In my early 20s, I found I had fallen into a mundane existence.
I wasn’t unhappy. Maybe you could say I was content. But who wants to be just content? What about passionate, excited, adventurous, curious, ambitious?
There was so much about myself I did not know, so much of the world I had not seen, experiences I had not lived through—but my eyes were not open to any of these possibilities as I was busy living my small, content existence.
I was engaged to my boyfriend of seven years, when on Christmas Day, I found out that he had been cheating on me for the previous six months while I was busy planning our wedding. My entire world fell apart—and it was just the wake up call I needed! I gave myself a month or two for the shock to sink in and to pull myself together, and then I made a decision that I wanted to live life to the fullest from then on.
I lived in a small town where everyone knew each other, and I felt like I needed to escape. I had the desire to get away and discover who I really was and what I wanted from life. Shortly after our split, I got the opportunity to move to Mumbai for work and I jumped at it. Living abroad was the single biggest life changer I have experienced so far in my 37 years on this planet. I loved it. In fact I loved it so much, I have never made it back home permanently—and I’m now living in my third different country. Living abroad has totally transformed my life. I have become more adventurous, explored the world, met new people, taken up new hobbies and generally lived a more fulfilling life.
During this time, I have always been interested in personal development, and self actualisation is something that fascinates me. How to become the best version of myself is a subject I have spent much time researching. In 2015 I decided to start a blog exploring this subject in more depth. I have looked at every element of my life, encompassing health, fitness, mind, spirit, relationships, productivity and environment. You name it, I have investigated how to become better at it!
The conclusion I have drawn on how to become my best self is threefold:
1) Continuous learning.
There is so much wisdom available to us all, it is almost overwhelming. Every day there are new things to discover. By continuing to be curious about everything and open to learning, it becomes much easier to grow and develop our best selves. Great sources of knowledge include books, other people, experiences, blogs, and even (perhaps especially) our own mistakes.
There are so many ways to learn; the key is to stay hungry for development. I read so much but I sometimes get stressed when I think of all the books out there that I haven’t read yet! I can’t get through them quickly enough, I am so thirsty for knowledge. One useful technique to try out is to learn one new thing each day and then try it out in practise. It doesn’t have to be life changing stuff, but it’s amazing how quickly this information adds up. Learning is most powerful when it is implemented immediately, so it can be helpful to look for any opportunity to put theory into practise straight away.
2) Implement bite-sized habit changes.
It is unrealistic to think we can sit down one day and develop a grand plan to completely redo our entire existence and transform our lives in one fell swoop. The method I have found to be more effective is to choose different areas of life to focus on, one at a time, and implement small changes until they become habits. This is a much easier way to progress and make changes permanent.
This approach worked really well for me recently when I became interested in the idea of living a zero waste lifestyle. Rather than declaring to the world that I was going to produce zero waste from that moment forward, I took a seven month journey to slowly implement small changes until my life had been transformed almost without me realising. Any area of our lives that need transformation can be broken down into smaller goals, enabling us to start becoming the best version of ourselves immediately, with every small change implemented.
3) Surround myself with awesome people.
There are some types of people in life who I like to call “Dementors.” You know the ones I mean, the people who suck the life out of you when you spend time with them, and drain away all your positive energy.
I have learned to remove those people from my life and focus on surrounding myself with awesome people. This has been one of the biggest game changers for me—having amazing people in my life. Moving abroad helped me meet a wide range of fascinating people, who I continually learn from.
In my 20s I had a smaller group of friends who are all lovely, but they were all virtually carbon copies of me with similar backgrounds and outlooks on life. Now my friends are made up of many different nationalities, ages, professions, backgrounds and outlooks. I find that the more diverse the people are in my life, the happier and more fulfilled I am. I am truly blessed with my social circle. I am inspired, motivated, encouraged, supported, and loved by some remarkable people and they enrich my life in incredible ways.
When we feel content in our little bubble, it’s all too easy to settle for a routine existence. But if we want to be the best version of ourselves, we can’t rely on a tragedy to shock us into action.
We need to start as we mean to go on, and take a step (however small) toward the life we have always dreamed of, today.
Author: Mel Johnson
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Michael Hull/Unsplas