AOC Tips for Teens, Part 3

A Guest Post for Teen Financial Freedom.

Please check out the blog and podcast from Teen Financial Freedom. We are blatantly encouraging our personal finance community to follow this team of young people because we want to support their efforts. They’re focused on their own self improvement and financial education, and spreading financial literacy to other teens as well. And that gives us a sense of optimism about the future!


Why am I writing about personal improvement instead of personal finance this time? Because there’s much more to life than just money.

What is personal improvement? It’s the proactive process of identifying, analyzing and improving upon your behavior, your confidence, your mindset, and your skills. Your big picture goals might include really specific targets for your career or money or relationships, or your goals might be more about managing anxiety and enjoying life. Continuous improvement is the ongoing practice of making your self and your life better. It’s personal improvement woven into your daily routine with plenty of follow-up.

Focusing on personal improvement is a good practice for people at any age because it’s about prioritizing your wellbeing. Spending time on personal improvement can help you identify your strengths and focus on them. It’s also a way to focus on maintaining and improving your mental health, which helps in building healthy relationships. Life is all about change which is why focusing on personal improvement helps us grow and adapt to change throughout our lives.

With that in mind, this post includes 10 personal improvement tips that we try to practice in our own lives. I hope these tips are helpful for you…


1. Focus on improvement, not perfection

The first thing to be aware of is that perfectionism is not personal improvement. Striving for improvement is healthy, but perfectionism leads to being critical of yourself and that’s a recipe for anxiety and depression.

So how do we improve ourselves? Everything we try to accomplish is easier in small steps so plan for one step at a time. Set goals, focus on small steps for progress, and aim for completion (not perfection).

And don’t feel like you have to improve everything in your life all at once. You’ll probably improve a little bit more with every attempt you make. Just keep trying!

Whether your goals for improvement are about fitness or learning something new, just keep trying. Keep practicing self awareness and set goals for things you can improve without being hard on yourself. Making small steps for your own personal improvement will build confidence and momentum and help you set consistent habits that result in your growth.

And remember to celebrate each step of progress you make!


2. Only try to control one person — you!

Controlling behavior is pretty normal, or at least it’s pretty common. Controlling behavior is very unhealthy, but practicing self control is key to personal improvement.

Trying to manage your own controlling behavior can be a challenge, and then you’ll also have to deal with controlling behavior from other people. It’s a double whammy for sure.

Sometimes controlling behavior is inspired by anxiety or insecurity. Other times it’s ingrained in a family or in a workplace to the degree that controlling behavior becomes normalized and toxic. Regardless, if it’s learned hopefully it can also be unlearned.

One thing’s for sure, at some point in your life (or maybe throughout your life) you’ll have to deal with controlling people. And when you do remember that it’s really not about you. The solution is to keep your focus on your own behavior. And If you find yourself wanting to control what’s happening in other people’s lives it’s time to change your own behavior.

It’s also pretty normal to have to deal with controlling behavior in other people, maybe your boss or a romantic partner or a parent. If someone in your life is trying to manage your decisions or showering you with so much attention that you don’t have room to make your own choices, it might be time for you to set some boundaries. When someone tries to control your behavior or words, you might be able to improve the situation by calmly pointing out how that makes you feel in the moment when it’s still happening. If that doesn’t work you might need to separate yourself from those people.

When it comes to other people and their behavior, you can’t cause it, you can’t control it, and you can’t fix it. You can’t avoid all of the controlling people in the world, but you can set boundaries with some and learn to peacefully coexist with others.


3. Make self-discipline one of your skills

Self discipline isn’t about being hard on yourself it’s about thinking before you act so you can be mindful of your behavior and your reactions to other people’s behavior.

Self discipline helps you pay attention, and it gives you the power to stick to your decisions and follow through on commitments.

Self discipline is having control of your emotions and behavior in any kind of situation, and self discipline can give you staying power if you have a difficult task and you’re tempted to give up.

Focus on having control of how you feel, on your behavior and your attitude. You can and should try to control your needs, wants, happiness, and sadness. Live your life by your standards and trust in yourself.

Each time you intentionally choose to work on a task that’s meaningful in your life or that helps you accomplish your goals, you’re practicing self discipline.

Self discipline takes practice, the more you use it the better.


4. Try something new — often!

If you keep doing things the same way you always have, over time you’ll stop growing and changing. You have to try new things to feed your creativity, find inspiration, and feel motivation. Nothing is supposed to last forever, not relationships or jobs or anything else. It’s healthy to try new things!

Some people focus on winning at the one thing they know best instead of creating different experiences. Winning is exciting, but winning isn’t everything. Trying is everything.

Staying in one job for too long can make it hard to find the courage and confidence to interview for a different job when you have to. It’s important to meet new people and try new things in your personal life too. 

New things can be small and simple, or big and exciting. You can drink tea instead of coffee, or go for a walk instead of watching tv, or try a new kind of food you’ve never tasted before, or travel to a city or country you’ve never visited before. The more you try new things the more you’ll realize that new experiences are part of the joy in life.

Consider trying at least one new thing every week for a month and see how you feel. All of that newness will help you grow, boost your confidence, discover things you like (and don’t like), and expand your perspective. Give new things a try!


5. Learn patience, and make it a habit!

Patience is the ability to tolerate waiting and delays without becoming anxious or upset. It’s being able to control your emotions and manage impulsive urges so you can remain calm and rational when dealing with frustrating situations.

Patience is a challenge for most of us, but it’s definitely a habit worth practicing. It might be fun if we could snap our fingers and instantly get whatever we want, but thank goodness that’s not how life works. Patience is healthy.

Do you tap your feet when other people are talking? Do you make rash decisions? Do you assume people who don’t arrive early are rude? Are you rude to store clerks if you have to wait for them? Are you always rushing around and hurrying unnecessarily? Do you interrupt people when they’re talking? Do you blurt things out without thinking before you speak? Do you act before considering the consequences? Do you get anxious when other people are not hurrying? Do you always open the microwave door before it counts down and finishes? It always helps to spend time practicing being patient.

Being an impatient person can make it harder to succeed in your career and harder to maintain healthy relationships. Being patient will help you stay flexible and open minded so you can change course more easily when things change around you.

Have you ever spent an entire day with patience as your main goal for every interaction? If you can practice patience with your family, friends, coworkers, and people you come across randomly throughout the day you might feel happier, healthier, and less stressed.


6. Avoid negativity, in yourself and others

Learning to avoid negativity is one of the best personal improvement tips out there. Everyone experiences negative thinking some of the time, but if negativity becomes a regular part of your life it can get out of control and impact your mental and physical health.

Awareness is key so think about whether there are negative people close to you or if there are other causes for negativity in your life. And since you can’t change or control other people, make an effort to recognize and value the positive people and situations in your life.

If you’ve reached a point where you’re the one bringing the negativity, the most important thing you can do is be gentle with yourself. It won’t help to beat yourself up for negativity. Find positivity in your life and do your best to replace negativity with that since positivity is the best solution for negativity.

Try having a positive word of the day or even a positive theme for the day when you need a boost of positivity. Do your best to recognize and celebrate the good things, practice gratitude as much as possible, and spend time doing things that make you feel good with people who bring out the best in you.


7. Learn the value of time, especially YOUR time!

The value of time is a concept used to determine the relative price of goods and services and how prices are affected by time spent on travel and transport. You can also use that concept to better understand the amount of time you spend working for an employer, with people you care about, being productive, resting and relaxing, or accomplishing personal goals.

Everything we spend our time on has a value and an opportunity cost as well. How you spend your time affects how you feel, how much energy you have, how inspired you are, how optimistic you are, and how much you can accomplish. So make sure at least a portion of your time is dedicated to what you value most including your physical, emotional, and mental health and your family and friends as well.

You can start each day making a list of the tasks you need to complete, the activities you want to enjoy, and the people you want to communicate with. That will help you set priorities, stay focused, reduce stress, and feel more in control of your life.

Learning the value of YOUR time will help you remember that time is worth more than money, so spend your time wisely.


8. Find a new hobby — often!

Hobbies are activities you do for your own pleasure, that enhance your life and reduce stress. Hobbies can also create opportunities to socialize and build relationships.

It might seem like you don’t have enough time or energy for a hobby since life is busy enough, but that’s exactly why you need a hobby. Some people will find hobbies they love and are passionate about, and others will find hobbies that just feel like a break from everything else. Either way, hobbies are a good thing!

If you’re due for a new hobby start by making a list of the things that interest you, things you want to improve upon, and things you’ve never tried before but want to learn. Hobbies can be physical, social, creative, or all of the above.

You can consider physical hobbies like hiking, swimming, or playing tennis. Or social hobbies like book clubs, taking an art class, or taking music lessons. Or creative hobbies like writing, knitting, gardening, paining, or photography.

There’s something out there for each of us!


9. Create a bedtime routine that gets you enough sleep, every night

How much sleep do you need? Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep, while teens need 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night. It’s important to get good-quality sleep on a regular schedule so you feel rested when you wake up.

Getting enough sleep can improve your mood, reduce stress, help you think clearly, improve your memory, control your emotions, complete tasks, maintain good relationships, get sick less often, recover from being sick more quickly, maintain a healthy weight, feel energized and motivated.

NOT getting enough sleep can increase stress and anxiety, make you irritable, make it hard to focus, cause you to make bad and unsafe choices, get sick often, recover from being sick slowly, increase your weight, weaken your immune system, worsen existing health conditions, and decrease quality of life.

If you’re having trouble sleeping try making changes to your routine to get the sleep you need. That includes being open to changing the things you do later in the day and changing your bedroom so it’s dark and quiet at bedtime.

And if sleep deprivation seems normal for you, do something to make sleep a priority starting tonight. Set a consistent sleep schedule and stick to it. Make sure it’s as easy as possible for you to go to sleep and stay asleep every night.


10. Create a morning routine that sets you up for a good day, every day

Your morning routine sets the tone for the day ahead. The more consistent you are with your early morning routine the easier it will be to accomplish the goals you’ve set. A reliable morning routine also sets the tone for respecting your time and everyone else’s.

It feels good to set small goals first thing in the morning so you know what to expect. That also makes it easier to stick to other personal goals since you’ll get better and better at managing your time.

If you have a good morning routine you’ll be able to add more positive habits throughout the day in your career and in your personal life as well.

If your mornings are chaotic you’ll carry pressure and stress throughout the day, but a decent morning routine will help you learn to respect your time and use it intentionally. And that will set a positive note for the rest of the day.


The Takeaway

We all need personal improvement and continuous growth throughout our lives. Keeping personal improvement activities in your daily routine will help with your career, lifelong learning, and relationships so you can enjoy a rich and happy life.

Personal improvement is an ongoing process of understanding yourself, setting goals, and putting plans in place to reach your goals.

To wrap things up here are those 10 personal improvement tips again for you to consider…

  1. Focus on improvement, not perfection
  2. Only try to control one person — you!
  3. Make self discipline one of your skills
  4. Try something new — often!
  5. Learn patience, and make it a habit!
  6. Avoid negativity, in yourself and others
  7. Learn the value of time, especially YOUR time!
  8. Find a hobby — often!
  9. Create a bedtime routine that gets you enough sleep, every night
  10. Create a morning routine that sets you up for a good day, every day

Thanks for reading this post!

I hope some of these personal improvement tips are useful for you.

Here’s one more plug to check out the blog and podcast from Teen Financial Freedom!

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