A key theme of this blog is taking responsibility for your dating success by continually pursuing self-improvement. However, a crucial question is how to actually achieve such change.
There are really two kinds of changes — quick fixes and long-term changes.
These are things that you can literally change overnight. You should absolutely pursue these first because you can get immediate results with relatively little effort e.g.:
- Hair: You can dramatically improve your appearance by changing to a hairstyle that works for your facial shape. Choose a decent stylist and ask them to recommend a look. Over time, you can experiment with different styles to determine the best one. You can also get ideas by imitating (good-looking) same-gendered celebrities that have a similar facial shape.
- Clothes: People’s first impressions of you are — for better or for worse — based on your clothes. You want to look “put together” and doing well in life. It’s why people dress well at work. And it’s why Barney from “How I Met Your Mother” always suits up. While you don’t necessarily need a suit or anything expensive, you need clothes that look reasonable and fit your body. Go to an outlet mall (for low prices) with a friend who has good fashion sense.
- Cleanliness: This speaks for itself.
- Using Online Dating: As long as you put in a substantial initial investment (4-8 hours) into creating a well thought-out profile with high-quality photos, it should be possible to get at least one date within a month of messaging a large number of people. This is a great way to get out of a dating rut — getting practice, validation and maybe even a relationship. However, I would caution that if you are in need of a lot of long-term self-improvement, online dating might not work out (yet).
I can think of one more thing that delivers immediate results but it’s awful advice: It is possible to learn “pick-up artist” techniques that consist of manipulating vulnerable people into short-term relationships. The problem is that such techniques are highly unethical so they don’t lead to healthy, long-term relationships. Resist the temptation and work on long-term self-improvement instead, as discussed below.
These are things that can take years to improve e.g. social skills, weight, education, career and confidence. There are no easy solutions so you can only aim to make gradual improvements that give compounding results over time. While you might not notice changes week-to-week and there may be setbacks along the way, you will see results after months or years.
Here are some guiding principles for achieving long-term change:
- Don’t try to change too quickly: For instance, if you are socially anxious, throwing yourself into demanding social situations (e.g. asking complete strangers for dates) can cause you to crumble and reinforce a belief that you aren’t socially competent. Instead, you should start by improving simpler social interactions (e.g. practicing small talk on restaurant waiters because they tend to be polite) before moving on to more difficult situations. Another example is losing weight. A major mistake is to attempt a sudden diet. For instance, if you starve yourself by only eating salad without any protein, you’ll get so hungry that you’ll eventually binge on the closest source of food, which will most likely be unhealthy fast food. Instead, you should focus on gradually changing your diet by reducing fat intake, eating more vegetables & whole grains instead of refined carbs, drinking less soda, etc.
- Plan changes in advance: Sometimes it’s easy to get caught on the work treadmill and by the time you get home, it’s so late that the only activities available involve drunk people. The key is to schedule a regular activity in advance (e.g. every Tuesday). This forces you to be more efficient at work (because on Tuesday you know you need to get somewhere after work). And because you’ve already planned it, you’re more likely to actually do it. Another trick is to pay for the regular activity in advance (e.g. an eight week class). The threat of wasted money is good motivation to show up.
- You actually have to make changes: After a hard day at work, you might log onto the internet to search for dating advice, exhausted and drinking Coca Cola. You might bump into extreme and/or depressing articles written by internet trolls that give you an excuse to not even try. Or you might bump into helpful articles (like this one!) that tell you how to change. But reading information by itself is not enough. You actually have to put it into practice. The key is to start by making any small, positive change to your life e.g. join Toastmasters or a running group.
- “I try so hard but it’s not working”: Maybe you are trying hard at the wrong things. For instance, if you aren’t getting much out of a particular weekly event (e.g. you aren’t learning anything or meeting friendly people), stop going to it. Try many different things over time and see what works for you.
- There are no shortcuts: Real, lasting change comes from developing good habits over time (e.g. eating healthier food each day and increasingly seeking out more social activities). For instance, you can’t go from having low self-esteem, to going to an overpriced one-day workshop and then suddenly *BAM* all your self-esteem issues are fixed.
- Stop procrastinating: Unless you have some serious short-term deadline, don’t delay self-improvement “till next week”. For instance, if you say that you’ll work on it after you get that promotion, will you really? After you get that promotion, will you then say that you need to buy a house? And after buying that house, will you wait until you’ve renovated it? And after that, will you wait until you’ve sold it? How many years do you want to wait? If not now, then when?
- Drop other behaviors that you are deliberately using to avoid self-improvement: Examples include working on weekends and playing video games. A more insidious type of avoidant behavior is self-sabotage e.g. you need to improve your social skills but you’ve been hurt by some idiot in the past; to avoid getting out there to meet people — and implicitly risking more hurt — you don’t take care of your appearance so that when people treat you badly, you can rationalize that it’s because of your appearance, instead of working on your social skills.
But Why Me? Why Do I Have to Improve?
How come your friend Jane or John doesn’t have to go through grand plans and years of self-improvement? Here are some possible explanations:
- Looks: Perhaps they won the genetic lottery and they’re so physically attractive that they can get dates just by walking through the office.
- They already put in the work: They’ve developed themselves over years, whether deliberately or inadvertently. For instance, in the social skills department, perhaps they spent more time meeting people than going to classes. As a result, while you might be more educated, they might be better at dating.
- They met someone by pure luck: But if they haven’t worked on self-improvement and they get dumped, they are going to be in a very difficult situation dating-wise. Luck favors the prepared i.e. someone who works on themselves.
I’m sure there are other reasons but why does it matter? What matters now isn’t how you got here or how unfair life is — what matters is how you can make your life better for the future.
Self-improvement helps you in all facets of your life. Social skills could help you stand up for yourself at work. Losing weight can extend your life by years. As you improve yourself and meet more people, you will naturally meet someone who will be attracted to you.
The alternative is to sit around, “be yourself” and wait for luck to turn your way. And it might never. Doing nothing is not a strategy — it is just plain lazy. Do you want your life to be in the hands of fate, or do you want to make your own fate? Copying the friend who did nothing but still met someone is not something you should try to replicate.
Until next time my friends, keep improving yourself!