Before you read further, can you answer these two basic questions?
- What are you good at?
- What do you want to keep getting better at?
We all know that we should keep improving. Yet we fail to do that. In fact sometimes we don’t even know which areas of our life needs improvement till we are looking for a new job. Sadly the truth becomes clear to us – we lack the most basic skills because the company we were working with did not consider it important and neither did we.
It is important that you answer both those questions as honestly and personally as possible. Hopefully your answers will change every once in a while. If they don’t you can be certain you are making no progress.
Why it can be hard to answer those questions honestly:
Avoid answering those questions on a day when you are emotionally unstable or dealing with failure. Even though both of these situations could result in strong truths, it is unlikely that it will this time. Answer these questions with a clear and logical mind. The other tip is to ignore the desire to be overly modest.
Learning about yourself first is key to constant improvement. In fact when you answer those questions, don’t limit yourself to thinking about your skills. Think also of behavior and habits.
Now that you have those first two questions answered, let’s consider a few more:
- What do I want to retire as?
- What sacrifices/commitments are necessary for this retirement?
- Which of these sacrifices seem unnecessary/not worth it in case I don’t live long enough to retire? Therefore, what matters more than my life’s goal?
Once these answers become clear, you have a personal goal or mission in life. Ideally this goal should uphold what you are good at or enjoy doing and therefore each step you take to keep getting good at something more will bring you closer to a successful retirement.
So how do you keep improving now that you have some clarity:
Find the resources to help you continue growing. Books are the obvious choice because most progress that has been made in almost every field is documented. Look out for formal courses, further your education, learn a new skill. Every once in a while I like to ask myself what I have learnt in the last few weeks and what I want to learn in the next few. Remember that not everything has to cost a fortune. However, consider investing in the critical things that count.
Learn from people. Be an informal apprentice, “follow” someone on media, learn from others’ mistakes, failures and successes. Seek a mentor, have a role model and plan on overachieving.
Striking a balance so that you know when to stop:
Remember what you answered for the question about unnecessary sacrifices. That answer should keep you on the ground and really help you prioritize. Once you have your answers, focus on improving.