Susan Sontag on self-improvement (on Brain Pickings):
I don’t believe there is any inherent value in the cultivation of the self. And I think there is no culture (using the term normatively) without a standard of altruism, of regard for others. I do believe there is an inherent value in extending our sense of what a human life can be. If literature has engaged me as a project, first as a reader and then as a writer, it is as an extension of my sympathies to other selves, other domains, other dreams, other words, other territories of concern.
This has been my experience for the past year. Ever since I started working from home last March, I focused on improving myself and developing new habits. But, all the self-improvement felt empty because other people did not benefit from it.
I believe self-improvement cannot be made in isolation. The improvement of one's self becomes valuable only in the context of community, connection, and relationships.
This is also true with our work, our art, our ideas, and our contributions. As long as other people do not benefit from them, they will cease to have any real value and impact.
We're so obsessed with doing more — more work, art, self-improvement. But, are we really making an impact? Are we creating real value?
When it comes to any improvement, we should focus on how it will impact other people's lives instead of focusing on merely our own benefits.