Mark Blasini


The four types of improvement methods


Over the years, I've read a lot of self-help books. In my studies, I've found that there isn't just one way to improve yourself - there are many. And not only are there many ways, but there are different kinds of methods for self-improvement.

Below are four types of methods I've discovered from my research.

  1. Habits/practices. These are actions that, when taken regularly, can lead to incremental improvements in your life. For example, maintaining a morning journal, meditating, budgeting, practicing gratitude, walking, drinking 64 oz of water, etc. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin is an example of a book that promotes the development of habits to gradually improve your happiness.
  2. Systems. These are processes that either ensure or help ensure certain actions take place. For example, setting up automated rules in email; using a calendar that sends notifications; using a file system for your desktop files; using automatic billing; etc. GTD (getting things done) is a great example of a system for completing tasks.
  3. Rules. These are guidelines that place limitations on behavior, usually for the purpose preventing undesirable results (stress, wasting time, wasting money, etc.). In other words, good rules usually keep you from developing bad habits. For example, "No using phone after 9 PM"; "No eating refined sugar"; "Wait 24 hours before making a big purchase"; etc. Food Rules by Michael Pollan is an example of a rule-based approach to dieting.
  4. Tactics. These are predetermined actions or set of actions used to solve a predictable problem or produce a specific result. For example, eating a quick, healthy snack when you get the urge to eat something unhealthy; taking a walk or doing a breathing exercise when you feel stressed; promoting your website on social media and YouTube to increase subscribers; asking viewers to like your page in your video to increase likes; etc. The 4-Hour Workweek is a good example of a step-by-step tactical approach to working less and enjoying life more.

Understanding which type of method to use depends on what specific outcomes you want to generate.

For example, if you want to make incremental changes to your daily life (more focus, more energy, less anxiety, etc.), then focus on habits/practices.

If you want to ensure that certain actions take place (e.g. your inbox is emptied; you make it to your appointment; you are paying bills on time), then focus on a system.

If you want to prevent bad results from happening (e.g. stop wasting money on things you don't need), focus on rules.

And if you want to solve a recurring problem or produce a specific result (e.g. 1000 subscribers on your channel; a toxic coworker; etc.), then focus on tactics.

It all starts with what you want. Determine that, and then you can determine the appropriate method.