Create Your Own Self-Improvement Month
We all know the feeling...
Your day to day experience has become a little too routine.
Your free time is spent on the same mundane things, and your after work plans just don’t get you excited the way they used to.
Falling into a slump is a frustrating but ordinary part of adult life, and it can feel like a hole you just can’t dig yourself out of.
Fortunately, when the slump-blues have you down, there are small changes you can make to bring the spark back between you and your life, and help you regain the excitement of living every day to the fullest.
Self-improvement is something we all talk about. All of us, regardless of place in life, have goals we hope to reach and obstacles we hope to conquer as a part of personal growth and development.
Sadly, the hectic trappings of modern life make taking steps towards these goals extremely difficult.
It’s the information age, and for most of us, that constant stream of media and distractions eventually starts to feel like noise.
It’s hard to think straight sometimes, much less plot out our path to our better selves.
Fortunately, we can create our own self-improvement month - a month we choose to dedicate to the small daily steps that will transform our lives to be more positive and productive.
This thirty-day guide will help you take those small steps toward your bigger goals, and ensure that you’ve laid the foundation to close out 2018 (or to begin 2019) with real, tangible progress.
Rest assured you can stress less.
It doesn’t take a week-long retreat or library of audiobooks to set your personal compass in the right direction.
These 30 days of self-improvement will give you an opportunity to refresh your life, clear away the clutter of the past year, and face the future with a renewed sense of self!
30-Day Self-Improvement Challenge to Help You Dump Your Slump
Day 1. Learn Something New
The trick to broadening your horizons is to keep new ideas flowing.
For a working woman or mother, that can be MUCH easier said than done.
Dedicate yourself to learning one new thing, as completely as you can, in one day.
It can be as complex as taking an art lesson, or as simple as googling one thing you’ve been curious about during your lunch break.
Not sure what a word means? Look it up.
Wondering about the specifics of a historical event? Check it out.
Always been interested in how people make soap? Make it your mission to find out.
Making a small discovery in your free time opens your mind to a world of new ideas and information.
You never know what you may find, or what that discovery may inspire.
Think of one core area of curiosity, and solve the mystery.
This is an easy way to ensure some of the media entering your day is beneficial, even on the most personal level.
Plus, you never know when you may need a new dinner conversation starter or ice breaker.
Day 2. Make a New Hang Out Your Mission
A few months ago, a friend of mine fell into the slump of going to the same coffee chain every Sunday to catch up on emails and projects.
Building routines like that feels natural.
We cling to the familiar and end up trapping ourselves into a rut of our own design.
On a whim, she looked up independent coffee places nearby and found an entire list of venues just as convenient, but with a refreshing change of pace (and the wonder of a Vanilla/ Turmeric Latte).
The same can be said for your go-to lunch spot, entertainment venue, or jogging route.
By changing the scenery of your schedule, you open yourself to new experiences without sacrificing productivity.
If you live in an area without a lot of options, going out of your way may seem daunting, but the payoff is well worth it. And I'd be willing to bet even in that scenario, there are places you haven't visited.
Day 3. Explore Your World
Think about your morning commute, or the way you take to your parent’s house, or the route you drive to the hair salon.
Chances are, there are stores, restaurants, and parks that you’ve never felt inclined to check out or had the time to stop in.
On today’s trip, make a deal with yourself to stop and check out one of these potential hidden gems.
This could mean stopping in the antique store you always drive past, or taking a walk through a local museum you’ve never had the time to visit.
In fact, nearly every town has a historical society with a list of preserved local sites.
Stop in, take a look around, and figuratively (or literally) smell the roses.
The more you explore your surroundings, the more at home and at peace you’ll truly feel in your location.
Day 4. Take a Solo Day-cation
I am very well acquainted with the dreadful feeling of realizing it’s mid-august, and I have yet to go on vacation.
In fact, I haven't had one in more than four years.
For some people, that may not be a big deal.
But for someone who lives within a half-day's drive of some of the most alluring outdoor and urban locations in the entire nation, it’s a little disheartening.
That’s when the excuses start to roll in - I’ve been so busy with work, the weather hasn’t been great, who would I even go with?
The excuses rarely do anything to ease the feeling of just missing out on my own life and letting entire seasons pass me by.
Whether you’re a beach local who hasn’t made the short trip to the water's edge, or simply have been eyeing the local spa without the urge to go yourself, taking the leap is worth it!
Waiting around for the right person to go with or the perfect weather will only guarantee that experiences pass you by WITH your consent.
Don’t be afraid to branch out on your own if it means doing the things you’ve been dying to do.
Take a day trip on your own to a place you’ve been meaning to visit.
A little solitude and crossing something off your list is a great opportunity to clear your head and feel a sense of accomplishment.
Day 5. Have a Treat Yourself Day
Busy adult life can suck the excitement out of anticipating the future.
When is the last time you couldn’t sleep from excitement, or found yourself rushing home on a Friday because you couldn’t wait to get to the next thing?
Give yourself a pass to do something that makes you happy today - whether that be a trip to the nail salon, a movie matinee, a free concert in the park, seeing a new art exhibit, a tour of a local winery or a new pair of shoes.
Creating a little joy in your own life is good for you.
There’s freedom in helping yourself to little things you want, and that liberation can carry into other aspects of your life, affecting how you interact with others including family or at work.
An occasional day of indulgence won’t kill you or your budget.
Remember that periodically doing something special or treating yourself as a way of showing appreciation of yourself and valuing you is not a bad thing.
Day 6. Say ‘Yes!’ Today
(Okay. This is a disclaimer. Yes, I do think that Shonda Rhimes is one of the fiercest women on the planet. And in my humble opinion, along with a bunch of other people's opinions that really matter, she's written one of the best books for women, or anyone for that matter, that's come out in a while. There. I said it. Now, back to our story...)
Shonda Rhimes, the award-winning creator of shows like Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy, and Private Practice, and How to Get Away With Murder released a book in 2015 called Year of Yes.
Now, most of us would not spend an entire year saying yes to every opportunity and every goal, but that doesn’t mean you can’t set aside a day and see where the power of ‘yes’ can take you.
Saying yes to possibilities you’re presented with is an important part of maintaining positivity and inspiration in your life, as well as keeping it fresh with a sense of adventure and the unknown.
For the sixth day of self improvement, decide to say yes to one thing you may have typically turned down.
Step out of your comfort zone, and try to have some fun.
Maybe this means saying yes to a date with someone new, accepting an invitation to a society outing or event, or agreeing to be a speaker or presenter for a local community group for the first time.
Maybe it means taking your kids out to the restaurant they’re always begging to try, or finally going with your friends to check out a creative arts and wine class.
Freeing yourself of constant negativity or insular behavior and allowing yourself to just say ‘yes’ is an amazing feeling, and can open you up to so many new and wonderful experiences and possibilities outside of your normal routine.
Day 7: Make a Social Follow-Up
Once the school years end and normal life begins, it’s extremely common for us to begin to lose touch with friends and even family members.
We get the social media birthday messages, and tend to respond to texts and emails with phrases like “We should definitely catch up soon!” but then soon never comes.
Today, follow through with one of these plans.
Go out for breakfast with an old roommate, or call up the cousin you haven’t spoken to in forever.
Reaching out, even on the smallest level, deepens valued connections and could brighten someone’s day.
Self-isolation is an unfortunate yet common circumstance these days.
Social media keeps us updated on those around us on an unprecedented level, but it has also (unfortunately) taken away some of the drive for genuine one to one interaction.
Make the effort to bring positive personal connections back into your life one connection at a time.
People truly can fit into your busy schedule with much less stress and effort than you may think. It just takes a little planning.
Bridging and renewing connections is worth the time.
It may offer you an opportunity to share the weight of a burden, or to express excitement about a blessing or accomplishment.
Human interaction and positive, genuine connections are healthy for us all, and important to our efforts toward meaningful self-improvement.
Day 8. Make an ‘I Did!’ List
If you’re anything like me, you may find yourself drowning in lists of things to get done - shopping lists, to do lists, assignment lists, and so on.
Change your perspective along with the dialog in your head by creating a new type of list - an ‘I Did’ list.
I Did lists allow you to reflect on your accomplishments, no matter how small, and raise your own awareness about the small steps you’ve already taken toward your goals.
It’s all about replacing negative inner monologues with something positive.
Set aside time to make and ‘I Did’ list as long and comprehensive as you want.
You can include simple things like “finished weekly shopping” or “gave work presentation”, or big goals like “lost 30 pounds”, “quite smoking this year”, “raised three great kids” or “finished degree”.
Your ‘I Did’ list is all about giving yourself credit for your victories, big or small.
This kind of acknowledgment shines light on just how far you’ve come - a light you definitely deserve!
Day 9. Clean That ONE Area (either your desk, dresser, closet, cabinet etc.)
Spring cleaning, or fall cleaning for that matter, can feel like a HUGE task looming over your head.
No one likes going through the work day knowing there’s a pile of laundry to do or a lawn that needs mowing as soon as you get home.
Or if you're already home, you may dread passing that craft room, work space (or what would be a work space if you could only get in there), or kids space that looks like a total disaster area.
Trying to get everything you need done in one day can be overwhelming and unrealistic on a day when your schedule is already crammed and busy.
But not doing anything about it only makes the task feel bigger, and denies you a sense of accomplishment (and progress) that would be derived from tackling the situation and getting things in order.
Today, make it a point to clean and organize one specific place in your life.
If the desk in your home office is buried in papers, get to work and file them away.
Don't worry about tackling anything else in that space. Today focus only on cleaning the desk.
If the passenger seat in your car has been piled high with old coffee cups, take the time to empty it out.
Sure, it’s not making your entire living space spotless, but organizing one area that’s gotten out of hand will let you breathe a sigh of relief.
And every time you look at it, you'll see it as one thing done and checked off of your “to do” list, so that it may be the motivation you need to get a jump start on the rest of your cleaning.
Day 10. Switch Up Your Commute Survival
What is that certain something that makes your morning a little more bearable?
Maybe it’s a radio station you love, or a podcast that makes you laugh.
Maybe it’s a specific drink from your local coffee shop that you simply can’t function without.
Make today the day you switch up your normal morning “go to”.
Listen to a different radio station, try a new podcast, or order a drink you haven’t tried before.
Self-improvement means journeying outside your comfort zone to find out more about yourself.
Fortunately, you don’t have to take an Eat, Pray, Love style trip to do that.
A small adjustment can do wonders for your day, and you never know what you may learn or find.
Day 11. Collect Your Personal History
If you want to know where you’re going it life, it helps to know where you come from.
This kind of information is extremely personal, and can have varying degrees of accessibility based on your family history.
The simplest way is to spend a few hours looking up your family on an ancestry website, or taking a blood test to screen for nationality percentages.
That being said, not all of us necessarily know much about our parentage, and finding that information may be difficult.
If direct family history isn’t for you, spend some time looking up the history of your home town or former school.
You can even try looking up historical figures and celebrities you share a birthday with.
This information might sound silly, but knowing the foundation of the places and people that shaped us give us a deeper sense of connection to the past, and the world as a whole.
You may find similarities you never expected and stories you’ll appreciate.
Day 12. Give Back Day
The benefits of giving back is one of those “no brainer” activities that people you're familiar with may sound like a broken record about - but the hype is completely true!
Spending a day focused on others not only feels good, but shares some of your inner gifts with people who may really need it. Try volunteering or teaching a valuable skill.
Spend the 12th day of the month doing something that benefits your community.
If your schedule is a little too hectic for a full day volunteering, gather up the gently used clothes you or your family no longer wear, toys, or school supplies and donate them to a local drive.
When kids return to school in the Fall, it’s the perfect time to put items you may not be using to good use elsewhere, and possibly relieving the burden of someone else.
Giving back allows you to brighten someone’s day while also utilizing strengths you may not realize you have, and the icing on the cake is finding a portion of your happiness in a simple act of kindness.
If you can carve out even a small amount of time in your schedule at least once or twice a month, you could greatly benefit someone, or a group of people who really needs the help.
Day 13. Create Something
You’ve probably said one of these phrases before: “I can’t draw.” “I’m not a good writer.” “I’m not a good cook.”
Make today is the day that you tap into your creative side, even if it may not be a side of yourself with which you spend much time.
You don’t have to be an artist to have fun making something. Believe me, I know!
In choosing to make something, take any pressure off of yourself by first assuring yourself that this creation is for you - no judgements, no competition, and no deadline.
Focus on having fun, and be as abstract or crazy as you like.
Making something with the confidence that no one else has to see or taste it - unless you want them to!
Creativity exercises your mind and can be a powerful tool for de-stressing.
If you choose to, you can even try taking fun classes in your community like a paint and sip night.
Try something that makes you happy, or get back to a hobby you haven’t done in a while.
Recharge your battery with your inner muse, you won’t regret it.
Day 14. Find a New Favorite Quote (one that inspires you, makes you laugh, or both)
As we near the middle of the month, take an easy day with an activity that will still keep you on the road to self-improvement.
Check out some of our favorite inspirational quotes, and find one that really speaks to you.
Print it out and hang it up, or put it somewhere you will see it often like on your mirror or your refrigerator.
You’ll be amazed at what such a simple “pick me up” can do in moments of high stress or low motivation.
Day 15. Conquer a Fear
We’re ringing in the actual halfway point with a day that is a little more challenging.
Conquering a fear doesn’t mean you have to go bungee jumping or hold a snake (unless you really want to).
There are small fears we deal with every day - Making a suggestion during a meeting, trying that food you’ve never thought you’d like, or letting your kids venture out to their first sleepover.
Today’s the day to pick one of these limiting fears and overcome it.
You’ll be amazed how small mental giants can be once you face up to them.
Even if things don’t go ideally - if your suggestion is shot down or Indian food is definitely too spicy for you - knowing that you were stronger for that mental block for even a moment can be an empowering feeling.
And you never know, maybe your business idea will be a huge hit, and maybe that intimidating looking menu item will become your new favorite food.
You’ll never know if you don’t try!
Day 16. Compliment Five People
Learning to value and appreciate yourself is an important aspect of improving your outlook on life, but it’s also important to remember that those around you may also need a little confidence boost every now and then.
Today, give five people with whom you come in contact the sincerest compliment you can formulate.
This is something I began to do several years ago as a small way of connecting with strangers (because I am very much the introvert), and I found that I enjoy it very much, especially when I encounter people who seem to be having a less than stellar day.
Your complement doesn’t have to be anything elaborate.
Something as simple as telling the cashier at the grocery store you like her necklace is a small act of kindness that could give her the extra push she needs to get through the day.
If you’re at work, letting a coworker know that you appreciate their help on a recent project, or admire their creativity or resourcefulness is a great way to communicate something positive.
Making someone else’s day may be just what you need to make your pwn.
I can tell you from experience that it just feels good to make the world a little brighter as you go.
Day 17. Start a ‘Rainy Day’ Fund
It’s something we all know we absolutely should do, but many of us struggle with at one point in life or another.
So if you haven't started saving, today's your day.
Today, find a box or jar and make a small personal deposit of a few dollars. And if you can't manage that, scrounge up some change. Don't be ashamed, I've been there. The point is to just start!
The first step tends to be the hardest, and making even the smallest contribution puts you on the road to building a solid saving plan.
Sit down and think about what options are realistic for you to save consistently, and then commit yourself to stick to it.
Whether that's dumping the spare change from the bottom of your purse into the jar every week, or taking $20 out of each paycheck.
Start today, and think through a reasonable plan for the future.
If you already have a solid savings account, use this opportunity to start saving for a special treat or experience or something you’ve had your eye on.
Challenge yourself to build a financial safety net starting today.
Day 18. Have a De-stress Day
Relaxation time is a complicated concept for most of us that work full time (in the workplace, or as a parent).
The idea of finding time to pamper yourself may (ironically) also be a source of stress.
Today, plan thirty minutes to indulge in a de-stressing activity.
Meditate, take a bubble bath, draw, journal, or just take a half hour nap.
We all need a little mental and physical rest from time to time, and adding it into your self- improvement plan is a great way to ensure you get it.
Day 19. Stay Away From One Bad Habit for a Whole Day
I promise - I’m not insisting that you quit smoking in one day.
Your bad habit doesn’t have to be anything too severe.
Instead, think of a little thing you do every day that is counterproductive.
This can mean habits like biting your nails, procrastinating on work emails, or putting off getting gas until your car’s ‘help me!’ light comes on.
Overcoming a destructive habit even for one day points you in a better direction for the future.
Plus, if you can do without it once, why stop there?
See if you can pull it off for two or three days.
Baby steps are all it takes to put yourself on track to overcoming habits that hold you back.
Day 20. Spend Some Time Outdoors
You’ve definitely heard this eternal PSA from therapists and doctors and the PBS Channel...
Get outside, enjoy the sunshine- it’s good for you!
The repeated message may be annoying, but it’s true.
Sunlight and fresh air are good both physically and mentally, as both promote needed physical exercise and help to combat depression.
Today, take some time outdoors.
If you work full time, try having lunch outside or taking a lap around the building on your break.
If you work from home, take some work outside and enjoy the air.
I should note however, that if the weather is terrible today, feel free to swap it out with a different day- but don’t forget it!
Day 21. Say ‘No’ Today
It’s time to do the opposite of Day 6 and find the freedom in saying no!
Maybe you’re someone who has a hard time declining doing favors for others, or ends up doing the brunt of the work on a group project.
Today, say no to something that you want to say no to.
Doing this allows you to experience the satisfaction of living a day on your own terms, and giving yourself permission to let go of things that don’t make you happy.
It may be difficult or uncomfortable to say no, but learning to better establish boundaries for things we don't want to do or wish to be a part of is a valuable learning experience and self-development tool.
Day 22. Check One Thing Off the ‘Eventually’ List
My eventually list involves the following: plan my dream weekend vacation (so that it becomes a real experience and not just fantasy), fix the faulty seal on my car and have the oil changed, and pay my friend a long overdue visit.
Eventually lists are another trap we spring on ourselves, putting off difficult or inconvenient things until tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.
Today, identify your eventually list, and cross one thing off.
That's it. Just one thing.
This might mean putting some time aside for what you know will be a long phone conversation, or standing in line at the DMV, but the thing about eventually lists is that they all – eventually - need to get done.
Experience the success of making your list one item shorter- it might be a bit inconvenient now, but you'll be happier and feel better once you've done it.
Day 23. Listen to a New Artist
After the frustration of dealing with your eventually list, the 23rd day of the month is much easier.
Find a new artist online or through whatever app you use to stream music, and give them a listen.
Music is an emotional and personal experience that we can enjoy.
There are songs that draw us back into treasured memories, or bring on a feeling of joy and confidence.
Today, try to find a new favorite song.
Branch out into artists you’ve been meaning to listen to, or an album your friends have recommended.
You can even make it a point to find a new personal anthem.
Today goes back to the idea of broadening your horizons; something absolutely critical to becoming your best self.
You may not like everything you find, but you may also discover a new song you’ll be singing in the car for a week.
So go take a look, or more specifically, a listen.
Day 24. Try Out a Wellness Trend
No one is too cool for wellness.
That’s something I have to remind myself on a regular basis.
Sometimes the ‘everybody’s doing it’ mentality actually draws us away from something that may be beneficial.
Today, try out a wellness trend that’s been on your radar, but you haven’t felt like trying yet.
There are simple trends, like using lavender essential oil to relax, or switching out your morning coffee for a green tea.
If you have an opening in your schedule today, try stopping in for a yoga class or seeing what a kale smoothie is like.
Wellness trends catch on because they work for or offer relief to a large number of people.
Get out of your own way.
Worst case scenario is that you confirm that a trend is not for you, but then again, you may find a perfect match.
Day 25. Unplug for a Day
Not having access to electronics may be a real source of anxiety for some these days.
You just may be one of the people for whom it is true.
What if you miss that important new alert, or significant post from a friend?
The “what ifs” can drive you crazy, and leave you obsessively monitoring your phones and computers.
Today is a day to unplug, and venture into the waters of being fully present with yourself.
If work or family commitments keep you from fully leaving your phone behind, make a deal with yourself to stay off of all forms of social media and unnecessary internet/ tv use for the day.
It may sound cliché, but try reading a book or spending time reflecting and brainstorming on your future goals and plans.
You may find that you don’t need to stay digitally connected as much as you thought, and this could be a great way to get a start on that ever- growing reading list collecting dust on your shelf.
Day 26. Practice Your Communication
Unless you’re a motivational speaker or professional therapist, chances are you could use a little work on communication.
Expressing our feelings and needs is something we all struggle with from time to time.
This can be especially true in new relationships, navigating complications with coworkers, and maintaining a strong bond with family.
Make a list today of five things you’d like to communicate better - a feeling you haven’t been able to relay to your loved ones, or a frustration at work you haven’t figured out how to address.
By writing down these issues and giving thoughtful contemplation to them, you can begin to formulate the best plan to solve or overcome them.
You can also try listing five issues you think you have with communication (perhaps reacting with an uncontrolled temper, being too soft spoken, or exaggerating when talking to friends).
By identifying your weak spots, you make room for change and set an internal alarm to call yourself out when making these communication mistakes in the future.
Changing these sorts of habits may take a little effort and a little time, but by starting today, you're putting a best foot forward.
Day 27. Attend a Local Event
It’s time to pick up one of those flyers you ignore on your way out of the grocery store or Starbucks and commit to sampling what your community has to offer.
Attend a local concert, a craft fair, or symposium.
Even if you aren’t typically the type to venture out to public events, giving it a try can bring you closer to your community and open doors with your neighbors.
Take a look a few days ahead and find something that might be interesting.
This is also a great opportunity to invite an old friend for an evening out, or plan a date night with your significant other.
Day 28. Get Rid of Ten Useless Things
Even though I've gotten much better at purging things in recent years, I probably still have half a closet full of clothes I haven’t worn in the last three of those years.
Our belongings are sometimes hard to part with, and a lot of us would rather accumulate clutter than go through the process of letting some things go.
Here's a tip...
Let it go!
Chances are you don’t need fifteen oversized sweatshirts, or your old work out VHS tapes or dvd's from a gazillion years ago.
Even if you're the most stubborn of pack rats, you can find ten items that have outstayed their welcome in your life.
This is also a great opportunity to ditch mementos of an old (but toxic) relationship or periods of your life that weren't so great and are best left in the past.
Round ten items up, and toss them (or recycle, if that’s possible).
Day 29. Write Yourself an Apology
Okay, this is not about beating yourself up or making yourself feel guilty for mistakes or bad habits - quite the opposite.
Today, write yourself a letter apologizing for some of the negative things you tell yourself that limit you from reaching your full potential.
Read it to yourself aloud, and concentrate on not only acknowledging these negative thoughts, but forgiving them and letting them go.
This will allow you to arrive at the end of the month with a clean mental slate, and on the foundation of a better relationship with yourself.
Day 30. Make a Goal for Next Month
Before you get stressed...Don’t worry! Setting a goal for the first day of next month does not mean you have to keep pushing and pushing indefinitely.
Take this last day of this month to congratulate yourself for all of your hard work, and allow yourself to genuinely feel the success of making it through.
But don’t limit yourself to feeling like this month was your only month of progress.
Build on the foundation you've created during this time by setting a goal for the first of next month.
Set your own personal goal, or repeat one of this month's goals that really resonated with you.
The end of this self-improvement month doesn’t mean the end of self-improvement.
It means you’ve set a solid foundation for your future and taken tangible steps toward becoming the best version of you. Be proud of that!
Choose this self-improvement month to jump-start your life, get out of your slump or simply make things seem new and fresh by pushing boundaries and expanding your horizons in a healthy way.
If you haven’t been able to complete all thirty days, don’t be disheartened.
Every step is still a step and a move in the right direction toward meeting your personal growth goals.
Depending on your schedule, it may not be possible to complete all thirty days' activities in order- that’s okay too!
Rework the days to fit your life.
Making the commitment to thirty days of self-improvement is an important step in and of itself, even if the 25th day isn’t the best day to be away from your phone.
Self-improvement is about being the best you that YOU envision!
Remember that, and you’ll find all the success you’re looking for.
You made it through the 30-day Self-Improvement Challenge!
Love and Peace!
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Kimberly Clay is the founder and creative force behind What She Say. She’s a business professional, writer and editor who’s been creating and managing digital content for nearly twenty years. Her work is now focused in the areas of self-improvement and personal development, and she is passionate about helping other individuals, especially women, to find a path for living their best life.