The Joy of "Other-Improvement."
I'll admit it. I've been a self-improvement junkie much of my life. In high school and college, I would sit for hours in the library reading books like "How to Win Friends and Influence People," "Think and Grow Rich," and, heaven forbid, "Atlas Shrugged."
Add in a healthy dose of spiritually curious books from Ram Dass, Oprah Winfrey, and Deepak Chopra, and you had the early forming of a spiritual narcissist. You know the type: the person who shouts at you to quiet down when they're trying to meditate in a busy airport.
Over the past few years, I've been practicing "self-dissolvement," the evaporation of separateness. And my addiction to personal improvement has been replaced by enjoying the progress and growth of others, both at work and in my personal life. Of course, being a parent or a mentor or just cultivating the art of friendship will lead you in this direction.
If you're someone a little too focused on the "self" and not enough on the "other," here are three simple tips that you could start incorporating today:
1. Try to go a whole day without talking about yourself. This means you'll likely need to listen more than you speak and practice "appreciative inquiry," an empathetic means of helping see the potential in others. Become a "first-class noticer" of others (one of my favorite MEA phrases) while also taking note of your possibly habitual way of steering a conversation to yourself.
2. Volunteer to mentor someone younger than you. There's a dual goal here: building a friendship with someone from a different generation and dedicating yourself to the personal and professional development of this younger person. Create some ground rules—how often you meet, what goals your mentee wants to accomplish, and how to provide "tough love" feedback when it's necessary.
3. Remind yourself you're not perfect. If you feel you're not very good at this practice, giggle as you realize your ego has crept in again. Humor and humility are directly correlated with those who have a master's in "other-improvement."