I've been a self-improvement enthusiast for as long as I can remember.
Perhaps some of the dysfunction in my family when I was a child led me to search for answers and coping skills. But I also know I'm naturally inclined to be a seeker and a learner. I like reading personal growth books, listening to motivational speakers, and taking self-assessments.
I also really enjoy taking time every year to define the kind of person I want to be, the lifestyle I want, the way I choose to relate to others, and the work that's important to me. I've discovered how valuable it is to know my core values and understand my personality type so I can create goals that support my natural aptitudes and inclinations.
Through my work as a personal coach and self-improvement blogger and writer, I've spent thousands of hours researching, writing, and talking about ways we can become more confident, find our life passions, develop good habits, learn mindfulness, simplify our lives, and be more productive. This work has provided more satisfaction and fulfillment than I can put into words.
In spite of all of this, there are days when I just want a vacation from self-improvement. I don't want to think about it, talk about it, write about it, or do anything to make myself a better version of me. I simply want to be and enjoy being the self that I am in the moment. Do you ever feel this way?
I used to feel guilty about wanting a break from self-improvement, especially since my work revolves around it. Of course we all need breaks from our work, but in the past I believed personal evolution was something we needed to develop constantly. I've since changed my position, as I've recognized the value of stepping away from it from time to time.
Do you need a self-improvement hiatus?
Here are 10 reasons to stop trying so hard to be a better you:
1. You're less self-focused.
Let's face it, when you're trying to improve yourself in some way, you are pretty much absorbed with you. If you're reading or studying a personal growth topic, you automatically think about ways to apply what you're learning to your life or situation. When you try to reach a goal or form a habit, you can't help but think about it constantly and measure how you're doing.
Self-improvement requires self-focus, and this can pull us away from other important parts of our lives — most importantly our focus on the people we care about. In fact, one of the most profound growth lessons is realizing how focusing on others makes you feel better about yourself.
2. You ruminate less.
By definition, self-improvement suggests we recognize an area of ourselves that isn't where we want it to be. We see a weakness or lack in ourselves, and we want to improve it. Whether you want to get fit, improve a relationship, or manage your anger, you know you aren't happy with the status quo.
Prior to taking action for positive change, we spend a lot of time thinking about our existing situation. We worry and have negative thoughts about ourselves, our ability to improve, and the difficulty of initiating change. Some people spend months or even years ruminating before they take action. The longer you ruminate, the more entrenched negative thinking becomes, which makes it very difficult to take action.
By giving yourself a break from self-improvement, you can give yourself permission to stop thinking about it. This allows you to clear your mind and lighten your emotional burden for a while.
3. You have time to process.
During your self-improvement holiday, your subconscious mind is still quite active. Your brain is processing all that you've learned in the past and applying it to your current experiences and behaviors. You may have heard or read an idea or new concept that needs time to develop so you can fully grasp it or accept it.
This down-time is actually an essential part of your inner growth and self-awareness. I often tell my coaching clients that the real work of coaching occurs in between sessions when you have an “aha” moment or an experience that triggers a new way of thinking. Don't feel like you're not improving when you take a break from self-improvement. Your psyche is still working away behind the scenes.
4. You live in the moment.
Self-improvement focuses your attention on the future. You're working toward some goal to become a better person. Of course you can live in the moment even when you're working on yourself, but you still have the outcome planted in the back of your mind.
When you take a self-improvement holiday, you are free to just experience life moment by moment, without measuring how you're doing on your goal or thinking about what you should be doing next to achieve it. There's a certain peace in accepting yourself just as you are right now, even if you aren't exactly where you want to be. Finding the balance between self-acceptance and self-improvement is a key lesson in itself, and this break can help you define it.
5. You can enjoy light reading.
There have been periods in my life where all I've read were self-help books. I loved reading them and learning as much as I could from some of my favorite thought leaders. But then I'd hit a wall, and I'd lose all desire to read one more thing that challenged me mentally or emotionally. I just wanted to lose myself in a good novel and read purely for fun and relaxation.
When you're serious about self-improvement, you sometimes forget that it's OK to read light stuff just for the enjoyment of it. In fact, reading novels, biographies, and hobby books allows your imagination and creative processing some unfettered time to run wild.
Here's a list of some great books I've recently read that you might enjoy.
6. You don't take yourself so seriously.
Think about times when you've really made a huge leap in personal evolution, or you've discovered an amazing technique for your physical or emotional health that has really worked. You want to share it with anyone who'll listen, and you are completely absorbed in the impact it's had on you and your life.
Self-improvement can be serious business. It requires us to face our fears and weakness and to gather the courage and determination to make change. It can create titanic shifts in our worldview and thrust us into periods of reflection and introversion. This is positive stuff, but it can feel overwhelming at times.
For our own mental health and for the health of our relationships, sometimes we just need to lighten up and let go of “navel gazing.” Laughter, fun, and simple pleasures are part of the wonderful experience of life, and we should leave plenty of room to enjoy them.
7. You make room for spontaneous awareness.
We can get so engrossed in seeking answers and finding ways to improve that we miss the forest for the trees. With our heads down and occupied in becoming our best selves, we miss spontaneous opportunities for growth and awareness that are available in day to day life.
When you take a self-improvement hiatus, open your mind to all possibilities that come your way. Be a keen observer of life and people, and allow your inner wisdom to make what it will of your observations. So much growth can happen when we least expect it, especially if we remain open it.
8. You allow yourself mindless fun.
I think fun is so underrated. There are unending opportunities to enjoy the world around us, especially if we allow ourselves to experience it with childlike wonder. Get out from behind your computer, your books, your tablet or iPhone, and go play. Ride your bike, have a picnic, go to a festival or music event.
When you're at home, rather than jumping back in to something serious, allow yourself time to enjoy fun activities (the old-fashioned kind) with your family. Play games or cards together. Build a fort with your kids. Do something creative with your hands like painting or gardening. Remember, don't do these things because you think they're good for you — do them because they are fun. Oh, and by the way, fun is good for you!
9. You can break from frustration.
Self-improvement involves many starts and stops, ups and downs, successes and failures. In our efforts to become better people, we can fall short of our goals or fail to follow through. It requires tenacity and determination to make positive change, even when it's just changing a small habit or reframing our thoughts.
Frustration is bound to be part of the process of self-improvement, and sometimes we get so frustrated we want to give up. But rather than giving up, give yourself permission to take a break. It's hard to think clearly or find solutions when we feel frustrated, but in time, frustration diminishes and often solutions arise spontaneously. Or we get a fresh injection of motivation, energy, or courage.
10. You build confidence in your inner wisdom.
Most of us really know deep inside who we are, what we want for ourselves, how to behave, and how to be happy. We just don't trust ourselves. As a coach, I've seen this time and time again. My work is to facilitate self-awareness so my clients can tap in to their own inner wisdom.
Even without a coach, you'll find that by relying on yourself, rather than always seeking answers externally, you'll generally make the right choices and decisions. Even when you don't, you learn from the experience.
When you take a self-improvement hiatus, you have to use your own judgement and intuition which strengthens your self-confidence. Yes, it's great to have reinforcement from books, blogs, and TED talks, but it feels really good to tap into your own wellspring of knowledge.
So what do you think — would you take a hiatus from self-improvement? Do you think it would be a valuable exercise? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. And hey, if you decide to take a break, please remember, I'm here when you're ready to come back!