The science of becoming better

Getting Better on Themba Jay
Quino Al | Unsplash

I ran the other direction.

As fast and furiously as I could manage.
The place, I thought to myself, is not good for me. Certainly not conducive for my goals, and often, it doesn’t offer freedom for persons wanting to be their weird and best selves.

As you know, almost nothing ever grows right from a negative environment. And that’s precisely the reason I fled for my life. Well, I might as well be exaggerating, but, it suffices to write that my personal growth was at stake—had I not (Usain) bolted.

Again, as you might know, the people you choose to surround yourself with matter a great deal.
In my case, I hung out with people who offered little intellectual stimuli and encouragement to continuously get better. (And I was holding onto nostalgia in those relationships, nothing else.) They peddled the latest gossip about who was doing who, how, where and for what reason. They were thorough; they’d offer you a rationale of why it was all happening in the first place. So, it continued to be that when there was a get-together, plenty juicy stories were told.

All negatively fun and whatnot, but, it desperately begs the question: To whose benefit?

A few years back, I was happier challenging myself all the time—reading, writing, talking and sharing (playing mental tennis matches with whoever cared to play).

But then . . .

I stopped doing what got me to where I currently find myself. A budding writer and orator. In all honesty, I am not supposed to be either of those things. The reason is . . . I was annoyingly shy in high school; there was no way I could muster the courage to stand in front of people and talk or write this note to publish to the world. But, it happened; here you are, reading a note from a person who once was uncomfortable in front of people.

I worked on myself and shifted my focus instead to the love to connect with people and tell stories. That gave me the courage to come out of my shell (which I naively thought was permanent, a character trait not up for any kind of change) and be myself. Fully.

So, staying clear of people and environments that aren’t good for you is the most important step you will ever take on your journey to creating a remarkable life for yourself.

In my case, with the effort I put into my personal development dwindling, I found that I was able to tolerate things that didn’t feed my curiosity—which my father worked hard at and spent a lot of time and money cultivating. I was then easily accessible by those with distorted motives, zero curiosity and imagination.

Recently though, I made a change.

I discarded people who were pulling me back. No noises made, no heckling, just steady steps toward being the brilliant person I truly am.

When you live in a dilapidated township, it is easy getting caught up thinking small and quite tragically, end up believing that you are meant for nothing big. Just enough will do.
Sizazama impilo nje. Akukho okunye”, become words you ordinarily say to whoever returns that limiting lack of self confidence.

Here’s what you should do for yourself. As in yesterday.

a) Stop Connecting With People Who Are Bad For You

Yes, you know them. Stop protecting them and prioritise yourself. If anything at all, grant me that favour!

b) Come Out of Your Shell Already

Even though it means you might be disliked for it. Remember, you ain’t coming back when you die. So, go ahead and get busy living epic-ally (is that a word?).

c) Change The Little Things in Your Life First

Don’t go crazy on a journey of “Personal improvement, chommie!” Rather, change the little hindering habits—poor time management, jealousy, peddling gossip, bad eating habits, laziness, low self esteem, et cetera—before you attempt to fight your gigantic demons. A few empowering habits eventually give you the edge to win the big fights you cannot win with your strength alone.

d) Never Be Afraid of Hardship

What sucks about this is that there’s almost no other way to build something of incredible value without being tossed this way and that. The very act of learning something new necessitates that you become comfortable with uncertainty—and then dive into the challenge.

e) Everyday, Do Something That Makes You Better

It could be finding ways to work better, to be really good at what you spend a large portion of your life doing. Read, take walks, start working out.
A thought just struck me: you need to change the way you identify yourself.

This is what I mean, look around you, the way you live. Take a look at the things you place importance on. And then, proceed to look at how other people live. No, don’t judge them, just take a hard look at them, observe what makes them great.

What can you learn from them?

Interact with people who look, think, talk and act differently than you do. Build the courage to be comfortable in new spaces.

By the way, the real reason you ought to look at yourself and other people is to realise something small, yet critical. The world is big. The portion you’ve had the privilege of seeing could be amplified a billion times more.