Jeanette Dubois

If ever there was anyone who has some Room For Improvement it is me. Oh Lordie.

My Improvement Room

Like a Room To Rent, sometimes this “Improvement Room” is small and fully furnished and there’s not much to do to get it to where I need it to be. But in other cases that room is an empty cavernous hall, and it’s going to take me awhile to cross it, clean it up, and fill it with good things.

For instance….

Time and I need to have a talk to work a few things out.

Time. Managing it and working with it and making it for tasks I’ve taken on and offered to do and said yes to despite myself, along with all of those responsibilities I have daily. You’d think during this pandemic when I supposedly had all the time in the world (as it were), I’d have been creating and publishing and cleaning my house and getting all of those projects done I’ve put off for too long… but no.

Time and I have a great deal of room for improvement. Just ask Alison, as yet another deadline for something I needed to get to her (like this article) whips past me like cars on a freeway. Especially now when we are all living in what I like to call “God-Time” where a single day feels like a thousand years and a thousand years feels like a day.

Exercise is giving me the stink-eye lately and my body is suffering because of it.

Exercise. Like many of us, I have been walking more during Covid, though not as much now that I’m working remotely from home once again, but still, I get out on nearly a daily basis for at least a half hour trot around my neighborhood, or more if possible. And I head out for hikes and long walks on weekends like I’m looking for El Dorado. Yet I haven’t lost any weight – what? Why? Oh, right.

Because it’s not like the walking I’m doing is “In Addition To” the exercise and normal activities I used to do when I was so busy that I had no time to take a daily walk. It is “The Only” exercise I get anymore, other than walking up my stairs to go to bed, since those prior activities that kept me so busy no longer exist. Or they exist, but from home now. Right.

Listening and I have learned to get along, but its’ Improvement Room is a cathedral hall that I am still crossing.

Listening. As you can probably guess from the way I write, I enjoy talking. A lot. It has taken me many years to learn to listen, to curb my desire to jump in with an answer to a question not yet asked or a comment to a statement not yet completed. My mind works fast and my tongue with it. However, because I love my family and my friends (especially for my friends) I have consciously chosen to learn how to stop my mouth as it opens, and take a breath, and simply hear them. In this, I have had a great deal of improvement since I was younger, even if it seems to some I could use more. But it has been something I have literally had to think about and work on for myself.

Why is Self-Improvement So Hard?

Why is it often so difficult to improve ourselves even when we know it’s for our own good? Even when we know we will feel (and often look) so much better if we just do it?

There is a verse where Paul says; “What I want to do I do not do, and what I hate I do.” The human conundrum in one sentence, folks. We all have that inner struggle with what we know we ought to do to better ourselves, and what we decide to do instead. Usually because what we decide to do is either (a) easier, (b) faster, or (c) a habit that’s hard to break. Usually it’s all three.

Improvement, after all, is something that generally takes conscious effort, dedication, and usually some kind of work. And let’s face it, most of us are just too dang lazy to want to do all of that. That Improvement Room, or “I.R.” as it were, just seems like way too much trouble to get up off the couch and walk into.

But sometimes… we decide to just do it. Sometimes it’s easier to improve than to stay as we are, even if the I.R. is a big one. Why is that? Well, here are three reasons why we choose to improve that I’ve observed, and how we can stay motivated to stick with it.

Three Reasons Why We Choose to Improve and How to Stay Motivated

Jeanette DuBois Saying Goodbye

Reason 1:

Sometimes it’s easy to walk into that Improvement Room because what we want to do is something we love and are excited about or interested in.

Or it’s something we have a natural affinity for and so we spend time expanding that talent. So we take the time to learn, to challenge ourselves, and to grow because we are enjoying the process of doing it.

And we are enjoying the changes we see in ourselves as we go, which motivates us to continue. It’s a win-win, where the need for the improvement and the desire to do so are in perfect alignment. In this case, the I.R. is an ongoing hallway of doors that lead to unexpected places and, often, happy surprises.

Even if we face difficulties or challenges in it, we tend to stay in this particular I.R. constantly upgrading and updating it, because we have an inner fire or a deep sense of satisfaction that we receive from doing it.

And we seek out advice and competition from others who have a similar I.R. to ours so that it motivates us to continue our own process. As my husband, who is a professional musician, often says, he wants to play with people who are better than him so that it forces him to up his game.

But this particular I.R. has it’s own potential downside. We can get locked into this room, unable to leave it as we desperately try to “keep up with Joneses” and upgrade it even when it is beyond the need for repair. We can allow this room to cause us to fall into despair if we don’t get it looking and feeling exactly the way we think it “ought” to be. And often the way we feel it “ought” to be is in comparison to others who have a similar room to our own.

For this I.R. to be truly effective and the best it can be, we have to remember why we entered it in the first place: because we love it. Because our hearts led us there. We have to allow ourselves to just enjoy the room for what it is and as it is, even as we continue to move the furniture around, update it, and generally play within it. This is an Improvement Room to have fun in, so we need to remember to do so whenever we’re there.

Jeanette DuBois Saying Goodbye to my mother

Reason #2:

Sometimes we enter an Improvement Room because we’ve gotten to the point where there are no more choices BUT to improve. Change or die.

Whether for our health, or our environment, or our relationships, we finally get to a place where we’ve exhausted every other option. Perhaps through our own misconduct, or through the deeds of others, we have found ourselves not just ready to improve, but needing it desperately. And so we make the decision to do so, in order to continue living.

This kind of Improvement Room can be a dark one, even a dangerous one filled with potholes and stumbling blocks that can cause us to question if it’s worth it.

Yet we’re motivated to keep going because there is no turning back.

We know this room is leading us away from things that were too terrible to endure or continue, whether within ourselves or those around us. And so we grit our teeth and move on, making our way through the I.R. slowly but surely, knowing that on the other side, no matter how plain it may seem, it will be better than where we just were.

Every one of us has entered this particular Improvement Room right now in the form of the pandemic and all that is going on in the world today.

It’s not a room of our making, it’s not one we wanted to go through or chose to go through, it’s one we were tossed into without ceremony. And we are all doing the best we can with it.

This type of I.R. is usually the most difficult to get through. It can take a long time and a lot of starts and stops to get it even half-way in shape. There can be a lot of repair work that needs to be done. But as we fix up this room and walk through it, when we get to the other side we will look back on it and be amazed.

We will see our strength. We will see our endurance. We will see how we were able to take something broken and repair it, replace it, restore it, and make it beautiful again. We will see our soul – and we will be proud.

Jeanette DuBois Saying Goodbye to my mother

Reason #3:

The most common reason we enter an I.R. is simply because, well, we want to.

There is no excitement to it, other than we know we’re doing something that will be good for us. There is no big motivating factor or anyone shouting at us to get it done. There is no particular inner calling or talent asking to be brought out in us. It’s not something we tell others about or get all worked up about.

We just look around and perhaps see others who have improved themselves in a particular way (hello, Exercise!) and decide to do it too. Or we read an article or a book that inspires us into action. Or we watch a YouTube video, movie or TV show that causes us to think; “Hey, I could do that.”

Or we just say to ourselves; “It is time to make this change. No more dithering or screwing around. I want to grow, and here is how I’m going to do it.”

And so we do.

These are the rooms, however, where the growth that can happen, the decorating being done can be so subtle it’s not until we are done with it, or have passed through that room as it led us to another even bigger one that we notice it. And when we do, we are stunned by the transformation this one seemingly “little” decision has created.

We may have thought we were just working with a simple room that we were curious about, but we end up turning it into a spa retreat room where we’re able to rejuvenate ourselves. Or the workout room we always wanted. Or the craft room where we turn ideas into reality.

This room, which generally starts from the humblest of beginnings: a mundane daily choice to make a change rooted in nothing more than our curiosity and a shrug of our shoulders, most often becomes the room we enjoy deeply and live in daily.

In all of these situations there is one common theme:

We are inspired to grow. We are inspired to do better, be better, live better, think better, feel better… to simply Better Ourselves.

Because we recognize this is what we need in order to live. We recognize this is part of life. We recognize this is how we make ourselves happier.

After all, if we thought everything was just fine, in fact was perfect just as it was, we’d not feel the need for improvement. Because, well, as just stated – it’s Perfect.

And there are certainly those who feel this way about themselves – they are perfect just as they are, no need for growth or change.

Sometimes this is a good way to feel about ourselves. Sometimes we need to accept this idea of ourselves and allow ourselves to just be who and what we are, without judgment. To embrace the perfection of our parts and the wholeness of who we are.

This can be a tool for healing.

But on the other side of that is also recognizing that none of us are perfect. It’s impossible, since we’re human. We’re alive. And being alive means constant change, which means constant Room For Improvement. No matter who you are, no matter what you do, no matter how much you have, no matter how good you can be, the reality is, as the song says; “everybody’s got their something.” There is no such thing as being perfect.

And this also can be a tool for healing.

Those who don’t recognize this, who stay in the “I’m Perfect” mindset, actually set themselves up (or more likely, others up around them) for a load of pain, because ultimately they become narcissistic. It is classic narcissism to believe that you have no need to improve or change or grow in any way, ever. Realistically it’s just not possible to be a living, breathing being on this planet and not have something that you need to change, improve or grow into.

Which is good news for those of us who go to the opposite extreme, and constantly beat ourselves up as we race from one I.R. to another in search of that same perfection narcissists believe they already have.

However, this is just as unbalanced and unhealthy for us (and those around us) as being a narcissist. In this case, it’s still buying into the belief of perfection. We just don’t believe we are there yet – but think we should be, we ought to be, we can be, if we just try hard enough and run fast enough through enough Improvement Rooms that we finally make it to that Nirvana of Perfection. We are in constant judgment.

So let’s not go there either. Let’s find that balance.

Let’s go to that place where we recognize there are many different Improvement Rooms in our lives…

But we don’t necessarily have to walk through all of them.

In fact, there are some whose doors may be permanently closed to us for one reason or another.

Some of us cannot do the Exercise thing because of illness, or disability, or life circumstances that simply don’t allow it. Some of us cannot do the Time thing because of multiple responsibilities that take all of our Time with them. Some of us cannot do the Listening thing because we have a learning or cognitive disability that makes it not only hard but quite nearly impossible to focus. And this is all Okay.

So it’s not about beating ourselves up over the things we’d like to improve, but haven’t been able to – or never can. But neither is it ignoring the things we can improve but choose not to because we don’t believe we need it.

It’s about looking at the many Improvement Rooms in your life and recognizing which ones you are able to move through right now.

And then letting the rest go.

…until you can get to them. …if you can get to them. …when you can get to them.

Because you will.

Sometimes the best and fastest way to get through that I.R. is to just focus on the one you are in right now. And then decorate the heck out of it.

But sometimes it’s going from I.R. to I.R. and allowing them to work together, to inspire you collectively, to become a whole building that lets your interior design skills go bonkers.

So give yourself a break, and focus on the one(s) you are in the middle of right now. Decide if it’s worth finishing the work there or not. Decide if you can focus on all of them, or just on one. Maybe the one you’ve been sitting in is too claustrophobic now. It’s time to move on to another I.R. and let this one sit for awhile. Maybe it’s time to walk out of it and realize it will never be finished and that’s Okay too.

Or maybe once you take a look around you’ll come up with fresh ideas and be inspired and motivated to finish it. Especially if you recognize that you are allowed to focus on just one Improvement Room at a time.

Yes, yes you are. One. At. A. Time.

But with every step you take in any Room For Improvement, know that it is your entire house you are decorating – it is your entire soul – not just that space. You are creating a place where you can be comfortable and happy. You are setting up the ways in which you will succeed. You are making your dream home become a reality.

In every Improvement Room you are designing your Improved Life. So take the time to decorate it with the loving attention it deserves.

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By JEANETTE DUBOIS

Jeanette is a film & tv editor, writer, director and producer who’s worked on Emmy & Telly Award winning shows, movies, and music videos for a variety of networks.  She’s also a trained operatic who mostly sings to her cats now, though sometimes she expands her audience to her family & friends.  She loves gardening, good books, good wine, and good conversations, preferably all at the same time.

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