Becoming: Improving Your Ability to Become Better

Ryan Gottfredson

by Ryan Gottfredson

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I have been thinking a lot about “becoming” lately. I want to share some of my thoughts related to the topic, and ask for your feedback along the way.

Before reading this article, I would greatly appreciate it if you completed this quick one-question survey.

1. Does Everyone Want to Become Better?

I know there are people who want to become better because I am one of those people.

I believe that people who want to become better can think about what “better” means in a few different ways. I think there are:

  • Some people focus on improving in their roles. They are prone to think or say, “I want to become a better spouse, leader, father, mother, employee, partner, sibling, etc.”
  • Some people focus on developing higher-ordered characteristics. They are prone to think or say, “I want to become more humble, coachable, authentic, vulnerable, trustworthy, reliable, emotionally intelligent, etc.”
  • Some people focus on raising their abilities. They are prone to think or say, “I want to become more talented, intelligent, effective, efficient, complex, good looking, etc.”
  • Some people focus on improving how they are seen. They are prone to think or say, “I want to become more respected, recognized, valued, seen, heard, etc.”
  • Some people focus on improving their outcomes. They are prone to think or say, “I want to become more rich, successful, popular, etc.”
  • Some combination of the above.

But, I also believe that there are people who either:

  • Don’t necessarily care to become better. They are fine staying stagnant and comfortable.
  • Want to become better in some way, but are unwilling or mentally blocked from putting forth the effort and discipline to become better.

2. Gauging Your Drive to Become Better

Which of the bullet points resonated with you most strongly?

If it was one of the first six bullet points, which one did you feel the strongest drive and determination for? And, what particular aspect?


Now, how strong is that drive?

Is your drive at the level of (a) a wish or a dream, (b) a back-of-the-mind priority, (c) a front-of-the-mind priority, (d) something that you are deeply investing in (e.g., do you have receipts to prove it?)?

Is there an area where you think you need to give greater focus and priority?

I would like to imagine that most people want to become better in some way. But, I also think:

  • Relatively few people are deeply investing in becoming better. For example, I commonly find that the executives I work with want to become better leaders, but they feel there are more urgent priorities that they have to direct their attention toward.
  • People are prone to think that they are investing more in becoming better than what they really are. For example, I think we are all prone to rate ourselves as being “above average” for investing in becoming better. (Note: We can’t all be “above average.”)

(Do you agree or disagree with any of this? Feel free to comment below. And, note the section you are commenting about by using the section numbers.)

3. How Do Most People Go About Becoming Better?

My hunch is that the primary ways most people go about becoming better are by:

  • Gaining more knowledge/education, and
  • Gaining more experience

While these things won’t hurt, I do question how much they help. For example, I am learning more and more that knowledge and experience does not necessarily make one more emotionally intelligent, a better father, more effective, more recognized, or more successful.

4. How Should We Go About Becoming Better?

I am also learning more and more that what:

  1. Sets our current levels of ability and operation, and
  2. Creates the gap between who we are now and who we want to become…

Is our internal operating system (i.e., our body’s nervous system).

For example:

  • If our internal operating system is wired such that it shuts the body down when receiving constructive criticism, we will be is unlikely to harness the value of constructive criticism for learning, growth, and development.
  • If our internal operating system is wired to shut down when the going gets tough, instead of persevering, we will be unlikely to put in the effort to become better, and we will continually hold on to what is comfortable.

What I am trying to get at is this: If we want to become better, we are going to be most successful at becoming better if we focus on refining and upgrading our internal operating system.

And, the huge benefit of focusing on refining and upgrading our internal operating system is that when we do, we become:

  • Better at our roles (e.g., spouse, leader, father, mother)
  • More of our ideals selves by developing higher-ordered characteristics (e.g., humble, authentic, vulnerable)
  • More able (e.g., talented, intelligent, complex)
  • More seen (e.g., respected, recognized, valued)
  • Better at generating valuable outcomes (e.g., rich, successful, popular)

5. How to Refine and Upgrade Our Internal Operating System

A simple answer to a big question: Read my book, The Elevated Leader.

At a foundational level, refining and upgrading our internal operating system requires that we become aware of its wiring. In other words, we need to become aware of our sensemaking tendencies, investigate how well they are serving us, and make efforts to rewire those sensemaking tendencies.

For some people, they can do this by reading helpful books, like the following:

For other people, they may need a coach or a therapist.

But, something I find in common with all elevated people is that they all engage in mindfulness practices, as mindfulness practices are the exercises/training that allows for the neurological ability to upgrade our internal operating system. If you aren’t engaging in mindfulness practices on a regular basis, I recommend:

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