Are you using self-improvement wrong? Are we all?

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Have we been doing self-improvement wrong? The self-help industry has existed for more than eight decades. By now, you would think that we would all be achieving our best and living extraordinary lives. Instead, the rate of prescriptions for anti-depressants is rising, and people report being more unhappy and anxious.

Over the last many years, thousands of books have been written on the topic of self-improvement, living your best life, better managing your time, and finding the love you deserve…

Or have you been programmed to work against your own best interest?

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Do you want what you want? Do you really? Or are you pursuing what others told you to desire? The things society has programmed you to desire? Things that may be counterproductive to what will create a meaningful and satisfying life for yourself?

Look at what you are working hard to acquire, be they money, stuff, a degree, a promotion, or likes on social media. Did you decide that these are the thing you wanted out of life? Most likely, no. These are desires society placed within you.

You Have Been Programmed

Think back to when you were a small child. As long as…

What separates elite performers from the average Joe are their nighttime habits.

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You don’t want to be average; you want to be better than that. And do you know who isn’t average? Professional musicians and athletes. If you’re going to live your life at an elite level as they do, then you need to live as they do, and that means getting plenty of sleep.

Burning the candle at both ends and working into the night is ok if you want to generate more of the same work. …

8 Lessons from science on how to make the most of your time away from work.

Photo by the author and courtesy of Charles Black Photography

Vaccinations are increasing, COVID is waining, and people are looking forward to getting out and going on vacation again. I’m sure you want to make the most out of your holiday, so let’s look at what science can teach us about how to make the most of your time away.

Plan to your Personality.

My wife and I enjoyed a wonderful vacation on the island of St John’s. We relaxed on empty beaches and snorkeled among brightly colored fish in pristine water. It was wonderful for us, but we discouraged our friends from following in our sandy footsteps. Why? Because these friends like luxury…

Confusing the two could prevent you from reaching your goals

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It’s possible to achieve all your goals and yet never get what you want out of life. This failure to achieve your life’s ambitions occurs when you confuse means goals and end goals. Neither one is inherently right or wrong. When used in the right way, both are necessary to create a great life. But when means goals get confused for end goals, things can go badly off track.

Means Goals vs. End Goals

If you skip dessert to lose weight, you are pursuing a means goal. Forgoing the treat is a means to the desire to get thinner. The activity is a means to…

Your ego can be your friend or your enemy, the difference is in how loud you let your ego become.

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You are familiar with the tycoon who claims their massive ego brought them success by enabling them to ignore what others told them and never taking no for an answer. However, seemingly every bar has a person who followed the same principles and is now drinking away the pain of their failure. Ego more often gets in the way of success than guarantees it.

On the other hand, many in the eastern tradition tell us that the ego is wrong and should be silenced or eliminated. …

The one thing most holding you back in life is that you fail to do what you know you need and want to do. Understanding why will show you how to fix that.

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There are two fundamental questions in self-development; “Why don’t we pursue the things we want in life,” and “Why don’t we do what we know we should.” In this article, I will address the second of those two questions.

You know what you need to do to become the best version of yourself. There is no shortage of articles on what you need to do; eat right…

You play small when you don’t bring out your best. Learn how you sell yourself short and what to do about it.

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You are playing smalls anytime you shrink from your potential. When you dismiss what you truly want in life for comfort and the illusion of safety, you are playing small. When you don’t pursue your dreams because you are afraid those dreams will make others uncomfortable, you are playing small. Anytime you throttle back your long-term potential for acceptance, the illusion of control, and security in the short-term, you are playing small.

The opposite is playing big: the willingness to endure discomfort in the near term to achieve what you want. It is the readiness to cope with risk, uncertainty…

The danger of medical training is that it can cheat young doctors out of the defining decade of their lives and leave them unable to make up for the lost time.

Illustration by April Brust

Before I graduated from my surgical residency, I purchased a blue blazer, the kind one might wear to events at the country club. It was a strange decision because, as a young man, I never aspired to join a country club. I didn’t golf or play tennis. I was an outdoorsman: hiking, camping, backpacking in the mountains, and canoeing in the boundary waters were my activities. And I was an artist at heart. I read books and took literature classes in college “just for fun.” I dabbled in writing, performed on the university’s main stage more than once, and learned…

If you aspire to be more than a barstool bard, you will want to learn out how to optimize the lessons your experiences are here to teach you.

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A friend introduced me to a new acquaintance with the words, “you are going to love this guy, he tells the best stories.” And indeed, he did. Exciting stories about misadventures that befell him. Funny stories about outrageous situations he found himself in. Cautionary tales based on foul luck that happened to him. The stories went on and on. He seemed to have an endless supply of these reminiscences. At least enough to keep people buying him beers for the evening.

I became less enchanted by his narration as time wore on. Each reminiscence was interesting and artfully told, but…

Charles Black M.D.

Dr. Charles Black is a general surgeon, author, photographer, outdoorsman, world traveler and fireside philosopher. Website:

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