28. November 2018

Self-optimization: Dreaming of a better self

Healthier, faster, more beautiful, cleverer – new technologies are creating new possibilities to benchmark ourselves and to improve our performance. Self-optimization increasingly determines our lives. This is nothing new. In accordance with the law of evolution (“survival of the fittest”) mankind has always been driven to self-improvement. The best chance of survival is with those who best adapt to their environment. In industrialized nations we no longer have to fight for our survival day by day. But we still feel the urge for self-improvement.

Where does this need for self-optimization come from?

It partly originates from the new requirements in our professional world: not only do we have to be fast and efficient, but we also need to constantly showcase us and our abilities in the social media, on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. But self-optimization was with us already before the digital era. In the mid-90s the question came up in Europe how to ensure the employability of staff throughout their working lives. It was addressed by staff training, but also by a number of key competencies people had to have to remain viable on the labor market: team skills, self-responsibility, flexibility, the ability for self-reflection, or an entrepreneurial spirit. The idea was that only employees who were prepared to constantly adapt to new activities, employers, and jobs would prevail.

More time – but what for?

We are living in times of fast paced change where life-long learning is a must. The new generation of employees are to transcend everyday levels. Technological change pushes the trend for self-optimization. A number of applications and tools are there to help us realize our potentials to an even higher degree, to simplify work processes, and to win time – from the productivity app that automatically reminds us when the time for a task has expired, to project management apps that track the workflow of the entire team, to health apps that regulate the routines and the well-being of employees.

Companies in the acceleration trap often relapse


Sandra Berenbold, Manager Energy Factory St. Gallen AG

But appearances are deceptive: instead of making efficient use of time won, we fill it with even more tasks and activities. At the same time we strongly feel our lack of time. This may lead to an increase in burnouts, accusations of bullying and sickness-related absenteeism. Large companies are partly looking for new staff and leave the dropouts in the care of social insurance systems.

Self-optimization to improve workplace interaction

A healthy degree of self-optimization is good for your personal and professional development. But it should happen on the basis of good communication that puts interaction in the foreground and allows everyone to set their own limits whilst striving for common goals. Managers should give their staff sufficient freedom to find their ideal path and ask for self-reflection. If employees feel good because they don’t have to constantly perform above their personal limit they will be better employees and serve the company more, especially in the long term.

Proitera EAP is the confidential point of contact for employees with problems. If they get professional support they can regain their work-life balance, for the benefit of your company and the good of your employees.

7 tips to optimize your performance

Know and accept your limits: Learn to recognize your personal limits and possibilities. You cannot do it all and please everyone. It’s important to test your limits to learn how far you can go. Give your best, but have the courage to say no, to give up, and to fail.

Make proper use of perfectionism: „Nobody is perfect“. Perfectionism only helps if it helps you on. Don’t exaggerate and don’t put yourself under too much pressure.

Learn to be content: Learn to see beauty in what is and focus on what you already have. Think about your real needs or goals in life. Are you spending enough time with   your  family and friends? What interests do you have outside your job? What do you thoroughly enjoy?

Space for regeneration: Self-optimization is strenuous. Learn to let go and to relax without plan and instructions. Look for a place where all you can do is be idle.

Correctly assess your potential for improvement: Self-optimization only makes sense if there is potential for it. Set reachable and realistic goals. Your wish for improvement should not be based on false expectations of ideals.

Don’t take yourself so seriously: Learn to accept things as they are. Practice self-forgetfulness, reconcile yourself with your weaknesses and drop it for once.

Accept weaknesses and strengths: Don’t fight your weaknesses but integrate them so you can control them. Accept that there are things you are not good at and ask yourself whether self-optimization is really worth it here. Rather focus on your strengths and find out what you excel at. Think about your true talents.


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