Improving every single day

My last question of the day: Did I improve today? Here are six areas for self-improvement.

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    Peg and Ed Balantine bike down the center line of the main road at AuSable Point State Park earlier this year to get some exercise and check out the bird life in Peru, N.Y.
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The one question I ask myself each day as I go to bed is, “Did I grow in some fashion today?” If I can’t answer that question with at least one very strong and clear statement, I view that day as a failure.

What do I mean by that? Let’s break it down into smaller pieces.

First of all, why? This type of self-evaluation provides a constant push forward for me to better myself in some way or another. Each and every day, I’m encouraged to do something to improve.

Why improve? The more well-rounded I am and the stronger my skill set, the more valuable of a person I become and the more avenues of life there are for me to enjoy. If I’m in good physical shape, for example, I’m able to keep up with my kids and participate in some sports. If I’ve learned a new skill, not only can I utilize it at home, I can share it with friends and perhaps be employed with it. If I’m in good spiritual and mental shape, I’m able to handle the challenges that life throws at me. The list goes on and on.

What do I look for? I usually look for improvement in six areas.

Emotional improvement comes from being happy with my life and resolving areas where I do not feel happy with things. If there is something that has been bothering me and bringing down my mood, taking steps to address it is a step toward improving my emotional state.

Mental improvement means that I’m more able to deal with adverse situations that life throws at me. Learning tactics for dealing with stress and applying them is a step in this area, as are tactics for parenting and improving my skill set for dealing with things in everyday life.

Physical improvement comes from simply being physically active. Did I get some exercise today? Did I eat well today (and by eating well, I don’t mean eating a lot, but instead mean eating good things)?

Spiritual improvement means that I came to a better understanding of who I am and my place in the world and the universe. Prayer and meditation usually help here.

Interpersonal improvement comes from building relationships with other people or improving the ones I already have. Did I build a new friendship today? Did I let someone important to me know what they mean to me today? Did I figure out what relationships really matter and which ones do not?

Intellectual improvement is pretty simple to define: did I learn anything new of real value today? I usually feed this through reading, research, or brain-crunching games (like chess).

A great day is one where I improve in some significant way in multiple areas. If I got a lot of exercise, learned a new parenting technique and actually used it, learned how to repair a bathtub drain, and also read a large portion of a thought-provoking book, then today was a successful day.

Not every day needs to be successful, but most of them ought to be. I try very hard to make each day successful in at least one of these areas. Yes, sometimes that means not kicking back and reading a page-turner in the evenings. Sometimes it means having to take a tough stance with my children or having a difficult conversation with my wife or overcoming my introvertedness to build a friendship.

Day after day, week after week, year after year, though, the rewards of doing this become apparent in the friendships you have, the opportunities you have, the internal life you have, and the future you have.

Make each day your masterpiece.

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