“Is life not a hundred times too short for us to stifle ourselves?” ~Friedrich Nietzsche

Self-improvement, or self-help, is a term used to refer to personal initiatives that intend to improve one’s life or mental-emotional state of being.

But self-improvement isn’t only for those who are struggling through some sort of emotional suffering.

If not, then why bother at all?

Those who engage in practical, everyday self-improvement efforts — like we Renegades here on DaveUrsillo.com — are ordinary men and women who simply believe that others around us deserve more. That they can be happier. That we ought to try harder. That we know we can do better.

If for no other reason, we set the bar of expectation at such a height to oblige ourselves to always strive and to never settle.

How does someone begin a self-improvement initiative? What does one require? How long does it go on for? When does it end? These questions can only truly be answered by you. Self-improvement is a mission, a journey, and there is no road map to unequivocal “success.”

There are, however, three principles or stages of self-improvement that you will recognize and thus use to better understand your efforts along the way.

Principle 1: “The Tinder” or “What’s Needed Before Starting Self-Improvement”

Unlike having to search and gather tinder to start a campfire in the woods, the tinder or “necessary starter ingredient” that is required to light a fire of inner growth and personal development is wholly within: you possess it always.

In as little as being human, possessing a conscious mind and beating heart, you already own everything that is needed to begin your efforts of personal reflection and deep contemplation to nurture your better self.

Principle 2: “The Spark” or “How to Begin Self-Improvement”

With the necessary ingredients for a self-improvement effort already and always within you, like a campfire, you will need a certain spark to light the fire of desire within you. In other words, what is it that drives you?

Perhaps bettering your inner self is for the sake of a loved one or a relationship that you hold so dear. Maybe you are starting a family and wish to set a better example for your children, or the depths of darkness and depression are obliging you to change your life and your ways of thinking.

Whatever the specific reason, you must understand that the cause that has obliged you to embark upon a movement of self-improvement and personal development is a catalyst. Even if the spark that lights your fire to change is an undesirable one like loneliness, sadness or perpetual anxiety, realize that this spark is beneficial because it has now — by your choice — become a driving force that you will use like a tool to become a better, happier, more balanced person.

Principle 3: “Sustaining the Flame” or “How to Maintain Self-Improvement”

A camp fire waxes and wanes between stages of glowing hot flame and a low smoldering burn. So too will your efforts of self-improvement and personal development ebb and flow over the weeks, months and years.

At times, troubles or difficulties will propel us to force logs onto the fire and kindle it to burn hotter and stronger. At other times, all aspects of life will feel like bliss and we wish for nothing more to enjoy it; the fire simmers and smolders without notice.

But in life, as we all know, nothing is static or stagnant — there is always so much change. Change happens around us and it happens to us. As such, we are reminded that sometimes the fire will begin to flare on its own: strong winds of change will obligate us to stoke the flames and refocus our energies and efforts into reigniting our self-improvement.

At other times, rains will pass overhead: we lose sight of our priorities, we forget and admonish the reasons that sparked our efforts to better ourselves for the sake of others around us. If we lose sight, lose urgency, or forget our priorities, the flame will be extinguished completely.

Thankfully, we must only remember that is required to reignite our efforts of self-improvement is already and always within us. All that is needed to spark the flame is our willpower, a decision, our choice to raise high the bar of expectation and to live up to it.