If I ever portray self-improvement as a flawless, automatic process, please slap me. Because it’s really the opposite.

There will be days when you barely get out of bed for one reason or another, and days where you fall off the metaphorical wagon so hard that your actual butt gets a road rash. But as much as it sucks to not meet your own expectations…

The only thing that counts is that you improve one thing each day.

Just one little old thing.

Today I’m writing this message to you from the trenches. I woke up with such a hangover—from two days straight of volleyball in 100 degree weather, not binge drinking—that I couldn’t even imagine what a normal day would look like. So I rested. Work was piling up, yet I lay in a heap.

Basically I did nothing in 16 waking hours except submit a few freelance pitches and scratch my ass. My normal success routines and productivity went out the window, which would ordinarily be the start of a rut. But I’ve got a little promise to myself that makes a huge difference…

I never let more than a day go by without knocking out a French lesson.

So at the end of today, even when I felt down on myself for having been a bump on a log, I flipped on my “be a man” switch and committed to a half hour intensive French lesson. Even though it wasn’t that big of an effort compared to all the work I could have put in, that one small improvement entirely redeemed my day.—It kept me in self-improvement mode where otherwise I would have fallen off.

Yippee, you might be thinking, or maybe, “Good job, little buddy!” One little French lesson might not seem like a big deal to you. But it really was a big deal to me.

Little buddy my ass…

Because if I hadn’t done something to make me better than I was the day before in some way, my confidence would have dipped and I would’ve lost touch with my mission of self-improvement that drives me to become a better writer, coach, friend, husband and man every single day. I would’ve woken up the next morning in a such a low emotional state that I likely would have done absolutely nothing…again.

It’s okay to accomplish nothing once in a while, don’t get me wrong. But when you let those streaks grow, one day becoming two, two becoming three, that’s when you lose all of your momentum—it’s when your self-improvement journey halts dead in its tracks.

That’s why it’s so important to always end the day with at least one improvement, one measurable increase in skill or value, or one tangible creation of value for others.

What will your one thing be?

This improvement could be something so small as a French lesson, as was my case, or it could be a marketing class, or a design class, or a few chapters in the latest book you’re reading on your craft, or thirty minutes of practicing your craft.

Doesn’t matter how big or small it is.

All that counts is that you reflect back on whatever it is you did and you feel pride for having done it–which will keep you from indulging in negative emotions like the guilt and remorse that make it so much easier to continue doing nothing, to delay your improvements, to entrench your rut.

So if you could make just one improvement every day this week, what would that improvement be?

Write it down now. And if you were to have a day from hell, and you had to choose from five small-to-large improvements that you know you could knock out before the end of the day, what would those improvements be?

Think about this for a while. Because if you aren’t absolutely committed to making at least one improvement per day, even on your worst days, you’re going to find it impossible to keep your self-improvement streak alive—which means that your career, fitness and financial goals can just keep waiting!

As for me, I know that my writing career, all the publications I’ve landed, and the incredible coaching program I’ve created have all depended on at least a hundred days over the past five years where I only made one small improvement. And because I stayed true to my lifestyle of self improvement, I kept my confidence high enough to put in the work required for success, even when success seemed impossible. I never gave myself the opportunity to sit and wallow because I always had at least one thing to be proud of. And that pride kept my self improvement alive where most other people would have let it die.

If you’re reading this before bed and you don’t have an accomplishment yet…Do something good for yourself!!! And if you’re the one who really needs my coaching to get your self-improvement back on track…why are you waiting?!

As a “lost millennial” turned solopreneur writer and coach, I write on massive personal development for sites including Entrepreneur, Fitbit and Fast Company, and I teach ambitious people how to become successful solopreneurs and balanced human beings here at Millennial Success.

Originally published at millennialsuccess.io


  • Daniel Dowling

    Performance Coach, Writer for Greatist, Fitbit.com, Mindbodygreen, and FastCompany.

    Dan Dowling, here. I was the poster child for lost millennials - couldn’t keep a job…addicted to relationships…constantly checking social media and email. But when I got hungry enough for success as a writer, I gave up my distracted lifestyle and adopted one daily goal that changed my life forever: Do. Your. Best. Today, five years later, I’m a productivity coach who’s published on the world’s biggest sites (including Entrepreneur, Fast Company and Mindbodygreen), and I’m transforming lives through the best-effort, zero-distraction lifestyle that worked so well for me. Come and and learn how to always give your best at Millennial Success!