If you are a regular reader of this site, you strive to improve yourself.
I know I do.
That said, with so many distractions in this modern world, it can be challenging to know if we are getting any better.
In an effort to quantify, we often use uncontrollable externalities as a measure of our progress.
Any of us who have done this know it is not a recipe for success or fulfillment.
If you can relate the following five signs, you aren’t far from developing into the best version of yourself.
1) You have found your “purpose”
“Purpose” can be hard to define.
It’s best not to overcomplicate it. Think of it as what gets you out of bed in the morning. Or, as we covered in a previous article on Ikigai, it is your “reason for being”.
For some, it may be some lofty goal of solving world poverty or fostering peace between nations.
For others, it might be being a great parent or teacher.
Whatever it is, as suggested by bestselling author Mark Manson, it should be important enough to overcome adversity; because that is inevitable no matter what we do.
Without it, as Alan Watts puts it, “You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is to go on doing things you don’t like doing”.
Finding your purpose is no easy task, however.
If you have found it, lucky you.
You may not have perfected it or always be happy when pursuing it.
But the fact that you have found something to get up for in the morning is a clear-cut sign that you’ve almost developed into the best version of yourself.
You are moving in the right direction. Keep on going.
Of course, having identified your purpose, you still need to give it the time it deserves. That’s where this next point comes in.
2) You’re not afraid to say “no”
As social creatures, we often fear saying no.
We don’t want to disappoint others. For example, we agree to meet that friend for dinner even though we are far too tired to do so.
Or worse, we fear the repercussions of not doing something. Many of us have been in a situation when a senior manager at work asks us to take on a task. Although we are overloaded, we say “yes” anyway.
But there comes a point when being a “yes man” or “yes woman” begins to hurt your progress, the quality of your work, and even the people around you.
Modern life has so many demands and opportunities.
We can’t do it all.
We need to learn to say “no” unless we want to end up overworked, overstimulated, underperforming, and unhappy.
If you have found your purpose as outlined in the first point, you know what matters to you.
To make a fulfilling life a reality, we need to say no to things that don’t matter or, more accurately, the things that don’t matter enough.
Not everything is important.
This is an age-old concept that has been repeatedly addressed by great writers and thinkers throughout history.
19th Century-American writer Josh Billings once said “Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough.”
In his 2014 New York Times bestseller, Essentialism, Greg McKeown dives deep into the art of saying no, but a quote that really stuck with me is, “If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no”.
Mark Manson, author of The Subtle Art Of Not Giving a F*ck, addresses this when he writes, “We hall have a limited number of fucks to give; pay attention to who you give them too.”
I could go on, but you get the point.
If you have become comfortable with saying no to things that are not priorities, it’s a sure sign that you are on the way to becoming the best version of yourself.
3) You have developed a routine that works for you
Routines are like magic when it comes to getting things done and generally being happy.
I have noticed this in my own life. As someone who works from home on a flexible schedule, I have been lucky enough to be able to set my own schedule for the past few years.
If you have this freedom, you might know there can often be a temptation to change this schedule. And from time to time, this might be necessary and beneficial.
But not having a set routine is a recipe for disaster.
According to WebMD, having a routine can help us to be less stressed, sleep better, be healthier, and be happier.
This is echoed by writers and thinkers who focus on productivity and well-being.
In Stillness Is The Key, bestselling author Ryan Holiday dedicates an entire chapter to the importance of routine, as does Greg McKeon in Essentialism.
Different routines work for different people, though. It’s essential to find one that works for you.
It’s not all about work, however, as many think.
For example, as I wrote in a previous article, the routines of hyper-successful people often include exercise in the morning.
And great creative thinkers are generally fans of long walks.
Whatever the routine involves, if you have developed one that works for you and one that you can stick with, you are on your way to becoming the best version of yourself.
You might not have guessed this next sign but it is crucial for thriving.
4) You have stopped comparing yourself to others
As social creatures, we have always had a natural inclination to compare ourselves to others.
However, with the reach of social media nowadays, this has been taken to a whole other level.
Comparing ourselves to others is a recipe for discontentment, envy, and unhappiness.
As noted by Psychology Today, it can even diminish self-esteem and contribute to depression.
It lures us into feeling we are not doing as well as we are. It gives us unrealistic and often unattainable desires.
Rather than comparing ourselves to others, we should compare ourselves to our past selves.
After all, you want to become a better you, not someone else, right?
The importance of this must be considered; fortunately, it is also widely covered by many great writers.
Bestselling author James Clear wrote, “Focus on whether you are fulfilling your own potential than comparing yourself to someone else.”
In 12 Rules For Life, Dr. Jordan Peterson dedicates an entire chapter to this. It is entitled “Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today”.
If you have stopped comparing yourself to others, it’s a clear sign that you are on the up and developing into the best version of yourself.
5) You are not waiting for something or someone to complete you
When we set out to improve our lives, we often set goals.
We want to get better; for many of us, milestones are necessary to track our progress.
There is a very real temptation to seek external validation that we are doing well.
It’s easy to think, “When my company makes this much money, then…” or “When I have a beautiful partner, then…”
Then what? We will be happy? We will be “enough”?
We won’t. Those of you who have almost developed into the best version of yourself have realized this.
These sorts of desires are insatiable, and you will spend your entire life chasing them.
As put by writer and Buddhist Monk, Matthieu Ricard “Happiness is a state of inner fulfillment, not the gratification of inexhaustible desires for outward things.”
The bottom line
It’s not always easy to know if we are moving in the right direction.
And we often use the wrong, uncontrollable externalities to measure progress.
If you can relate to the above five signs, however, you are on your way to becoming the best version of yourself.
Keep on going.
If you don’t relate to all the signs above, there’s no need to beat yourself up about it. You have the power to change all of these things and implement them in your life today.
As always, I hope you found this post enjoyable and inspiring in your journey.