Maximize Improvement

Maximize Improvement
People want to maximize improvement. Even though we have an abundance of material wealth and a free democratic society, most people remain unhappy and they pursue improvement. Ultimately, they become even more dissatisfied, frustrated and unhappy when books, retreats, Yoga and looking toward a “better self” doesn’t provide the results that were initially overpromised.

People don’t fail to maximize improvement because they lack information. They’ve fallen into patterns of behavior from which they are unable to overcome. Chasing improvement from a standard or “mainstream” approach is not enough. It gives you only standard results. You remain unimproved.

You cannot overcome deep-seated, pervasive, conditioned patterns and routines and, develop and grow your character out of hope and inspiration alone.

Two Forces to Maximize Improvement

The force that pulls

Many people readily work on what pulls them toward a higher vision of self and becoming a better version of themselves. We read hopeful, motivating, inspiring articles and books. We look for examples to follow. We attend retreats, talk to coaches and counselors, attend Yoga and practice meditation….This is all good, inspiring. It’s enjoyable and uplifting. It seems natural, easy and enjoyable to work in this “positive arena.” We try to maximize improvement. Why isn’t it more effective?

While you are trying to pull yourself forward, there is an unspecified weight holding you back. This weight is sometimes called the “inferior function” or the “shadow.” It is largely unconscious. We don’t direct it. But we can use it to our advantage. It is very useful and productive to reveal it, specify it, name it and manage it. Then it becomes a force that pushes you.

The inferior function, the force that pushes

The effort that will combine with the “pull” and push you to maximize improvement is not intuitive or doesn’t come as natural. In fact, it’s usually avoided. That’s because it takes courage to face it. It is uncomfortable and riddled with misaligned energy and conflict. It’s not an easy, quick-fix task that delivers results within the hour.

Here’s how it works. As you enjoy the effort that pulls you toward improvement, ask yourself and reflect deeply on what your life would be like if you did nothing.

  • What if you just stayed on the couch with a beverage, seething about your “idiot boss,” your incorrigible family?
  • What if you did nothing to maintain your relationships?
  • What if your very purpose was to help everyone have a slightly worse day?
  • What if you decided to work as little as possible on everything you possibly could?
  • What if you allowed yourself to become resentful, cynical and arrogant?

What would your future be like if you adopted the “to hell with it” attitude?

The force that will push you to improve exploits your fears. It motivates you to outrun and stay ahead of the miserable existence that is chasing you. The image of the gnashing unhappiness that would be if you did absolutely nothing is energy that will push you if you become aware of it, reveal it, name it and manage it.

In 2012 the Houston Astros were ranked dead last but in 2017 they won the World Series. They knew that bad days were temporary. They knew that “slumps” would end. All the other teams knew this too. What the Astros did brilliantly was to use their short-term misery as a pushing force to improve. They turned the shame of being in last place into a motivational force.

Life is more difficult, frustrating and disappointing than a baseball game. Without direct attention, injustices, grievances and negativity build and compound. They accumulate into a life-long sequence of resentful memories that can make you bitter, cynical and destructive. They overshadow who you really are.   

Don’t Ignore Negativity Because It Surely Will Not Ignore You

The suffering of repressed negativity is damaging. If not recognized and integrated into your improvement and development efforts you risk taking it out on yourself, your partner, your family or coworkers.

Some people will erupt while in the “grip” of the inferior function or the shadow. Road rage is an example where anger is doing the driving. The rational, intelligent human being is hijacked and being driven by a monstrous return of pent-up frustration, anger and resentment.

People sit cross-legged. They do Yoga. They read and reiterate beautiful quotes, poems and mantras. That’s nice. But you can’t move forward and create the happiest, the most valuable life possible if on a deeper level you are resentful, angry and seething. Use the push and the pull to maximize improvement efforts.


A small evil becomes a big one through being disregarded and repressed– Carl Jung


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