Self Improvement Tips
Go to any bookstore and one of the largest section you will find there would be of “Self-help” & “Self-improvement” books. Ask any publisher or a bookstore owner and he will tell you that this is the genre that sells the most. And one wonders, what is all the fuss about? Apparently, in these competitive times, where success has become a most important thing, more and more people are looking towards these aids – these little programs.
It was during the early twentieth century, and after the industrial revolution in the previous century, that self-improvement and success became immensely popular words, alongside growing commercialism. Books dealing with the “how” of everything started to appear along with research into the so-called “science of success”. It started from America, but soon spread all over the world. Today, thousands of books are being written around the subject and the more clever, and loaded with theories and systems it is, the more it sells. Especially, books with a touch of spirituality become quite popular – “The Monk who sold his Ferrari”, “The Saint, the surfer and the CEO”! Now, the question is: Is there such a thing as self-improvement at all?
Lets look at it factually: One can improve a skill – become a better editor, a better doctor, a better sportsman; physically one can improve oneself – by losing weight, gaining better fitness; financially one can improve – by earning double of what I was earning earlier, etc. That is, physically, skill or technique-wise, there is improvement. But is there a so-called self improvement, i.e. is there an inward becoming at all?
We need to look at this term, “self improvement”. It is made up of two words: self and improvement. So, we need to look at these two words. Self is what I call my identity, my consciousness. I identify myself with a name, a profession, a capacity, an image that I have about myself, certain experiences, my background, etc- all that is the self. Basically memory. The whole structure of the `me’, the self, is the result of the past. And improvement implies basically progress, modification of the existing structure. We are questioning whether there is such a thing as an inward progress, becoming something inwardly, a psychological evolution.
This brings to view the problem: we are used to thinking in terms of time, that is, we are used to the gradual process of change, the gradual process of achievement, the time involved in changing from this to that. That is time. There is time not only by the watch, chronologically, but there is also psychological time, the inward time, which says, “I am angry, jealous, and I will gradually get over this’. To change gradually from violence to non-violence implies that I am sowing the seed of violence all the time. So, this question is one not only of time but of the whole conflict of effort, of becoming, of achieving something other than “what is”.
Biologically, there is evolution. Scientifically, technologically, there is improvement. But have we transferred that evolution, that improvement to the level of the psyche? Will my mind, which has evolved through centuries, for millennia, which is conditioned by time, which is evolution, which is the acquiring of knowledge, more, more, more, ultimately come to the truth? Can knowledge ever bring understanding. Knowledge is merely the cultivation of memory, in which the mind seeks security. Knowledge is the always in past. The self is knowledge. So, the self, the “I” is always in the past.
We are used to the idea that we will gradually become wise, enlightened, by watching, practicing, day after day. That is what we are used to, that is the pattern of our culture and our conditioning. Now we are saying, this gradual process of the mind to free itself from fear or violence or anger is to further breed fear and to encourage further violence. The gradual process in the field of the psyche is a false process.
If one has an idea, an ideal, one is conforming to that ideal; there is an interval between the ideal and the act. That interval is time. The ideological distance between “what is” and “what should be” is time. “I shall be that ideal’ is time. What takes place when there is this ideal and the action that is approximating itself to the ideal? In that time interval what takes place? Incessant comparison. What action takes place, if you observe? We ignore the present. Then, what else? Contradiction. It is a contradiction. It leads to hypocrisy. I am angry and the ideal says, `Don’t be angry.’ I am suppressing, controlling, conforming, approximating myself to the ideal and therefore I am always in conflict and pretending. Also, in this division there is conflict. Earlier, they used to talk of self-awareness, self-knowledge. And now they talk about self-improvement. Both are completely different. Because by self-knowledge or self-awareness, the self doesn’t become better – it comes to an end.
Contributed By: Ashutosh Ghildiyal is a salaried professional based in Mumbai, India. He was born in Lucknow in 1984, where he completed his schooling. He completed his graduate studies in New Delhi and his post-graduate education in Mumbai. He is the author of To Think or Not to Think and Other stories (Book), various blogs and short stories.
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