Self-improvement is first and foremost a shedding process. It's about getting rid dis-empowering beliefs. It about letting go of the negative past. It's about erasing the scars of frustrations. It about getting rid of negative friends and acquaintances. It's about erasing the slate of negativity's and starting anew.
It may be hard to believe but most of us go through life literally in a hypnotic trance. That is, we have been hypnotized by outside influences into believing that life is biographical, that our past equates our future. We have been mesmerized into thinking that who and what we are is a reality that cannot be changed and that what happened to us in the past is likely to be what we'll experience in the future.
Changing that stinking thinking is what self-improvement is all about and that is why it's a pro-active process and not a passive one. In most cases, changing beliefs is a lot harder than learning new material. One of the reasons that it is difficult is the fact that we don't actually assimilate what we see or hear.
Instead of assimilating messages the way they were intended to be understood, we'll find a way of distorting the words so that they confirm what we actually believed in the first place. Having an open mind is a myth. We'll go to almost any length to preserve our beliefs and convictions.
An example of those phenomena is seen when trying to convince someone who has an alcohol or substances problem that the habit is not good for them. They will hear the words perfectly however the message simply will not get across. Somehow, they will remain confident that what they do is not a problem.
New concepts almost always face stiff resistance. As long as we believe something, our brain operates on automatic pilot, filtering any input from the environment and searching for references to validate our belief, regardless of what is it.
Self-improvement implies changes. We cannot improve and remain the same. Self-improvement is not about a superficial makeover. It's about changes in beliefs and changes in character. Until that is done, there is no self-improvement. We can hide the stripes on a Zebra but it will still be a Zebra.
True changes require a modification of the way that we see ourselves, a change of identity if you will. As an example, someone could learn everything that there is know about how to set goals and achieve those goals but very little will happen until the person sees himself as a winner and an achiever.
We behave as we perceive ourselves to be. One of the strongest and most fundamental forces that control our behavior is the need to be true to our identity. To change our behavior, our character and our thought patterns, we must change our identity. That is the aim of self-development.
Our identity is simply the beliefs that we use to define our own individuality. As we develop new beliefs about who we are, our behavior will change to support the new identity. Shifting, changing or expanding identity can produce the most profound and rapid improvements in the quality of your life.
So, the ultimate objective of our work in self-development is to affect a change in how we perceive ourselves to be, in our identity. That can only be done by shedding the parts of that identity that does not serve us and replace them with positive and empowering beliefs. A daunting but not impossible task.