Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Personal Improvement

I have been thinking about the subject of personal improvement lately. Like most other things that I spend a lot of time thinking about, this has been sparked by my upcoming marriage.

I believe that improvement requires an honest assessment of the current state of that which a person is attempting to improve. I suppose that technically one could improve something without understanding the degree of improvement that is taking place, but personally I don't feel that there is any point to improving something if a difference cannot be noted. Improvement requires a before and after comparison point to be fulfilling and worthwhile.

Benjamin Franklin wrote about several of the methods he used to improve himself in his autobiography. My favorite method was his systematic documentation of his flaws. He divided his life up in the 13 areas and would daily document his feelings in each area. One week he would focus on area A and document only his flaws in that area, the next week he would focus on area B – again only documenting his flaws in area B. He called this his path to virtue.

While Benjamin franklin and I would most likely disagree on the source of virtue, I appreciate his efforts to be virtuous, and feel that what he learned offers a lot of insight. Of particular interest to me is his admittance that after he documented his flaws he realized they were far greater in number then he had ever thought possible. Documenting his flaws allowed Franklin to successfully identify trouble areas, work to master them and, finally, to verify his mastery of them. Of course, as a Christian I don't believe that true defeat of vices is possible with out the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, but that is an issue for a separate post.

Enough about Franklin: what are my personal flaws? What areas do I, Matthew Nowlin, need to improve on?

I'll keep this to fairly nonpersonal issues – but know that more introspection is going on here then is readily obvious.

The first area that I feel I can improve on is my physical fitness. The serious and an ongoing battle for me and I'm going to attempt to use Franklin's method of daily journaling and analyzing to help me here. I am also going to rely on Sarah's help in this area. Honey, please hold me accountable!

The second area that I feel can be improved using the methods discussed here is overall discipline. I'm not a loose cannon or a rebel without a caused by any means, but I do not feel as disciplined as I would like to. I do immature things and I flat out do not like that.

A subset of discipline is mastering my time. I hope that in time I can develop a much greater discipline in this area and master my calendar. Like a child, I often have difficulty doing basic things like going to bed on time and waking up early in the morning. Sure, I get everything done that I need to, but those two basic daily tasks left unmastered have left me with a feeling of immaturity. I think that when Paul said " I beat my body and make it my slave" he probably did so with a sense of glee - if his body was indeed a slave to him, he had to feel incredibly empowered.

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