“The key to happiness is really progress and growth and constantly working on yourself and developing something.” — Lewis Howes
In 2017, I read close to 100 books on personal improvement, business, and self-help. From Tools of Titans, Good To Great, Essentialism, The Alchemist, Do The Work, and so on.
It was more of a challenge, but consuming all that information left me a bit overwhelmed. To be successful, these books were telling me you needed to be more consistent, resilient, show grit, meditate, improve your sales, dream bigger, and employ great leadership. And that’s just what stuck.
However, one thing that always stands out in the self-help world is the 80–20 rule. In a nutshell, 80% of your results come from 20% of your actions, products, training, knowledge, and so on.
I’ve recently been thinking of the 20% of things we can do to bring us 80% of the success we’re looking for in life. While I still came up with a long list, I realized most of our goals fall under these 4 “self” skills. If we want to achieve something of note in our lives, we need to work on these areas diligently:
1. Build Your Self Awareness
Self-awareness is the strongest of the self-ish qualities you can build. It’s the foundation for the other ‘self’ qualities I’ll mention in this post. Self-awareness is knowing your strengths, weaknesses, personality (at that point in time), and triggers. It’s an out of body experience, watching yourself as you navigate the world and guiding your steps at every stage.
Self-aware people know the areas they need help in and recruit those people to help them beforehand.
It’s knowing that what you do does not define who you are. By having a strong character, you can navigate life easier. You also know there can be no good without bad. It’s managing yourself through success and failure.
When you become self-aware, you become more intentional about how you design your life. For instance, you may say that you get things done, but you procrastinate and often miss deadlines. Self-awareness is knowing your triggers and cutting them off at the pass to get your work done.
To improve your self-awareness, take a look at the things happening in your life now and how they make you feel. Be honest with yourself. No one is watching. Then you can make sound decisions in whatever you do going forward.
2. Aim for Self Improvement
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” — Carl R. Rogers
When we think we know it all, then we’ve lost. Even with massive success, the most humbling thing that can happen to a person is to enter a room where that person is the least successful.
There’s always room to get better at the things we do. We should always accept where we are and know that there’s always room for improvement in our relationships, finances, and knowledge. Improvement does not have to be this massive leap. It could be one nugget of information that we can apply to make things a little easier, faster, or better.
It’s the little things that compound to give us massive success. We can’t want to lose 50 pounds without losing 1 first. We can’t think about how we’ll avoid taxes, making 100k when we haven’t learned how to make 1k as yet. Life and self-improvement are about placing one foot in front of the other.
How can you move one step forward? An easy way is to invest in several mentors for every part of your life. Look for the people around you that are excellent in different areas; relationships, health, wealth, spirituality, etc. Speak with them as often as possible and apply those teachings to help you get one step ahead.
3. Rely on Self Empowerment
If there’s one thing that this year’s pandemic (and next year too, I assume) has taught us, we can’t rely on our jobs to sustain us. When we do so, we give up all of our power from a financial aspect.
Now is the time to work on empowering ourselves so that we aren’t reliant on one stream of income. We also want to have leverage in our future dealings. It’s great to be able to walk away from something because we don’t need it.
One way of becoming empowered financially is by starting a business. Even if you aren’t 100% committed to the idea of a business, the financial advantages far outweigh that of a job, wherever you are in the world.
However, you don’t need to be married to entrepreneurship. Other means include investing, real estate, freelancing, or building a portfolio of sellable assets. Content creation — like writing on Medium, for instance — is a form of self-empowerment. It can bring you countless opportunities, the more you do it.
Self-empowerment does not only mean financially. It allows us to exert power in other areas of our lives too. It’s having the right people in our lives who lift us up. Self-empowerment is knowing where you want to go with your relationships. You feel more in control of your mental and physical health. And you have the ability to empower others as well.
Self-empowerment is also deeply rooted in self-awareness. By accepting where you are and what your limitations are and surpassing them with action, you’ll feel more empowered day-in, day-out.
4. Work on Self Preservation
Fight or flight.
Throughout man’s evolution, the one thing that has not gone from his being is his self-preservation. It’s one of our most basic characteristics. Hundreds of thousands of years ago, without this instinct, the human race would be non-existent.
Despite everything, we’re safer today than anyone could have thought possible. However, when we get into a sticky situation, we see just how much we’ve trained that response.
Self-preservation sounds selfish, but it’s anything but. You can’t help others if you can’t protect yourself. There will always come a time where we will run. If we see a wild animal, we will bail. That’s expected. However, in other circumstances that life throws at us, we will need to stand our ground as best as possible.
In a Physical sense:
We hate to think about it, but you really never know. There may come a time where you will need to protect yourself or your loved ones from physical harm. Can you do that? This may be learning how to use a gun, learning basic self-defense, or having an emergency plan at home in case of intruders.
What about if we become ill? What are some of the things we can put in place now to help us fight? Can we stop behaviors like drinking or smoking? Can we invest a little into health insurance? Is there an emergency account we can tap into?
We should always try to protect our finances and assets. This includes areas like life insurance, a will, or even an LLC. Can you store some of your income in a stable asset to protect from an economic crash?
Are there ways I can save on paying taxes? How can I protect my family, as well? Hint: Make friends with a lawyer and accountant in your country ASAP.
You don’t need to have large amounts of money to have these conversations. In fact, persons with large amounts of money may survive just a bit longer than you.
It would help if you closed that gap however you can.
In an emotional sense:
Am I around toxic people that are influencing my mental health and decisions? Is my job creating stress that’s affecting my family and me? Are there personal situations I need to escape from to save myself? These are hard questions that may require hard decisions. But give yourself time and lean on your self-awareness. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with self-preservation. Expect the best, but prepare for the worst.
Ask yourself these 4 questions every month:
- How am I raising my self-awareness?
- Have I empowered myself and my loved ones?
- Am I improving my relationships, finances, and skills?
- Am I physically protected? Can I protect my family and myself in case of an emergency?
About 80% of your life's success could be achieved by working on these 4 areas as often as possible. Know who you are, improve yourself, become empowered, and protect yourself and those you love. The rest is gravy.