Talking self-improvement with second year Creative Arts students


Yesterday (Friday the 23rd August) I got to speak with around 40+ 2nd Year Creative Arts students (aspiring film makers) on the topic of self-improvement.

I want to thank their course coordinator Tom Young for inviting me to speak and to the class for welcoming me into their space.

We had an hour together and got to cover some interesting territory.

I started by talking about the topic of self-improvement and why I think it is important. Put simply, I think it is possible to train one’s mind (Mental Fitness) and self-improvement is one avenue through which to do this.

I talked about 6 aspects of self-improvement

  1. Purpose – self-improvement is typically done in the service of a higher goal or purpose. For example, I might look to improve my physical fitness in order to feel better, live longer and prevent illness. Clarifying that higher goal or purpose is important in sustaining oneself during the difficult stages of making improvements to one’s life.
  2. Principles – self-improvement ‘tends’ to follow certain patterns. Understanding these patterns can help you in your own self-improvement efforts.
    1. We make the best improvements when we are deliberate and intentional about what we want to change.
    2. We don’t tend to change massively in a single go. Instead we accumulate small improvements over time.
    3. Often small changes can have multiple outcomes. For example, getting more sleep may lead to improvements in mood and ability to concentrate.
    4. Most self-improvements that have lasting effects seem to manifest as new habits or routines that we add/modify in our life. For example, physical fitness is built through regular exercise.
    5. Most self-improvements consist of changes in behaviour and/or changes in how we think. When I decluttered my unit (one of the best things I’ve done for my mental health), this consisted of changes in behaviour (how I organise my stuff) and changes in how I think (attitudes towards mess and clutter).
  3. Process – self-improvement can be a messy process. We don’t improve in a perfectly linear fashion. ‘Two steps forward, 1 step back’. However it can be improved and refined by asking yourself key questions along the way.
    1. Where am I now and where do I want to be? – clarifying why you need to improve
    2. What will help me get there? – clarifying what you need to improve
    3. What new knowledge do I need? – clarifying knowledge gaps in how to improve
    4. Who might I need to speak to to learn what I need? – identifying teachers or guides who could help you
    5. Do I reckon I can self-improve in this given area? – checking in on whether you might be self-sabotaging by not believing in your ability to change
    6. What is the minimum change I need to make to get started? – reminding yourself you can get started with something simple first
    7. What new skills might I need to learn in order to self-improve? – identifying whether the change you want to make involves learning new skills
    8. What do I think would happen if I experimented with making this change in my life? – being willing to experiment with making some changes to see if they work
    9. I think a change I made is actually working. How do I embed this as a habit or new routine? – looking long term to embed the improvement in your life
  4. Physical and psychological capacities – I think it is possible to change many different physical and psychological aspects of ourselves. One should keep an open mind to the idea that we can develop just about any aspect of ourselves. It won’t always be easy, but both physical and psychological aspects of ourselves are malleable.
  5. Personal plan – whilst there are commonalities in the types of things that people change about themselves (e.g. diet, physical activity, sleep, drug/alcohol use), each person’s self-improvement plan is likely to be a little different, because we have different goals, different strengths and weaknesses, and different views on how or what we should change. What does your personal self-improvement plan look like?
  6. Protection – self-improvement is a method for achieving our goals and dreams. However it is also a method for building resilience (ability to cope with adversity). The lessons you learn about yourself in the process of making improvements to who you are, will aid you when confronting new and difficult situations. You’ll develop confidence in your ability to adapt and grow.

I then got the students to do a couple of exercises.

The first was ‘fast forward 5 years into the future. What would you like to have achieved? What kind of person do you hope you will be? What do you hope your life looks like? What do you think you need to improve in order to make this happen?’ This exercise was intended to get them thinking about the kinds of higher order goals and values that might drive efforts in the present to get better on some aspect of their life.

We then did some group exercises in which groups tried to identify as many strategies as they could think of in 2 minutes that would help someone:

  1. be better at their studies
  2. be more creative

A few themes emerged in their answers: journalling/writing down ideas, scheduling, setting goals, looking after their health, and pushing themselves to have new experiences. I encouraged them to think about whether any of these changes might relevant in their own lives.

If the topic of self-improvement interest you, consider visiting our Mental Fitness Course on the blog.

If you’d like me to come and speak to your class or group on this kind of topic, just email me on

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