I know a couple things about myself.
One is that if I don’t try to get better, I generally won’t.
Another is that if I do try to improve myself in some specific way, I’ll almost always fail.
With that knowledge, it is easy to coast. To live in society we need to have reached some minimum level of competence, and most of us are especially capable in a couple areas that set us apart from the people around us. Isn’t that good enough? We can pretty easily make it through life not needing much more than that.
The problem with trying to better ourselves is that it takes huge investments of time and effort, some of our most precious personal resources, and not only that, the investment isn’t guaranteed to pay off. What if you spend years trying to learn a language or a skill and eventually just have to admit that you aren’t up to it?
When we’re improving, training, learning, the temptation is to look at the people around us and see how they’re doing. They’re the enemy I have to be able to defeat. They’re the ones I’m struggling to beat. And that way of thinking has real value, done correctly.
But the reality is that they aren’t the real enemy. My true opponent, first and foremost, is myself, is the gravitational pull within me that makes me desire to stay the same, that makes me doubt the very possibility of change for the better.
Every step in the right direction is a step into the impossible, a triumph against the unknown and the uninviting.