If you're into self-improvement like I am — you read blogs and books on the subject, dog-ear pages, type notes in your phone, even give yourself an annual performance review — it can get overwhelming figuring out how to navigate your path to bettering yourself.
Should you set annual goals, or monthly goals, or both? Should you plot out time on your calendar each week for One Big Thing, or block out each day into chunks devoted to the different areas of your life? Should you record, at bedtime, three things you're grateful for or three things that went well that day?
Here's what I think. First of all, any practices or tactics you try out in your quest to be your best self are great. Adopt them at your leisure, and don't feel pressured to incorporate a new habit into your life that doesn't resonate. Hate meditation, after trying it for a few months? Don't meditate. Can't get into journaling? No need to force yourself.
There's really just one guiding principle that's simple to remember, and to serve as your north star in living your life in a fulfilling way. When you're feeling confused or unclear on what changes to make to your routine, just remember this:
Behave with others as you want them to behave with you.
Manage your direct reports at work the way you want your boss to manage you. Treat your sister the way you want her to treat you. Conduct yourself with the people standing among you on the subway the way you wish they would with you. Talk to your wife as you'd want her to talk to you.
You can't change other people, so it's not about trying to magic-wand everyone around you into being kind or patient or understanding. It's about living your life in a way that makes you deeply certain you're doing your best.
They don't call it the Golden Rule for nothing.
Experiment with whatever other self-improvement exercises you want — give one thing away every day, smile at a stranger on the street each morning — but let this simple step be your north star.