Why do some societies place such a high value on self-improvement? Some believe that bettering yourself is part of the human condition. Working toward a goal and achieving it provides your life a sense of purpose. Instead of living a random life, you can work toward the fulfillment of your goals and dreams.
In some historical views of self-improvement, people equated the concept of bettering yourself with the accumulation of material wealth. Abraham Lincoln was a prominent example of the self-made man concept during the United States in the nineteenth century.
In one quotation, Abraham Lincoln expressed clearly how the concept of enterprise could help a person to improve in economic status:
“That some should be rich shows that others may become rich, and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprise. Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another; but let him labor diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built.”
In the twenty-first century, people are able to recognize the idea that owning material wealth may provide some form of contentment. After all, living in a house with four walls is better than living in a cardboard box in the city park. People may also realize that human life provides the opportunity to obtain a greater knowledge of the self.
You can perform inner work and improve yourself. The results of your inner work cannot be quantified or observed by fellow human beings in the way that people can express awe at your huge house or abundance of material wealth.
If you are ready to improve yourself from the inside out, you can try the following suggestions. While you can appreciate the convenience and comfort of material wealth, you can take internal wealth with you through eternity.
1. Healing bad relationships. Just like a step in the twelve-step program is to make amends, you need to heal the broken parts of your inner self. By making amends in broken relationships, you can free yourself from the past. Let go of your emotional baggage so that you can move forward without regrets.
2. Forgiving yourself. Another aspect of repairing yourself is to make peace with bad choices you’ve made, from hurting your family to engaging in self-destructive behavior. It is a great feeling to look at your image in the mirror with all your warts and scars and experience no shame.
3. Finding wholeness. The quest for self-improvement means exploring all aspects of self. You can become whole on the inside by working through problems from the past, enjoying life in the present, and discovering parts of your inner being you’ve never explored.
4. Seeking solitude. Another aspect of the human condition is to seek happiness and security in human relationships. While you need human contact, you also need time alone. Finding solitude on a regular basis forces you to make time for inner work. The toughest challenges of inner work are not problems for which other people can provide assistance.
Just as you can improve your inner being, you can redefine your understanding of self-improvement. This concept changes with society. What was self-improvement in Lincoln’s time is understood differently today.
Do you ever wonder what Abraham Lincoln would think of the self-made person in our globalized world? He might look around and be glad that we’ve moved a long way toward racial harmony, but we’ve also developed an increasingly selfish worldview.
Although you are a member of a society, you are also a community of one. You can change your worldview. You can create harmony among the parts of your inner being. Be happy, derive more joy out of life experiences, and sleep better. Although your physical surroundings might not be grand, your inner realm can be a magnificent castle.