Strive to do better every day

one step at a time

Strive to do better every day

A t the TiECon summit held this year in Hubballi, a certain phrase was repeated quite frequently, especially at the Women’s conclave: ‘Be a better version of yourself ’.

Bhakti Sharma (27) from Udaipur, the open water swimmer who has swam through all the five oceans of the world, braving even the icy cold of the Arctic and the Antarctic, is a sought-after motivational speaker today. Yet, hearing her say that she did all that to be a better version of herself was a revelation of sorts. What drove this young girl with pink highlights in her hair and a girl-next- door appearance to achieve this massive feat was an urge to do more, be more.

Then it was Namita Kohok’s turn to speak. She’s a cancer survivor who went on to win the Mrs International Worldwide Queen title in 2015. With stunning resilience, she overcame a fatal illness to sashay down a ramp and win the crown, so that she could be a better version of herself.

What is the big deal, the less motivated amongst us might wonder. If you think better versions are meant for apps and software, read on, this article is for you.

Better than what?

We get bored of our mobile phones, the games and apps they carry; the food we order in every day; our routine; even our clothes. And yet, we’re content being the same uninspiring people we are, year after year. Resolutions are made and broken periodically and we’ve made our peace with their pointlessness.

‘You’ve not changed,’ is a comment we must dread getting from old friends, not feel good about. If we don’t change ourselves with age and time, then there must be something intrinsically wrong with the way we look at ourselves. We cannot be flaunting the same old attitude and prejudices, struggling with the same problems and habits, year after year.

Once in a while, we must reflect upon ourselves and ask ourselves questions like: how many close friends do I have? Do I still have that nasty temper or have I mellowed down? Have I achieved my short term goals and set long term ones? What am I doing to achieve them? How am I handling the negativity around me? Am I an interesting person? Am I rude to people whom I disagree with or have I become more accommodating? Have I started appreciating the little things in life or do I still measure success in terms of material gains?

Being a better version of yourself can never be an accomplished task; it is always a work in progress and ought to be that way. There is also no room for comparison with others or some benchmark that others set for us. It is identifying what is wrong with us, or what needs improvement and working relentlessly towards it. Why, we can even polish our positive attributes with time.

The problem with most people is that they become all philosophical about life when they hit 40, never sooner. It is when there seem to be more years behind us than ahead that we seem to want to grab on to life as it slips through our fingers. Why do we need a life-altering event like losing a limb or getting cancer or a personal tragedy to change for the better?

Knowing the ‘why’ matters

Humans are the only species who can reason, retrospect and reflect upon their actions and their consequences, and change. We must start following Deming’s Cycle of ‘plan-do-check-act’ even for minor activities. Knowing why we are or aren’t doing something and being honest with ourselves is crucial to living a more meaningful life.

As Bhakti Sharma put it succinctly, many swimmers have given up on their goal of crossing the English Channel a few metres ahead of the destination. “During such times, remembering why you started in the first place is very important. Having lofty goals is not enough; you must have a deep sense of purpose in whatever you do,” she says.

And when we accomplish that task, we actually become better versions of ourselves. In Bhakti’s case, it was the thought of bringing honour to the country that kept her afloat. It is the same thought that drives our soldiers battling near-death conditions at the borders.

Do what you’ve got to do

Many times, however, our path to being better versions of ourselves could be confused with that of pleasing others. Do not be misled. Likeability cannot be the pivot on which our efforts should be based on.

Sometimes it is okay that others don’t like us or approve of what we are doing. As long as we aren’t harming anyone along the way and are staying true to our conviction, we’re doing nothing wrong. Changing the way we dress, the way we speak and the way we behave is not being better. Any sane person can see through the frivolity of it all. More often than not, it is the small changes in our personality that have a bigger part to play in improving ourselves. Learning to be able to respond to people and situations rather than reacting all the time can help us become better.

Find your drive

When we see athletes striving to create world records, a father taking a second job to educate his kids or that woman in her fifties studying for her master’s degree, we fail to understand the ‘why’ in their efforts. But perhaps it is this very ‘why’ that they have found for themselves that drives these people to better themselves every day.

Reflection doesn’t come easy to anyone. Admitting to ourselves that we need to improve is the first step of the journey. But being this honest requires a lot of courage. Denying there is anything to improve is not going to do us any good. If scientists had stayed home, content  with what already existed, we wouldn’t have so many inventions and discoveries. Science and technology wouldn’t be such an integral part of our lives today.

A mentor once told me, whatever we do, we must ensure we are doing it better, faster and differently today than we did yesterday. Focusing on the results is the vestige of the corporate world which we carry back home with us. It is essential to plan backwards with outcomes in mind, while at the same time, enjoying the process. If doing can be better,
living can be better too.

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