Self-Optimization. The current hype that involves a lot of sweat, tears, anger, anxiety and the endless strive for success. At least this is how I would describe Self-Optimization after I’ve read a text in a German newspaper on Saturday.

The text was all about the current trend of our society: Self-Optimization. We measure and observe ourselves, track our calories, our sleep, our weights we push. We think of our own body and life as a business. If there is something related to an outcome which doesn’t provide us a chance to grow our “business”, we aren’t interested. Like an organization tries to measure their profit and impact, we are trying to measure our own progress. We define our happiness with numbers, our success with figures and our overall satisfaction with how near we came to the 100%.

Self-Optimization or the trend of embodying perfection

That’s the way you can call it. Self-Optimization is all about pressing the last few percent out of our well-nourished, good-looking and extra-ordinarily functioning body’s. It’s using every percent of our brain power. Working until the middle of the night on our nutrition and workout plans. Sculpting living gods out of our imperfect self’s.

And maybe, everything I’ve written so far on this blog sounded exactly like I’m another one of these guys, preaching this message. If yes, I want to apologize. Actually, I couldn’t argue that you are wrong thinking this, because to some extent I wanted to give you tips to achieve exactly the aforementioned. But after I’ve read the text, I experienced something enlightening. I suddenly understood that Self-Development isn’t about the same thing that Self-Optimization is.

Sure, there are some similarities between these two aspects, but overall they are inherently different approaches to improve yourself. While both methods aim to improve yourself, the approach to get to an improved self is different: Self-Optimization describes, as I’ve said, the absolute will to optimize yourself. Becoming perfect is the goal. Optimizing is about achieving the best possible. Therefore, Self-Optimizers tend to measure everything. Like calories, steps, weight, cars, money, women/men and so on.

The dangers of the number game

With measuring everything in our lives, we start becoming a number. In the past, I measured myself for example in how much weight I can push. Everyone that pushed more weight was “better” and I felt miserable thinking about this. I became a number myself. Instead of seeing me as a whole, with all weaknesses and strengths I only saw the 140kg deadlifts. And everyone who was better in this exercise, was “better” overall. At least, this I what I thought unconsciously.

This made me dissatisfied. Instead of looking on my own progress or, even better, the way I feel while doing a workout, I observed others. I looked for what they bench and lift. With this, I lost sight of myself. I lost sight on my satisfaction, my happiness and motivation.

Because of this negative experience, I don’t want to encourage anyone to become a performance beast. Don’t make the mistake to start measuring every aspect in your life, only to become perfect in it. Sure, from time to time it might be useful to track your weight or your progress, but the important thing behind these actions is your approach.

Self-Development, the natural way

To me Self-Development means identifying personal weaknesses and working on them, to give your life a boost. And this isn’t meant in an economical way. As I’ve said, I don’t aim for making someone a performance beast, unable to enjoy life. Self-Development is meant to be an increased mindfulness, a conscious consumerism, an improved understanding of the complexities of life and an improved ability to use your potential.

On the contrary, Self-Optimization is all about becoming a person who is working so efficiently, is thinking so smartly and looking so sharp, that you actually want to know if this person comes from a planet where superhumans are the standard. Self-Optimization is what you can call an obsession. It is the inner urge to become the best. In every single aspect. To become perfect. For example, it’s using your time efficiently to a level, where every second which doesn’t bring any countable outcome is a wasted second.

This doesn’t sound like life

And it isn’t life! It took me some time to figure it out and I have to admit that I catch myself from time to time thinking that I should use my time better. Instead of “wasting” it for spontaneously happening occasions. To invest my money, instead of spending it. To see things economically.

The golden mean

As I’ve said, I catch myself not enjoying a given moment from time to time. Only because sometimes my thoughts are caged in the future. Because I think about what is happening next and where should I go to. Because my brain is trained to create a plan, how I can use my time and my energy as efficiently as possible.

This is the point, where I’ve realized that I drift into Self-Optimization instead of Self-Development. It is the point where things don’t make fun anymore, because the pressure I create myself starts to increase.

I mean, look around. Look at all those fancy YouTubers, Millenial Stars, Models, Jetsetters, Instagramers, and other persons who scream success. We are surrounded by them. Every day we open an app or a website, we see good-looking successful persons who embody happiness, aren’t they?

As “normal” Millennial, I often think: “Damn, I want this too! I want to become such a successful person with all the goodies, all the fortune, the influence and this shiny life.” And for most, there are only 2 approaches they see:

Either, they don’t believe that they can become the same or they believe that they need to be the same. What if I tell you, that both ways are super unhealthy? That both ways, will start tearing you apart over a certain amount of time?

How I can tell? I experienced this on my own. Actually, I was even a mix of the two mentioned ways. I longed for becoming “successful”, for the sake of becoming “successful”. But at the same time, I felt like I’m not able to achieve it.

What to choose?

What is the truth? Becoming “successful” or not being able to become “successful”? All I know now, is the following:

There is no need to aim for being perfect, because you will aim to be perfect for the rest of your life. There will always be a little spot, where you think that you can do better, because this super shiny star does better in this regard. Or simply put: You will never stop running.

On the other hand, you are able to become a lot. Not exactly like the persons you see in the media every day (simply because this isn’t their real life), but a lot more than you think in the beginning. How I know this? Well, I experienced this also myself. I didn’t think that I can become a blogger, and now I’m a blogger. Am I a successful blogger?

Yes, I am. Why? Because I’m courageous enough to write about the things that busy my mind. The things that fear or scare me, but also the ones that excite me. This is already success. I put myself out there. There is no need to go overboard with earning a huge income from that, only for the sake of being able to call myself “successful”.

To get back to the main point: Life isn’t about being perfect. In the beginning, life is a white sheet of paper. And you can choose every pencil and every color to create your own individual painting. The one, that makes yourself happy. You won’t have every pencil or color at the same time and there is no cheat for getting that. Therefore, don’t aim for perfection before starting to draw your painting. Draw your painting and whenever you want a new color or a new pencil, learn what you need to get it. This is Self-Development. This is what I’m in.

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