How to Work on Yourself for Life-Long Results

Meet Gregory, a writer and the brains behind Face Dragons. He's the go-to guy for getting things done.

Gregory's been living the digital nomad life in Asia for as long as anyone can remember, helping clients smash their goals. He writes on topics like software, personal knowledge management (PKM), and personal development. When he's not writing, you'll catch him at the local MMA gym, nose buried in a book, or just chilling with the family.

Working on yourself is essential, but it’s not always clear how to do it. What part of yourself should you work on, and how do you even do it? Face Dragons is all about improving, fulfilling your potential, and working on the parts of your life that give the most bang for your buck. So you’re in the right place. Grab a cup of coffee, and let’s go deep into working on you.

Self-development has exploded in recent years. 78% of gym-goers are under 55. If you asked your parents’ generation, few have probably been to a gym this year. And if you ask your grandparents’ generation, most have never been to a gym, period.

It’s not that gyms weren’t around 50 years ago; they were, but the culture wasn’t interested in self-improvement.

So what’s changed?

Two apparent answers spring to mind.

  1. Social media highlight reels make people feel the need to compete. They need to show that they’re not lagging behind in life.
  2. Secondly, access. Look at YouTube, Amazon’s front page, or your favorite website’s front page, and you’ll find an abundance of self-improvement content (like this).

If you’ve ever seen videos of Jim Rohn or Tony Robbins from the 1980s and 90s, you’ll see that back then. You’d have to pay and travel to a workshop to learn how to work on yourself. Now, it’s everywhere.

The sheer volume of advice makes it so hard to follow. Should you be:

  • Taking cold showers?
  • Waking up at 5 am?
  • Journaling?
  • Meditating?
  • Building a second brain?
  • Powerlifting?
  • Going carnivore?
  • Reading the classics?

If you’ve dabbled in self-improvement, you no doubt tried some of these – but therein lies the problem.

Choose One Thing for Massive Impact

Focusing on one thing and staying consistent with it over a long period is the answer, so you must choose the right thing.

Around 2017-2018, I tried taking only cold showers, and I did it for 18 months. I quickly learned it wasn’t the golden bullet people said it was. It won’t change your life – it’s just a cold shower.

Those 18 months of cold showers are not bringing me any benefit anymore. So, if you focus on one thing, pick something of value that will keep bringing you value for the rest of your life. That’s what it means to work on yourself.

Learning a language, for example, stays with you (assuming you keep speaking it). The work you put in will pay off for years. It will influence where you live, where you go on vacation, the type of job you choose, and the people you spend your life with. If you let it, learning a language will completely change your life.

Imagine two people wanting to work on themselves. One chooses cold showers, and the other chooses to learn Japanese. Two years later, one is living in Japan with a new fiance, a new job, new hobbies, and a nice life, and the other is still shivering in the bathroom, waiting for something to happen.

I’m not saying cold showers are useless (they’re great for recovery after a hard workout), but they’re not the best place to start when you want to work on yourself.

Where should you start? Make a Life-O-Gram!

Life-O-Gram
  1. Take a piece of paper and draw a circle on it
  2. Split the circle into six roughly equal sections
  3. Label them Money, Legacy, Family, Health, Friends, Hobbies, and Mentality
  4. Color them according to how accomplished you are. E.g., if you’re a multimillionaire, you can fill in the “Money” section. If your hobby is BJJ and you’re a blue belt, fill in about 20%.

Now look at your life-o-gram. What is it telling you? It might be telling you to focus on earning more money – build a side hustle. Or if you need to work on your legacy, write a book. Or that you should develop your mentality – read How to develop grit.

The Ten Best Ways to Work On Yourself for Life-Long Results

Not sure where to focus your time? Here are the ten best ways to work on yourself that will keep giving back to you for the rest of your life.

1. Get Strong

Have you heard anyone say, “I wish I was weaker?”

No, neither have I. Being strong has no downside; it’s universally good. No matter what situation you find yourself in, being stronger is always better.

  • Going on vacation and need to haul a big suitcase? Stronger is better!
  • Accidentally find yourself in a streetfight? Stronger may be the difference between life and death
  • Need to fix something? Open something? Find something under the couch? Yep, stronger is always better.

Stronger men have more confidence and are less likely to suffer from negative emotions, anxiety, or depression.

Women prefer stronger men.

Seriously, go get strong.

2. Learn to Cook

You might not cook three meals a day, but I bet Gordon Ramsey makes a much better cold breakfast than you!

Long after the fad of OMAD (one meal a day) has gone out of fashion and intermittent fasting is a thing of the past, people will still be eating three meals a day. The only difference is some people know how to cook and have great meals, and some don’t and eat bland meals or TV dinners.

Say you made two meals a day for 60 years. That’s a lot of meals (44,000 of them). Each one could be way better if you spent a little time learning how to cook now!

When I lived in China, every time I had something amazing to eat, I learned how to make it. If you’ve never had xiangla tudou si, jing jiang rou si, jianbing guozi, or guotie, you’re missing out. (And you won’t find them on most Chinese menus in the West.)

Learning to cook isn’t hard, and you can practice every day. Don’t you want to be the guy about whom everyone says, “Let’s go back to yours to eat?”

3. Learn to Sing (or Play an Instrument)

We’ve all heard someone say, “I wish I’d have stuck at playing piano when I was young. I’d be amazing now if I’d only kept it up.”

As someone who is tone-deaf, I can also attest to how sweet it would be to be able to sing. Why?

No one hates music. When a song comes on that you love, you can’t help but want to sing along, right? Wouldn’t it be so much better if you sounded good when you did?

That’s before you even get to the idea that perhaps one day you might want to write a song, but who’s going to take you seriously when you sing it and sound like the vacuum when it’s sucked up something it shouldn’t? Although you might not need to sing in public very often (unless you move to Asia, as I did, where karaoke is a popular pastime), if you can sing well, you’ll find more opportunities to do it.

4. Learn a Language

I touched upon language learning above, so I won’t repeat myself.

I learned to speak Chinese at university. By the time I was 26, I was married to a Chinese woman, living and working in China, and I had an entirely new life than the one I left back home.

Years later, I learned to speak Tibetan, leading me to spend time in Nepal, India, and Tibet. It also had a considerable effect on the way I thought about everything.

Learning a language really can change your life.

5. Learn a Martial Art

I’ve said it before: learning martial arts can solve all your problems. You benefit from getting strong, becoming more flexible, and improving confidence and mentality. Martial arts will provide you with a social circle, a place in a hierarchy, and a goal to aim for.

I even created a personal development plan using martial arts as inspiration.

6. Spend More Time in Nature

If you’re serious about working on yourself, time in nature is something you mustn’t skip.

You weren’t created to live in concrete houses looking at Ikea furniture and stooping over one screen or another all day. You were meant to be outside in the infinite variety that is nature.

Next time you’re outside, look at the grass at your feet—hundreds of thousands of blades, every one a slightly different shade and standing at a different angle. Look up and see the branches—even the straightest isn’t straight. It has wiggles and lumps, and more branches sprout from it. No two things out there are alike.

Now, go back to your home office. Even if you did your best to make it the most productive place it could be, as I have, there’s very, very little variation. The floor, the walls, and the ceiling are flat and square. Your desk is flat and square. Your laptop, phone, and tablet are flat and square. The books you love so much are flat and square.

Perhaps you have a plant in the corner of the room, but even if you have ten plants, they never give you what the outside gives you.

Time spent in nature is calming and has been shown to improve mental health.

  • It’s good for your eyes (it’s because you can focus on things much further away)
  • You get sunlight (more vitamin D)
  • Fresher air (fuel your brain with more oxygen)

Most importantly, with the infinite amount of information coming from nature, the mind can let go.

7. Learn GTD

I discovered Getting Things Done while at University in China. I had the audiobook on my iPhone 4, and I listened to it every day on my walk back from class.

Learning the principles David Allen lays out in that book completely changed the way I organized my life and spent my time. It was a huge watershed moment for me.

For anyone who hasn’t spent much time thinking about their life, their goals, how they spend their time, and how they could be spending it better, GTD is a must-read.

Learn it once and carry the ideas with you forever.

8. Improve Your Posture and Flexibility

I started Taekwondo when I was six years old, so flexibility was never a problem for me. As that was over thirty years ago, however, it’s becoming something I wish I’d spent more time developing.

I could sit in the splits with no hands when I was a teenager, but now I can barely touch my toes, and my hips ache before I’m out of bed in the morning.

A short flexibility routine is the answer. Like being strong, no one says, “I wish I was less flexible.”

  • It will stop you from getting injured
  • It will make you faster
  • It will make you stronger
  • It will give you a better posture.

And posture is where the lack of flexibility will grate on you.

In your twenties, no one cares about posture. Nothing aches. But in your forties, it becomes challenging to change.

9. Do a Digital Detox

I’m sure you’ve heard of the digital detox before, and you may have even tried it once. But without a clear plan and a step-by-step guide on how to do a digital detox right, failure is all but certain. How many days did you manage before telling yourself, “I have to look at my phone in case a family member calls” or “I need to use the computer for work?”

We all know that those hours spent aimlessly browsing on X or Instagram or the two hours spent on Twitch, even though you didn’t find anything interesting to watch, had nothing to do with family or work!

Don’t feel bad, though. Digital detoxing is tough, but it’s worth it. That’s why I recommend Face Dragon’s Digital Detox Protocol. You’ll be glad you did.

10. Become a Better Communicator

Communication isn’t just a buzzword you hear around the office or the purview of alpha males and highly extroverted people.

You could start working on it today. There are plenty of different types of communication skills to work on; here are a few that will pay dividends.

  • Public speaking
  • Sales
  • Persuasion
  • Debate
  • Building rapport
  • Teaching/Training
  • Networking

The Next Step

The next step is to get up and go do something. You got this!