Mental & Emotional Health

Never Stop Cultivating Yourself

Self-cultivation is “making yourself.” It’s a process of choosing who you will be and then becoming that person. To put it another way, it’s a process of discovering yourself and creating your own destiny. Therefore, continuous self-development is essential in the journey of a life lived in pursuit of fulfilment and completion, not only for success.

Everyone has a creative side and a need to flex it. This need doesn’t decrease or disappear as we grow older. Many people actually express their creativity more actively when they’re older and give themselves over to self-cultivation.

You might have pursued self-development in your life for the sake of improving your resume and increasing your commercial value. In your later years, however, you can engage in self-cultivation not simply as a means to attain success, but for the pure joy and inner satisfaction that comes from working to make yourself better, for maturity of character and fulfillment of the heart.

As long as we live, if we want an enriched and healthy life, we should realize our creative nature through unending self-cultivation. We should work to renew ourselves every day until that final moment when our hearts and brains stop working. Stopping self-renewal is like floating in the middle of the ocean on a boat with its engine shut off.

Creativity isn’t only the ability to make something new. It is also the ability to instill newness in the work we do, even if we continue in the same role. Creativity comes from curiosity and an attitude of exploration, from a questioning attitude. Ideas that can change your life and contribute to the world develop when you take a warm interest in yourself and the world. You’ll get lots of ideas if, whatever environment you’re in, you spend time thinking, “What can I do in this environment?” Immediately act on those ideas, even if they are small ones. Such actions come together to create change and growth in life.

Self-cultivation doesn’t mean that you have to take classes from a professional to learn something new. Continuously thinking good thoughts, acting on those thoughts, and moving your body and mind are all self-development. Speaking a previously unknown language, lifting heavier weights, and handling new devices aren’t the only types of results to be gained from self-development. Being able to smile more often, overlooking the mistakes of others with a smile, telling someone more easily that you love them, and being true to yourself—these are also the results of self-development.

Self-cultivation presupposes self-exploration, for you cannot truly develop and grow unless you know yourself. And true self-cultivation never ends with yourself. When you develop yourself, you find that the benefits extend to your family and other people, to your community, to your country, and to the whole planet. Changes in you lead to changes in the entire world.

All changes begin with a choice

All changes begin with a choice. The good news is that we can make choices. This is something truly precious. Even seemingly difficult changes begin with choosing to pursue them. As we age, we face new changes in our environment, such as weakening bodies, retirement, and separation. Many people accept such changes as restrictions and limitations, and they are dispirited by the thought that they can’t do anything about them. But as long as our spirits are awakened, we can choose and create change in any environment.

The power to look back on our lives, to reflect, to dream, and to choose to be a certain way—this is a gift given only to humans. That power can grow stronger with age because, as we’ve navigated life’s stormy waters, we have lived long enough to know all too well that we alone can pioneer and take responsibility for our own lives. Until the final moment of our voyage, we should go forward, never holding back on this beautiful power.

Renewal doesn’t come automatically, and life doesn’t change just because you’re a year older. The years pass and the seasons change in accordance with the cycles of nature, but it is you who gives meaning to those changes and you who chooses renewal. Renewal comes only to those who consciously pursue it. Only those who open their eyes at daybreak can see the dawn. When dawn comes, it remains as dark as night for you unless you open your eyes.

An era of longevity is stretching out before us in which more and more people are living longer and longer, well past a lifespan we consider normal. This era holds infinite potential for completing our lives as we want and limitless opportunities of self-cultivation. However, it can end as an unfulfilled possibility unless you are aware of it and consciously make a choice to become what you want to be. The path to the best version of yourself will open for you when you choose it.

Ilchi Lee is a New York Times bestselling author who penned more than 40 books including the newest title, I’ve Decided to Live 120 Years: The Ancient Secret to Longevity, Vitality, and Life Transformation. You can learn more about the book at


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