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How often are you working on improving yourself?


Today is August 19 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often are you working on improving yourself?” Today’s reflection involves combining two similar quotes on the necessity of improving yourself. The first quote comes from American civil rights activist William Edward Burghardt DuBois (W.E.B. DuBois) who noted “The most important thing to remember is this: to be ready at any moment to give up what you are for what you might become.” The second observation stems from the American pacifist known as Peace Pilgrim (Mildred Lisette Norman) who once said, “It always comes back to the thing so many of us wish to avoid, working to improve ourselves.”


For those who leverage their mind, body, and spirit to navigate the chaos and translate one dream after another into reality, they understand the need to improve themselves. The improvement is often in the way they think, how they act, or who they connect with as they put in the grind day after day. Navigating the chaos requires you to be ready ‘at a moment’s notice’ to give up what you are for what you might become.’ Individuals who fail to notice this need provide evidence of the Peace Pilgrim’s proclamation that ‘working to improve ourselves’ is the thing so many wish to avoid. It is far easier to avoid working to improve yourself compared to the time, effort, and dedication required to do so.


Now improving yourself does not necessarily refer to anything dramatic, heavy, or significant. The term ‘baby steps’ comes to mind for today’s reflection. All too often people fail to navigate the chaos because they see the entire road in front of them and get overwhelmed by it. In a February 11, 2021, Harvard Business Review article, Kate Northrup suggests a strategy far more digestible for those of us with busy lives trying to put in the daily grind of navigating the chaos. Northrup wrote “If you want to thrive and be part of the meaningful change, adaptability is the key ingredient. But I don’t mean to just go with the flow and take life as it comes to you. This new brand of adaptability channels our desire to make a strategic plan, while building in planned checkpoints for course correction as new information arises and circumstances shift. It’s called micro-planning. Micro-planning is simple. It takes a larger vision and breaks it down into yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily check-in practices to plan and adjust as necessary. We get some of the same stabilizing effects that a five-year plan may have given us but with shorter chunks of planning that make more sense in our current economic and cultural context.”


This micro-planning approach allows us to view the present moment as much more important in our long-range goals and dreams. Daily check-ins help guide us along the long path required to navigate the chaos. Such a process also affords us the opportunity to miss a day yet remain focused on the long-term goal knowing full well that missing a micro step will not derail the dream.


In her January 18, 2022, Psychology Today article Allison E. McWilliams discussed micro-planning and offered a few tactics for those willing to take small steps to improve themselves and realize just how possible ‘giving up who you are to be who you might become’ is. The first tactic McWilliams discussed was the micro-planning step of being more present. Recognizing the value of our community and our relationships and how important it is to show up for one another is certainly a small step available to anyone willing to put in the effort. McWilliams posed the following questions to readers: “What boundaries do you need to set and hold over the next month? How can you intentionally hold space for those things that truly matter to you?”


Her second micro-planning tactic was being more gracious and grateful. As you leverage your mind, body, and spirit to navigate the chaos remind yourself to “give one another a bit more grace and to be grateful for our lives, our health, our jobs, and the people in our lives. A little bit of grace and gratitude will go a long way to make this world a bit better.” McWilliams then asked readers “What are one or two things you are grateful for right now?” The other tactic she discussed was the micro-step of being more open and listening more. “Listening doesn’t mean agreeing or supporting. Listening means learning. How can you stay open to learning in the coming months?”


There are plenty of other micro-steps to take with micro-planning as you go out working to improve yourself. Today’s reflection reminds us of Northrup’s observation that “The world is changing dramatically all around us, and we need to change with it. Clinging to a long-term strategy like the five-year plan isn’t going to work anymore. But letting go of our need and desire to know what the future holds does not mean a freefall into anxious indolence. By breaking down our planning processes into smaller chunks, we begin to check in more frequently and adapt more naturally. The five-year plan may be dead, but our capacity for doing our most impactful work and live into the goals that we set for ourselves is very much alive.”

  • How often do you remind yourself that you may need to give up who you are for who you might become?

  • How often do you avoid working on yourself?

  • How often do you encourage others to work on improving their selves?

  • What goal or dream can you break down using the micro-planning method?

  • What are your initial thoughts on the micro-planning approach to improving yourself?