The Ultimate Guide to Self-Actualization (Beyond the Self-Improvement Grind)

So, Self-Improvement Didn’t Make You Happy?

Alina | Psychodynamic Psychology
27 min readFeb 25, 2022


Photo by Andreas Klassen on Unsplash

Many people — maybe also you — start the new year, the new month, or the new day with the intention to become better, more productive, efficient, calm, focused, happy. You aim for more clarity — who has not asked themselves at some point: “What am I supposed to do with my life?”

And wanting to move forward, to grow, as we will see is a very normal healthy part of being human. So then you try a bunch of things. Let that be minimalism, bullet proof coffee, journaling, all sorts of meditation, cold showers, and every possible variation of a 4am morning routine. And I can imagine that there are actually some positive outcomes of that self-improvement grind. Maybe you will finally improve your health, get better grades, or the promotion you wanted to.

But what happens to many — and all the recent videos about “toxic self-help”, “why self-improvement will ruin your life” or “quit hustle culture” attest to that — is that the self-improvement grind doesn’t always deliver on the promise of the optimised life. Or even if it does, people still end up asking themselves: “I do everything I should do. Why do I not feel happier?”

And the first time this thought comes sneaking in, you might assume that you just haven’t found the right thing yet. And it becomes more and more painful. Next up people rave about infra-red saunas, then people say it’s ayhuasca, or other psychedelics — and there is just no real end to the next thing that could finally bring the reassurance, calm, relief, or feeling authentic and alive you’re craving. But what if you just don’t want to travel to the Peruvian rainforest?

On this happy note: Welcome to this guide to self-actualization beyond self-improvement. In the following, I’ll shine a light on what might people lead to starting their self-improvement journey, why it didn’t make them happy, or bring more calm or clarity into their life plus what steps to take to design a more meaningful life — all with the help of (mostly) psychodynamic theory.