None of us is perfect, and if we really want to make a good impression, we should not only accentuate our positive traits, but also improve the areas where we come up short.

Just be yourself. That’s common advice offered by well-meaning friends to those seeking tips before a job interview, or on the eve of the first day of school, or when getting ready for a date.

It sounds good, but a better piece of advice would be to be yourself, only better. None of us is perfect, and if we really want to make a good impression, we should not only accentuate our positive traits, but also improve the areas where we come up short.

The fitness world is filled with people trying to improve weak areas: people who want to be in better shape, improve their appearances and lose weight; people who are fighting the effects of illness, injuries and aging; people who want to be faster, stronger and more athletic. They all recognize that “just being themselves” is for people who have no higher aspirations.

If you want more out of life and recognize that personal growth is the best way to achieve it, here are some tips to start you on your way:

1. Identify

First, you must figure out the areas where you would like to improve. If you’re extremely overweight and have wanted to be thin for years, this step may seem like a waste of time. But you can’t begin your journey until you figure where, specifically, you want to go. Write down your goals (it’s important to focus on just a couple at a time) and write down why they’re important to you.

Taking this first step helps your mind prepare for the task and takes the goal from the “wishing” stage to the “doing” stage. You no longer wish to lose weight (or whatever your goal is), you are actively trying to do it.

2. Plan

The second step in self-improvement is to devise a plan to get you where you want to go. Having a goal without a plan is like a football team going into a game with no plays.

The plan should be pretty simple to start. It should include three or four specific things that you will do to meet your goals. In the fitness world, a weight loss plan or sports performance plan is best devised with the help of a professional. Trainers and nutritionists can provide you with a plan that’s much more likely to succeed that one you devise yourself.

Similarly, there are professionals in every field, no matter what your goal, who can narrow your focus and provide guidance. Asking for help is a sign of strength. Don’t be afraid to do it.

But if you’re not comfortable with that, at least consider finding people who have the skills and the qualities you seek and then associating yourself with those people on a regular basis.

If you want better grades in school, sit next to the students who get all A’s, not the ones who fail. If you want to lose weight, hang out with people who are in shape and have a healthy weight, not the ones who are overweight and unfit. If you want to make more money, talk to people who are wealthy, not those who struggle to pay bills month to month.

3. Execute

Once you have a plan of action, it’s on you to make it happen. It may not be a perfect plan and it may eventually need adjustments, but give it the chance it needs to succeed.

This is the stage where you find out if your goals are really important. Wanting something is easy. Making a plan to achieve it isn’t hard either. Putting in the time and energy that your plan requires is where most people fail and go back to “just being themselves.”

4. Adjust

No plan is perfect and all plans need occasional adjusting. Back to the football analogy: Even teams with a great set of plays meet at halftime to talk about what worked, what didn’t and what needs to be done differently in the second half.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t achieve your goals right away. Continue to look for new approaches, different techniques and innovative strategies.

If you continue do that, you’ll eventually find that you can be yourself, only better.

Frank Shelton is a certified fitness trainer and owner of Frank Shelton Fitness. He can be reached at (302) 463-4000 or frank@franksheltonfitness.com.