieve daily self-improvement when your routine secures a combination of three factors: stillness, productivity, and enjoyment. Organize your days with these three elements in mind, and your main competitor won’t have a chance to stop you from achieving tiny gains every day.