The 3 Types Of Self-Improvement And How To Decide Which Is Best For You

Noam LightstoneSelf-Improvement Leave a Comment

In my last post I talked about how you need to watch out for self-improvement “gurus” who don’t show you their flaws or the entire picture  – they promise you the dream girl/guy and the business without talking about their struggles or issues.

But further within self-improvement I’ve seen a pattern of advice which I divide into 3 categories. Depending on your psychology and how you work, some advice might not be useful or even make you move backwards in terms of your progress. It can make you even MORE anxious and MORE depressed.

What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for the other – there is no one size fits all thing in self-improvement.

I’ll explain the 3 different types, which works best for different people, and help you find your match. I’ll give you examples of people, sites, and resources that fall into these categories so you can find the stuff that works best for you. I’ll also show you how you should default to one specific type, but combining the 3 types together is your best strategy in the long run.

The 3 “Self-Improvement Categories”

They are:

  1. Motivational/You Can Do It!
  2. Drill-Sargent/Boot Camp/Disciplined
  3. Compassionate/Understanding

Let’s break down each one:

1. Motivational/You Can Do It!

I would call this “state-pumping” self-improvement.

While sometimes these guys give good advice, the focus is really on playing into your emotions and getting you driven.

Maybe you get a bit angry about a problem you haven’t solved, maybe you get excited, maybe you get fired up… But you feel a burning inside and tingle when you think about the possibilities.

Think someone on stage waving their arms and screaming “YES YOU CAN!” Think about the preacher yelling at his audience that they CAN be saved! You get all this big ball of energy…

But it usually doesn’t last. It’s temporary, kind of like a drug.

You can see this a lot with motivational compilations and speeches. When Arnold or Les Brown tell you to get up you feel really good, but it’s hard to keep that exact feeling going. I like listening to these in the morning to get me fired up, but the feeling doesn’t last all throughout the day.


This Is Good For You If…

  • You are a bit sad, depressed, or in a low state and just need a boost.
  • You typically have lower self-esteem or self-confidence than average.


This Is Not Good For You If…

  • You want extremely actionable advice broken down into steps. You need more logical follow through.
  • You aren’t into “airy-fairy” feel-good advice.
  • You aren’t easily affected/influenced by others.


Examples Of Resources

  • Any motivational speech. Some popular speakers are: Arnold Schwarzenagger, Les Brown, Eric Thomas, and so on. See examples here, here, and here.


How You Can Use This

Motivational self-improvement is great – there’s nothing wrong with getting fired up. In fact, you SHOULD get fired up about becoming better, it will fuel you forward. Without motivation, you won’t have that burning desire to succeed.

But as Elliot Hulse said:

“Motivation is bullshit. Motivation doesn’t get anything done. Motivation gets you GOING… but discipline, work ethic, strong habits… that’s what gets things done”.

Recognize that this advice will only get you so far.

2. Drill-Sargent/Boot Camp/Disciplined

self-improvement-military-styleHere’s the discipline that wasn’t so much in the state-pumping first category. This is about being relentless and ever moving forward: no excuses.

Only results matter.

If you want something done, get it done. Nothing about being tired and needing a break, or doing enough work and deserving to watch TV. You watch TV when you’ve done your work, even if you only get 5 hours of sleep.

Learn habit building. Get systems set. Stop wasting your time. Let’s go, I don’t want to hear any excuses! Stop whining.

This form of self-improvement is heavily associated with masculine energy and polarity. It’s very driven and direct, and doesn’t take any BS.


This Is Good For You If…

  • You respond well to criticism (e.g. someone telling you “You suck, MOVE IT PUSSY” really works for you).
  • You’ve had previous military experience and liked the environment.
  • You need structure and discipline to focus.
  • You have a hard time getting things done by your own willpower.


This Is Not Good For You If…

  • You are a Nice Guy or Girl (NG).
    • Speaking from personal experience, NGs HATE being that told they suck. It doesn’t work for them. They have a smaller amount of masculine energy (Note for the guys: that doesn’t mean you are less of a MAN. Many men have feminine energy, it just means you may not respond to masculine encouragement as well. See Way Of The Superior Man for more on this topic) so it actually hinders them and makes them feel like shit. Self-improvement is supposed to make things better, not worse.
  • You have lower self-esteem or self-confidence than average.
    • Someone telling you “No excuses” or “You suck” will make you feel even worse about yourself and not make you motivated to be better.


Examples Of Resources

  • Newer Bold And Determined content. I REALLY like Viktor Pride’s old articles – he has a lot of good, factual information about building a business. Now it mostly seems like he’s saying “Look at me, I’m awesome” and “If you don’t succeed, you suck”. He’s stopped being super helpful in my opinion.
  • Older Danger And Play/Mike Cernovitch articles. (In contrast to Viktor Pride, I’ve found that most of Mike’s new articles are full of good information.)


How You Can Use This

Typically this form of advice will be very goal oriented. It will contain no-nonsense advice and logical or practical tools. However, it can be relentless – just focusing on beating you down for making excuses and ONLY on results.

The journey is not important. Your emotions are not important. All that matters are achieving the goals.

For the articles, advice, and products that give you good tools… take them. But, I’d be careful about getting caught up in constantly beating yourself up.

However, this can be balanced with…

3. Compassionate/Understanding

A major issue in society today is how hard we are on ourselves. I’ve said it before (and I constantly remind myself of the same thing), but if we are so kind to our closest friends, why are we so mean to ourselves? If we fail or don’t get enough work done, we’ll chastise and whip ourselves instead of being kind and planning out a way to actually get things done.

This is a major cause of anxiety and depression. If we’re against ourselves, how can we succeed?

Enter compassionate/understanding self-improvement: it’s based on being kind and talking kindly to yourself. It will be full of understanding, empathy, and usually sound advice to move forward.

The general tone of the writing and speaking in the advice is very calm, compassionate, and understanding. Think of it like a caring friend or your Mom understanding what you are going through.

The issue is that some of the advice can go into the “airy-fairy”/feel-good-let’s-all-hug-each-other-and-sing-koombayah realm, or let you off on the hook.

Sure, it’s good to be kind to yourself – but if every single day you don’t do work and you say “Oh it’s OK, I’m being kind to myself”, something is wrong.

Being kind to yourself is good, but if it’s used as an excuse to not move forward…


This Is Good For You If…

  • You are sensitive to criticism.
  • You are a Nice Guy or Girl (NG).
  • You’ve had a history of social beat downs during child hood.
  • You have lower self-esteem or self-confidence than average.
    • Because all these factors make you hyper-sensitive to people saying negative things about you and you are probably used to getting beaten down, this type of advice can help you feel much happier and in the process, teaches you to be kinder to yourself. In fact, even if sometimes the advice might be overkill, a bit extra might be something you need.


This Is Not Good For You If…

  • You get easily annoyed by emotional or “feel-good” advice.
  • You prefer the “no-prisoners” type of approach for work.


Examples Of Resources


How You Can Use This

Whenever you feel down or are being self-critical, this type of advice comes into play.

Instead of yelling at yourself for missing one day at the gym, half an hour of work, not going up to that attractive person… you just say, “Hey, will this really matter in a week? Do I really need to be so mean to myself? What’s the point? I did pretty well this week and I’m trying!” This way, you feel like you are being friendly and kind, and can strategize how to actually accomplish your goals.

I talk more about how to use self-talk to push yourself and how you can completely change your life with it in Mastery Of The Mind.

Seriously, this is why positive self-talk gets so much attention and numerous books have been written on it (As A Man Thinketh, Think And Grow Rich…).

Again – just be sure the being kind to yourself doesn’t make you lazy, so you skip a week at the gym for no reason. There’s a limit.


The Best Self-Improvement Strategy To Help Yourself…


Is to combine all 3.

While the 3 different styles work best with different personalities, we are constantly changing.

Our moods change within the hour and sometimes we can use a dose of something different. We change as people as we grow and develop.

Even though I have a lot of NG in me and do not enjoy the “you’re a pussy” type approach, sometimes I do need that little kick to “man up” and do something I’m afraid of. But after that little kick, I use lots of positive self-talk and re-enforcement. I don’t continuously beat myself down like a boot camp.

Also, I know that just listening to motivational tapes 24/7 won’t help me get my work done. But, I’ve found that listening to them in the morning makes me inspired, and they help give me energy at the gym.

Use this framework I’ve given you for the personalities and try some of the resources out. What feels the best? What works for you? Try them at different times, in different situations, and for different areas of your life (work, personal relationships, health, etc.).

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