30 Top Self Improvement Ideas

Unless you’re perfect then there’s always room for self improvement. The good news is that self improvement doesn’t have to be stuffy, boring and “worthy” – it probably should be fun otherwise you’ll find an excuse to stop doing it.

Dip into the self improvement ideas on this page. Some are easier than others and they won’t all be to your taste or style (but that could change over time – be open to the possibility of that happening) but some will be.

And if one or two push your comfort zone boundaries a bit then that’s a good sign that you should try them.

  1. Read something new every day. It could be a book – they’re a cheap and easy way to tap into the world’s expertise – or it could be an educational site or one that goes deeper into one of your hobbies. News is generally worth avoiding as it’s usually negative (bad news “sells” more than good news) but anything else that makes you think. Even Facebook if you’re in the right groups or have friends with odd minds – it’s how I found out about this modern day twist on a sundial that wouldn’t be possible without 3-D printing.
  2. Write your own book. With Amazon’s Kindle platform you can finally let your writing loose on the world. The beauty of this is that there are no publishers or agents and you can start with short stories or simple “how to” books and earn up to 70% of the cover price. So you can get paid to reach your audience. It may not be fame and there may not be much fortune (at least initially – but it’s certainly possible) but it can be fun to become a published author.
  3. Improve your mind. Our minds are powerful things. The “we only use 10% of our mind” is now widely considered to be a myth but that doesn’t mean we’re using as much of our mind as we could be. Take a few minutes out of your day to have a quick game of Sodoku or improve your vocabulary whilst helping to feed some of the poorer parts of the world. Your choice but either way it will help get your mind into gear.
  4. Start a new hobby. Hobbies can be solus things (think Gibbs and the boat in his basement) or they can involve other people, either face to face or online. There are lots of different hobbies you could take up and a lot of them will help with your self improvement. Whether that’s developing your patience, expanding your mind, improving your people skills or going back to nature. Brainstorm with yourself to pick on a new idea or one that you’ve let fall by the wayside over the years and go for it.
  5. Create your own vision board. Vision boards are the space where you let your mind run wild. They can be as simple as a few pictures pasted onto a sheet of paper (that’s a loose description of my personal vision board) or they can be a large whiteboard with inspiring pictures that relate to your goals. There are online systems available but I’ve found that they can push the creative spirit backwards as you come to grips with the computer’s idea of how you should track your thoughts but your mileage may vary.
  6. Take on one of your fears. We’ve all got fears lurking in our minds and it can be quite a fun self improvement exercise to exorcise a fear or two. So whether you’re petrified of public speaking or scared of spiders or have got some other phobia that’s holding you back, tackle it. There’s an incredible feeling of satisfaction when you do this – it’s almost like encoutering a new “you” and it’s well worth the small effort to take on the battle with one of your fears and get rid of it from your life.
  7. Get up earlier. The world is a quieter place first thing in the morning. Maybe go for a brisk walk to get those all-important endorphins moving around your body. Maybe mix this in with a walking meditation where you become more conscious of what’s happening around you. Or just delve under the skin of society and notice all those things that need to happen but never crossed your mind – the litter picks, pavement washing, preparations for the day ahead. Or use the extra time you’ve gained to work on one of the other ideas in this list.
  8. Keep a gratitude journal. Gratitude helps lots of other things manifest themselves into your life. It’s part of the law of attraction and being more grateful more often works well. A gratitude journal is one way of formalizing this – keep it near your bedside and note down at least 3 things that have happened to you during the day that you’re grateful for. Initially this may be a bit of a stretch (but you’ll remember them when you really start thinking) but over the coming weeks and months you’ll find more and more things that your grateful for. This helps with your overall gratitude levels and also puts your mind in a good state while you’re sleeping.
  9. Create a website. You could put your journal on there or just those random thoughts that need to be released from your mind but don’t have any other place to go. It’s not technical and you could start on a free platform like WordPress or lots of other places so there’s no investment apart from your time and no special skills needed.
  10. Volunteer somewhere. Volunteers are always needed and unless you live in the middle of nowhere there will be more places local to you who need volunteers than there are hours in the day. The idea of volunteering is very different from just donating money to charity (watch an episode of Secret Millionaire if you don’t believe me) and you get to meet all sorts of different people which helps broaden your horizons.
  11. Set some goals. Goals are powerful things and can get your life on track. The trick with setting goals for self improvement is to be as detailed as possible. The more vividly you imagine your goal happening – ideally as if you could walk into the scene – the more likely your goals are to come into being. If you’re struggling with working out where you’d like to get to then write out your day from hell and then turn everything through 180 degrees because the opposite of your worst nightmare day is likely to be the goal you couldn’t quite place but have always wanted. Then figure out a step by step approach to reaching your goal – make each step small enough that you can take at least one step towards your goal every day.
  12. Take up meditation. Meditating on a regular basis helps you to relax and become more focused. The style of meditation you choose is up to you: traditional (focusing on a candle or a point on the wall or ceiling, chanting a mantra), walking (whilst noticing all the different things that affect your body as you walk as well as the things around you), breathing (focusing on your breaths or just taking long deep breaths to help relax you) or the newer binaural beats meditations that use slightly different tones to get your mind quickly to a meditative state that would previously have taken years to achieve.
  13. Push your comfort zones. We all have a set of limits that we’d rather not push. They’re usually quite abritary limits but they’re not something we like to test. If you want a simple test of a comfort zone, clasp your hands together. Notice whether your left or your right thumb is on top. Then reverse that position so that the other thumb is the one above. Feels weird? That’s your comfort zone being tested! Pick a comfort zone that you’d like to extend – starting with something small and gradually working up to the larger items is the way most people do this – and push the boundaries. If you don’t feel at least slightly on-edge then you’re not pushing enough.
  14. Quit one of your bad habits. We’ve all got bad habits – some admittedly worse than others – and they’re worth swapping for good habits. Opinions vary but it’s generally thought that a habit takes between 14 and 28 days to make or break. If you need help with habit busting, this program is a good place to start but the main thing is to recognize that the habit is one you want to break free from and then set your goals to achieving that. If you stick with it, you’ll find that your bad habits can gradually be one of that list of things you used to do.
  15. Cut down on your television consumption. With a few exceptions, most television is made to be consumed but not overly useful. It’s a way to pass the time of day rather than find something out – it’s almost always quicker to research something on the web than it is to sit through 40 minutes upwards of television (and that figure assumes you fast forward through the commercial breaks). At a minimum, cut out the news and record programs so you can skip the commercials and trailers. If you’re able to go cold turkey and live without television for a week or more, give it a try. That could be one way of pushing your comfort zones and doing yourself a favor at the same time.
  16. Write a letter to or from your future self. This is a twist on the normal goal setting. Whether you write it to your future self (in which case you’ll likely want to print it out, address and date it plus put a reminder note in your phone to dig it out and open it) or a letter from your future self depends on your personal preferences. Both work nicely as they involve what NLP calls future pacing – in your mind, you go to a specific time place in the future where you’re successfully using whatever skill it is that you want to. Adverts and sales letters use future pacing regularly but by writing a letter either to or from yourself you can harness the power of this technique and use it to help manifest things into your life.
  17. Use positive language. Maybe I should have put this first as it applies to almost anything you do. The law of attraction tells us that what we concentrate on most is what appears in our life. And that happens whether or not you believe in the law. Start with simple changes – when someone asks you how you are today, swap the almost automatic “not bad” reply to “I’m good thanks”. Do the same for the other phrases you use on a regular basis. Don’t beat yourself up if you forget occasionally, just do your best to shift the emphasis of your words to positive rather than negative.
  18. Wear a rubber band round your wrist. The rubber band technique is really simple: every time you catch yourself doing something you’d promised yourself you were going to stop doing, you snap the rubber band. it’s a mild shock but enough to remind you that you’d rather not be doing the action that caused the short pain. Enough people wear different colored bands around their wrist for one more not to be unusual, so this is a subtle but effective self improvement idea that you can make part of your everyday life.
  19. Be more independent. Sure it’s good to get help and join in with others. But if you tend to be a sheep rather than a leader then it’s time to address that. It could be as simple as being the first to order at a meal out rather than waiting to hear what everyone else is ordering so that you conform. Or it could be something more radical. Decide on something in your life where you’re going to take control and make things happen. Then do it.
  20. Ask for feedback. This can be quite daunting. After all, what if people don’t like what you’re doing? But getting feedback (and then acting on the feedback you’re given) can work very nicely. You don’t have to agree with the feedback – Mars ignored the feedback they were given when they introduced their ice cream range into the UK (if they’d followed it, they’d have missed introducing a complete best selling range) – but you should at least listen to it and consider it. Asking for feedback can push you outside your comfort zone – if that’s the case, start by asking a trusted friend rather than asking online because people can turn Jekyll and Hyde when they’re not face to face with you.
  21. Smile more often. I’m often asked why I smile so much and it’s for quite a few different reasons. But the biggest reason by far is the reaction you get from other people. Smile and say simple words like please and thankyou and you’ll be amazed at how even the grumpiest of people you meet lightens up a bit. Try it – add it to your gratitude list if you want – but consciously smile more often, even if it’s a bit forced intially.
  22. Accept that you can’t change everything. Some things don’t change – politicians don’t always tell the truth, newspapers prefer controversy, Bart Simpson won’t behave himself. There are some things you can’t change. But what you can change is your attitude towards those things. Maybe just shrugging your shoulders and saying to yourself that you can’t change something is enough to reduce its impact on your life. Maybe changing your routine so that you avoid whatever it is more often. Maybe just the acceptance itself will do the trick.
  23. Tidy up your personal space. Not something I’m personally good at but it’s still liberating when I do it. Set aside a short block of time and a small area to tidy up – maybe just the idea that you should be able to see some of your desk – then do it. You may find that you carry on past the originally alotted time because you’re actually secretly enjoying yourself. Or you may be muttering under your breath but doing it anyway. Give it a try and see how you react.
  24. Focus more often. We can’t multitask easily if at all. Having a to-do list with a hundred top priority things just doesn’t work because you can’t do all those things at once. It’s a bit like juggling fire whilst walking on a tightrope whilst trying to play a musical instrument and study for an exam. It’s just not going to work. Focus on one thing at a time – whether that’s work or play. Learning to focus more often is an excellent way to improve your life.
  25. Embrace change. Things are going to change whether you like the idea or not. Some change is probably for the better – we don’t need a wire to connect us electronically to other people any more and we don’t need to get a horse and cart to move from one place to another – other aspects of change are more contentious but they’re still going to happen whether you like them or not. Occasionally we can make a difference – big protests sometimes do that – but for most things it’s better to embrace the idea that they’re going to change and figure out how you can either benefit from the change or at least not make yourself worse off because you’re feeling miserable about whatever it is that’s moved on.
  26. Pay attention to your thoughts. We all have unwanted thoughts from time to time. It’s the flip side of having an active mind. But if you start to pay attention to your thoughts you can decide which of them need more time and attention and which of them should be relegated. If there’s a voice in your head that’s bringing those thoughts to the foreground, play around with the volume, tonality and position of the voice – you’re the only one who can hear it so you can do that – and see whether that makes a difference. And concentrate more on the positive thoughts that race through your mind.
  27. Live in the present. There’s a lot of evidence that “now” is the only time we ever experience. But it’s easy to fall into the trap of dwelling in the past or putting things off until some time in the future. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with future pacing, if you’re forever waiting for something to happen “tomorrow” or always thinking about better times “yesterday” then it’s time to change your focus to the here and now. Because that’s the only time you can change – you can’t go back to yesterday (not unless we invent time travel) and you can’t grab back the words you’ve spoken. Similarly you can’t fast forward your life to the time when your goals have happened. All you can influence is what you do and what happens now, this minute. So do your best to live in the present more often.
  28. Eat healthily. OK, that can be hard to do as there are so many conflicting ideas about what healthy is – low fat (look around you to see how well that’s not working), high fat, low carb, no meat, all meat, no coffee, coffee in moderation, coffee on almost drip feed, no alcohol, some alcohol (depending on type). The list goes on forever. Pick a direction, monitor how good you feel and if you’re looking and feeling healthy with it, go for that. if you’re not – and so long as you’ve been following your chosen direction for long enough for it to make a difference – change.
  29. Slow down. A lot of people seem to treat their life as a race. It’s not. Take the time to slow down, relax more often and generally be more “present”. You already know that if you rush things there’s a higher chance of making mistakes. That goes for your life as much as anything else. Consciously slow down more often – perversely you’ll probably get more done as you’ll have more time to think about what you’re doing and there’s a higher chance you’ll get it right first time.
  30. Stop procrastinating. I’ve deliberately left this self improvement idea to last. Partly because if you procrastinate on a regular basis there’s a good chance you’ll have done so with this list and will have kept reading rather than stopping at the first idea that you could implement. Sometimes procrastinating can stop you from making a bad decision. But often it can stop you from doing the things in your life that would benefit you. So stop procrastinating, pick one of the 30 self improvement ideas from this list and run with it.