Questions to Shape Self-Improvement

This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor.

Questions to Shape The Year Ahead

It is that time of year when many people assess the past year and make plans for the next one. Businesses develop strategies and goals, individuals write resolutions and families plan vacations. Many individual plans involve possessions, places and events.

One of the most important, but perhaps difficult, topics to assess is personal improvement. If you are happy with yourself and your current situation, everything else will seem better. Since it is sometimes more difficult to “see yourself” and develop actions for self-improvement, here is a list of questions to help identify some candidate areas for improvement.

The list covers many topics to generate ideas. I suggest that you simply read the list, make lots of notes as you go and not try to develop or prioritize actions until later. Suggestions for next steps are discussed at the end.



Questions to Ask Yourself

Learning and Growing

What new skills would I like to develop for work or for personal satisfaction?

Am I listening to different perspectives and diverse viewpoints?

What should I read to expand my horizons?

What new challenges should I undertake?

Do I have a role model to observe?


Appreciation and Gratitude

What am I thankful for?

Do I tell those I love that I love them?

What are my opportunities to tell others what I appreciate about them?

Do I celebrate the success and happiness of others?

How often do I praise or compliment others?




Am I satisfied with my relationships? Kids? Colleagues? Family?

How can I be a better partner — one that I would like to have?

Are the boundaries I have set with others the right ones?

Where should I be a more positive influence?

Are the people that demand my time the ones who I really want to use my time?

Are there relationships that I need to repair or let go?

Which relationships do I want to grow?

Do I feel and express appropriate emotion?

How and where can I be less controlling or bossy?

How can I improve my attentiveness and listening?

How do I want to be remembered?




What culture do I want to create for work, family and friends?

What kind of role model am I? What attributes do I want others to emulate?

How can I bring out the best in others? At work? With family? With friends?

Are my actions consistent with my talk?

What opportunities do I have to make a difference in someone’s life?

How can I help others to grow? Who?

How can I be a better team member?

What are my opportunities to teach?




What changes can I make to reduce my stress level?

How can I improve the balance of work, family and self?

Am I spending time on the right things? What is really important?

Do I have God, family, self and career in the correct priority?



How can I improve my spiritual maturity?

How do I nurture my spiritual well being?

Should I improve my spiritual renewal? Praying? Meditating? Journaling?

Am I satisfied with my values? Do others know what they are?




What regrets should I remedy?

Which ones should I learn from and then let go?

How can I prevent a current situation from becoming a regret?



What are my real passions?

What energizes me?

How can I spend more time on my passions?


Giving Back

Am I giving back enough?

Am I helping others to grow? Family? Colleagues?

What are the right causes for use of my time?

What are the ways I can give back?


Future Security and Peace of Mind

What do I need to do to secure future family financial needs?

Am I teaching my loved ones to be self-sufficient?

What should I do for retirement?

Do I have the proper amount and type of insurance?

Do I have a will and desired healthcare documents?


Health and Well-Being

What do I need to change about my diet and exercise habits?

What preventive healthcare do I need to improve? Physical? Screenings?

What habits do I want to start, stop, or keep?

If I am not contented, what do I need to change?

Am I cultivating varied interests?

How can current frustrations be eliminated?



Next Steps


  • Choose: If you have a list of ideas from this broad range of questions, the thing to do next is to choose the most important ones. I suggest that you choose only three things to work on for a specific period of time. With too many areas for attention, focus is lost, progress may be slow and the task will seem overly difficult. Effectiveness will be lost trying to make too many changes simultaneously. You can always keep other items on the list for later. You may even want to attempt just one at a time.



  • Develop Actions: Next, for each of the areas you chose, make a brainstorm list of specific actions that can be used to improve. The more ideas, the better. The purpose is to identify specific, and sometimes small, actions that you can do. Then chose three actions, or habits, that you will attempt. It is important to develop specific actions rather than abstract ideas. They should be things you can actually do. Set specific measures or goals for the actions so you can see progress.
  • Tell Someone: It can also be a big boost for effectiveness and success if you have a friend you can tell about your actions and goals. There is nothing like having an audience to make you more accountable.
  • Evaluate Frequently: Finally, review the list and progress frequently. Positive feedback on what works will be satisfying. Negative feedback about what may not be working will help you take quick corrective action for better results. When you are satisfied that you have achieved your goals for one of the items on the list, work on a new one.



Self-improvement is satisfying and rewarding. As you begin a new year, I hope that these questions and suggestions will help you improve the areas most important to you and others. These questions prompt a continual process of self-reflection. One of my priorities is to get better at this myself.


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