“He who stops being better stops being good”(Oliver Cromwell). Strange as it may sound that Oliver Cromwell is talking about “being good”; but it certainly demonstrates that even the ruthless value the importance of “getting better”, every single day. Life as handed out by destiny to each of us, is meant to be a journey of acquiring knowledge, awareness, skills and traits. We are lucky to be born with certain basic faculties; others we acquire, both by effort and majority by remaining incognizant of the changes, our respective personalities undergo, as a result of inter-action with others, or in broader terms with various segments of the society.
The Japanese believe in the concept of Kaizen. This concept essentially means efforts deployed towards ‘continous improvement’. This could relate to human behavior, systems, porcesses, procedures and policies. There is no constant. Every single aspect of a living being is open for improvement. The concept in Japan is deployed extensively in every organizations; dedicated teams look at possibilities of Kaizen.
The need for self improvement and its significance cannot be under-scored. It is critical for growth and development of both the individual and the society. The recognition of inadequacy and gaps in knowledge and traits does not fulminate, it dawns very slowly and gradually. Many of us climb ivory towers very quickly in our career and hence fail to see our faults. The world does seem distant and poor, when atop such towers. The continous whispering of the ego, that " I know it all", builds a Great wall of china around your personality, making anything fresh and new difficult to penetrate through for recognizing that there is availability of new body of knowledge, continually.
Our past, outdated and worn out knowledge base will necessarily circumvallate preventing the intrusion of fresh breath of air of newly discovered science, technology or even history. Only when we betake towards seeking to undo the monotony and replace with recent and dynamic developments, will each of us be able to amend and alter our ways of doing things, with greater precision and efficiency.
The adoption of an intransigent approach to learning new aspects of knowledge is critically important. The yield to temptation of seeking continous improvement in knowledge, skills and talent is not only a self propelling motivator, but it also is extremely infectious. If the manager is of this quality that he/ she is always in pursuit of finding better ways of doing the work; such will surely have around, colleagues who would emulate the behavior of unquenchable quest to do better, than what is being done.
Once committed to this type of approach, successes are repetitively achieved. The yearning of acquisition of broader knowledge has neither frontiers nor does it path ends with any milestone saying, “no road ahead”….. the journey is endless, with no destination to arrive at….. The possession of thought loads to action.
A cursory evaluation of the fund of vocabulary we all possessed and acquired, say during days of the university, are they entirely relevant today or have the same application; several new terms, words, cliches have now become part of our everyday conversation. It implies even our conversational content, has undergone, unbeknownst to most of us, a major change. I used the word “Chill” and “Random” differently when at school; my children use these very words with an entirely different connotation and meaning to those words! There are so many words in the English language that have moved away from their original meaning to the current day usage. Ask any teenage, how is your relationship with your parents, teachers or friends; the single word response of “cool” shouldn’t surprise you. It is now for elders to latch on to the newest methods in communication. Any lapse will render them out-dated and irrelevant.
The speed of self improvement has to be matched with emerging trends in the newest of discoveries, that can relate to any subject or discipline, and it is important that the steps taken for improvement are in conjunction with the lighting speed of continual change in technology, that’s happening around us.
Defeat is perpetually pregnant with hope of winning. It is about accepting defeat as a stepping stone, to realize the inadequacies which may have been the cause of defeat. Later upon recognition, it is the need of efforts to plug those gaps with improvements.
Self improvement demands an attitude of persistence and perseverance; an outlook of there is no option to give up and the adoption of the strictest regimen of discipline in life. Self improvement demands honest soul searching. We must observe ourselves most than others. A dispassionate self analysis helps in the correct examination of the areas that need improvement. He that nothing questions, nothing learns. One has to appreciate that acquisition of new skills is a permanent addition to the Treasury that each person carries with oneself, for life. The discovery of fresh knowledge requires the consent to leave the shore of out dated body of information.
It is good to engage, periodically in an exercise to sit back, ponder, dwell upon , introspect, ruminate and self observe of what qualities, technical or otherwise, you would want to acquire and be in possession of -- list down atleast three or four; work to achieve them. Later after a period review,your performance; after once confirming to ownself of having achieved the desired; then write down a list of another 3-4 more traits to be had … self improvement is till death do us apart from our efforts.
We can seek improvements in our personality by associating with the right type and quality of people-- the choice of company will be dependent upon what one wishes to acquire. Seeking the company of nuclear scientists for improvements in the knowledge of anthropology does not make sense, atleast generally speaking, because we have exceptions to the rule too. Always choose your company, wisely. We are an average of the company we sit in.
Be associated with those who are turbo charged with positivism; who will offer assurance that no cloud hangs for ever, it does eventually give way to sunshine. Alternatively avoid those who will take you the route of despondency, that nothing can improve or that things can only worsen. Those with the later attitude create for you and others, a life of remorse and regret.
Change can be induced with speed when it relates to having skills relating to technical proficiency, but change in habits, traits, features and characteristics generally is slow and gradual. The visibility and emergence of good qualities is painfully slow. Nobody can change by shedding the thick layer of their skins developed over along period of time- only a snake can do that! And nobody can dispute that it is no great pleasure to deal with humans(Snakes) who can shed their skin at will!
While inuring the mind towards ways and means of self improvement it is imperative to keep in focus, the need to find greener pastures of information.
Every manager has his faults, “Everyone should keep a mental waste paper basket and the older he grows the more things he will consign to it- torn up to irrevocable tatters”(Samuel Butler). Such attitude will make him/her puissant within the division/department/organization.
What is begun well, will inevitably , end well.
The writer is a senior banker and freelance columnist