A Checklist for Self Improvement Basics

A woman writes in a planner with a blue pen.

Self improvement isn’t always easy to do, but sometimes it’s necessary.

If you have a really busy schedule, then it’s likely that creating a plan for improving your life in any way proves to be more difficult than you’d like it to be. And in an age where we’re balancing pressure to be both extremely busy and also extremely invested in self-care, it can be hard to know what exactly counts as “self improvement.” 

Is it a nightly facemask? A book? A better work-life balance? More time at the gym? It could be any of those things. Or none of those things. 

Will this make me a better person tomorrow? That’s the question you should ask yourself when it comes to self improvement. 

If it’s taking more time for yourself, then indulge in those self-care routines. But maybe being more organized is your version of self-improvement, or maybe it’s being more confident. Self improvement is personal and sometimes abstract. And that’s okay!

If you’re on a journey of self improvement, consider these questions:

  • What aspects of your life do you want to improve?
  • What in your life are you totally in love with? (a little perspective can be good!) 
  • What is driving this need for improvement?
  • How much time do you have to devote to a new goal?
  • How will a change improve your life?

Sometimes journeys of self improvement are small, like finding more ways to be thankful each day, but sometimes they’re much bigger, like improving your own body image, figuring out a career path, or just generally “being better” (we’ve all had that thought, right?). Either way, it’s good to start with a foundation, a place where you can build and grow into your best self. 

Whatever is next in your expedition to a better you, begin here with the basics.

Show gratitude

Name five things you’re grateful for right now. How easy is that for you to do?

You would be amazed at how instantly an infusion of gratitude can improve your life.

It can be as simple as being grateful for having a home, or having a best friend who listens after a tough day. Maybe someone held the door open for you; maybe you stopped and noticed a beautiful flower.

Sometimes we don’t realize just how many things we are grateful for each day. That’s not to say that we take them for granted, but a little reminder can really make a difference in your perspective, especially as a means of self improvement.

A consistent gratitude practice has been scientifically proven to make you happier. So why not start there? Try a gratitude journal specifically designed to help you track the things you are grateful for. Putting all of those thoughts in one place keeps them organized so you can look back on them in the future. You’ll be able to see how far you’ve come.

Make time for you

If “self improvement” is more than just “self-care”, then it’s important to note that they share the same base: “self.” Go ahead and make some time for yourself. What that looks like is different for everybody, but creating space is important. 

Whether you need time to just think or to pamper yourself a little bit, self improvement should be something that’s very personal. 

Being okay with being alone is a big step in self improvement in itself. 

“We have some evidence to show that valuing solitude doesn’t really hurt your social life; in fact, it might add to it,” according to Thuy-vy Nguyen, who studies solitude at Durham University.

The assistant professor and researcher told the New York Times that being alone helps regulate emotions, thus having a positive effect on a person.

So go ahead and treat yourself to a solo lunch or dinner. Enjoy the quiet and your own thoughts. You’ll be better for it.

Surround yourself with people who make you better

Of course, we can’t spend all of our time alone reflecting on bettering ourselves. So when you’re not alone, surround yourself with people who bring out the best version of yourself. 

That can look like spending more time around managers at work, joining a group that reflects where you want to be (like a workout class or a writing group), or prioritizing time with friends who you feel really grounded by.

Career-wise, this can be a great move because it can offer a lot of inspiration, advice, and possibly advancement. Outside of work and the professional realm, it’s just good to have a reminder of who we are when we are at our finest.

Be patient 

If the things we wanted to change about ourselves or our behavior were easy to change, we would have already done it. So don’t get discouraged when you hit a setback or you don’t see progress right away. 

Experts say it takes approximately 21 days to break a habit. So don’t give up after a week. Push through.

Even being a better listener or having a more positive outlook, which can seem to be hard to track progress, are skills you can gradually improve upon. Make an effort to notice the moments where you could be applying these skills, and maybe even record the times you did or did not practice the skill in relevant situations.

Setting an intention in the morning can help be present throughout the day and keep those self-improvement goals front and center.

Ask questions

At a certain age, we go from asking questions about everything to, well, not. As we get older, we develop routines and we can forget how important it is to be curious.

In leadership roles, asking questions becomes particularly important. Ask questions of your team, the process, the goal. It can help each person improve and think deeper. The questions should be thoughtful. For example, is our method still working for our goal? Or, what should we prioritize now?

It’s also a healthy way to bolster creativity and innovation. Just by asking “why” can help you grow beyond your surface-level thoughts. If you’re having trouble making a decision, ask more questions. By getting to know yourself better through delving a little deeper, you’re practicing self improvement.


What is it that you want to improve? Reflecting at all stages is helpful. In the beginning, think about why you’re wanting to make changes to your lifestyle. That will help you devise a plan, even if it’s a simple one. 

Psychologists believe self-reflection to be a significant part of any change because it’s part of awareness. 

There is, however, a fine line between reflection and self-absorption. Reflect on your progress and your goals, but don’t get to the point of self-obsession. Reflections should be about the positive and moving forward, not just spending time focused on yourself. Think about how your actions affect not just you, but the people and places around you.

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