Self Improvement: Destiny or Journey?
Articles By Eldon Taylor

How high is up?

Have you ever asked yourself, “Just how high is up?” or “Just how successful is successful?” or “Just how good is good?” Have you ever thought about the different “Yous” within yourself? Most of us have, at sometime, considered our own path to personal growth and desired to improve upon improvement.

There is a simple, yet powerful, way to evaluate many personal characteristics and thereby gain additional access to who we are and what we truly wish to be. If life is essentially a school, which I believe it is, then we not only have our course work cut out for us but our objective for which our "learnings" specifically prepare us. Get a piece of paper and try this little exercise.

First, write down all of your strengths, all of those characteristics about yourself that are good. Begin with the obvious, perhaps you’re very honest, or friendly, or cooperative and so forth. After you have completed this list, write down some characteristics that you would like to improve. Perhaps you wish to overcome some fear or stop being jealous, or end gossiping or release anger and so forth. So, you’d like to be more courageous or more accepting and trusting, or more confident and so forth. Now, with both of these lists completed, think about yourself as having four inner aspects (IA) of the same you.

The first IA is your actual self--who you are, what you do, etc. The second IA is your concept of an ideal-self. The ideal-self for most of us is just that, an ideal—but usually too ideal to be realistic. “Under no circumstances will I ever become angry,” may be one such ideal. Okay, the third IA is the ought-self. The ought-self is that collection of things typically foisted upon each of us during maturation. The collection of “you ought to do this” and “you ought to do that” statements we all have heard particularly from our parents and family members. Last, but not least, is our desired-self. The desired-self is attainable, not so ideal as to be impractical as a goal. With these four IA’s, take another sheet of paper and write down characteristics that apply pressure to how you feel about yourself, positive or negative, under each IA heading. That is, use a separate column or sheet of paper to list the items (including feelings) that you may have about each category. When you’re done, compare the categories.

The question, “How high is up” has no answer unless there is some reasonable estimate as to the ceiling. Personal improvement is much the same. Self-examination can assist all of us in obtaining reasonable goals and that can provide at least some clear steps on the way to our ceiling.

Fantasizing your way to your goals.

I related the research that showed one could obtain the same gains from imaging exercise as from exercising in a study I reported upon in my Wellness book (which is free to download in our e-book library at where basketball players improved their free throw shots as much by practicing mentally as the group that shot free throws everyday of the thirty day study. Current research tends to suggest that the scripts we fantasize, that is, our daydreams, rehearse our worldview and in that sense predispose our experience. Repeating themes such as those around “getting even” and/or emerging victorious at someone’s expense, probably tend to create scenarios in many peoples lives that may lead to violence, anger, and so forth. In short, our mental daydreams may become rehearsed scripts seeking an opportunity to be played out.

By contrast to the above scenario, whenever I have spoken to a successful person, a champion athlete, or anyone else truly at the top of what they do, they have informed me repeatedly and universally that their daydreams were about their success. You can choose what to daydream about and you can end a daydream if it’s not something you want rehearsed and thereby a part of you.

Knowing this, it is incumbent upon each of us to think about the goals we wish to achieve. Look back at your lists, and set up a day-dream that is truly self-serving—one that rehearses your success and achievement according to your goals—your highest best.

To your best and thanks for the read, Eldon

About the Author
Eldon Taylor, Ph.D. is the author of over 200 books and self improvement programs. He is a Diplomat in the American Psychotherapy Association and received the 2005 International Peace Prize for his work in teaching self responsibility (

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