Are you the best possible version of yourself right now?

Starting today, right now, you can ‘be’ any way you wish. It’s a simple choice. You don’t have to drag around your bad habits, emotional baggage and quirks, and nasty little personality traits, as if they’re somehow part of you. They’re not. They’re simply behaviors that you haven’t elected to change, and are carrying around like a familiar old backpack. This isn’t your personality or ‘who you are’. You’ve simply decided to continue acting in the same way as you always have. But you can very easily change that right now, become a better version of yourself, and never look back. And guess what, you still get to be YOU – but improved.

Why we should always be growing

We ask children to make measurable progress in reasonable time. Kids that struggle in 5th grade get extra help, are told to apply themselves, make sacrifices, and are pressured to basically do what it takes to get to 6th grade. We don’t allow children to stop getting smarter or better. Yet once we’re adults, we think the process is over. Instead of actively learning and applying that information to improve our lives and ‘get to the next level’, we abandon it. No one is looking anymore, so we decide not to push ourselves anymore. We might continue learning for interest – reading about history or another subject we enjoy – but it’s nothing like learning to get to another level.

We choose to stop growing pretty much as soon as no one is looking. That’s unfortunate, and unnatural. All other life grows to their maximum potential. Trees grow as tall as they can. Trees don’t decide it’s too much work and quit growing. Trees grow to the max, shoot their roots down as deep as possible, reach their branches up as high as possible, produce every leaf possible. All other life does this, except human beings. It’s not the way life works or the way we were designed. Doing less than you can messes with the mind. It causes all kinds of psychic damage, not to mention of course the huge effect it has on the results in our lives. We are all born with amazing unbounded potential. Why would we choose to be half the person we could be? That causes deep conflicts that often emerge in other ways.

We have flaws, and we all want to be better. Isn’t that reason enough to change and grow – to refine ourselves, makes our lives better? The reason we hesitate is – like always – our old pal fear. We’re afraid of the imagined effort involved, we’re afraid we might lose friends (or even loved ones) if we change, but mostly we’re afraid of who we might become. Will we know that person, will we like that person and be comfortable in our own skin as a ‘better person’? Given all those unknowns, we conclude it best to just stay where were are – much safer, even if it isn’t our best.

We don’t lose ourselves when we grow

Many people change dramatically, on their own and through circumstances, and remain the same person. People lose limbs, loved ones, lose everything, and are better for it. Others gain fortune or fame and live amazing lives, and are very much themselves. Anything we do is still ‘us’. It’s not like we’ll get somewhere and see a stranger we don’t recognize. We are there the whole time, going through the change. Our view of ourselves is just a story anyway, full of exaggerations and self-deceptions. Doesn’t make us bad people – but it does mean we may not be the story of who we think we are. And since it’s just a story anyway, why not make our story amazing?

We also don’t lose loved ones when we change for the better. Anyone worth having in our life will applaud it, encourage it, offer aid, and find inspiration in it for their own change. If they pull away from or discourage us, that simply reveals the relationship for what it always was – unhealthy.

Most importantly however, fear of loss of any kind is not a good enough reason to stop us from being the best version of ourselves we can be. It’s too important to be forced into a corner by fear.

What we get when we choose to grow

When we continuously get better, every year is our best yet, because it combines experience and knowledge from all previous years. So at age 40, we’re better than 39, and at 80 we’re twice as good, because we’re rolling in all of our experience, skills, and strength from the previous years combined – 79 years worth. And you’ll notice that only people who haven’t lived well complain about their age or aging. Every day is a complete gift and should be viewed that way at any age.

As a result, when we continuously improve ourselves, we awake each morning as the best version of ourselves – so far. That’s a kind of joy that feels so deeply rewarding that it can fully power a lifetime of growth and progress. The day itself may or may not be better, but when YOU always are the best version of yourself, there’s always a strong wind at your back – helping you forward and lifting you up.

We decide who we are, instead of being molded by experiences. Life doesn’t determine our shape and state, we do.

We’ll also be actively removing bad habits, self-deceptions, and self-imposed barriers, which means life will continually improve. Removing these negatives and obstacles gives us tremendous control over life, instead of just ‘living it’. We decide who we are, instead of being molded by experiences. Life doesn’t determine our shape and state, we do.

What does growth look like?

Growth looks like this:

Finally doing the things we say we ‘should’ do or will do one day. This typically includes a lot of things we put off, like doctor visits and organizing a cluttered space, to taking a trip or learning a skill. But those are just the most vocal/visible things. It’s the changes in thinking that make a bigger difference, things that drive meaningful change in diet/nutrition, finances, goals, perspectives, and therefore outcomes. It’s easy to rattle off exciting and impressive-sounding bucket list items – much harder and more important to improve skills like discipline, perspective, or priorities. Most people choose seeing the Grand Canyon over gaining control of their health or finances – or themselves.

These core changes are what produce dramatically different outcomes and make our life better. Most people take better care of their house and their pets than they do of their bodies or minds. Change is about caring for, and improving, the things that really matter – and having the courage to do so, not filling our lives with ‘busywork’ to avoid doing the very scary work of being our best selves.

What would it look like if you started dropping a few pesky bad habits and living up to your full potential, starting right now? Fast forward one year, and imagine how your life might be better. What would that future self say to you right now? Do you think there’s any chance they would say “don’t bother – not worth it”. Never. In fact, that person is yelling at you to please make those important changes. Can you hear them? Faintly in the distance? If you can, take action.

Growth is linear

Most people are caught in a loop. The scenery may change along the way (different events, new experiences), but the most important part of their experience never changes – themselves. We replace cars and washing machines and clothes without a thought, but never change how we think. We’ll buy a new lawn mower, sharpen the blade, and tune up the engine to get better results, but always walk the same pattern.

Following seasonal or annual cycles seems natural, but in fact our lives are not cyclical – they are linear. Lunar cycles, planetary rotation and solar orbits (and the clocks and calendars derived from them) are just external events. Our lives are not those things. Life is linear, with a clear beginning and end. In between is not a series of repeating loops – it’s a straight line. Getting caught in cyclical patterns and cyclical thinking crushes the desire to make any changes or improvements. After all, there’s always next year, right? Funny how that works. Thinking that way ensures it absolutely will be so. So we continue to get similar results and repeated experiences, and tell the same stories surrounding them.

It’s a treadmill version of life, with some changes in scenery, perhaps a few new experiences, but really no meaningful progress or growth. Change only happens from within, and only as the result of deciding we want different outcomes. 80% of lottery winners eventually end up broke – because they never changed the ‘broke’ mindset. Same goes for health, happiness or anything else that matters in life. To get better results means thinking differently. It takes a shift in mindset to move from where we are to where we wish to be.

The power to completely change our life for the better is fully in our hands (actually, heads) at every moment. It’s just a question of whether we decide to keep growing – when no one is looking.