Never is there a moment in life when it isnot possible to practise some form of self-improvement. The difficulty is recognisingwhat can be done and then applyingsufficient will and energy to do it. Beforewe look at this in a little more detail, itmight be useful to think about what self-improvement really is.From a material point of view it is easy tounderstand that self-improvement mightinvolve altering those circumstance in lifethat affect material comfort or perhapsstatus. Certainly the young areconditioned by education and parentingto recognize that work brings materialrewards in terms of standards of living. Itwould be wrong to ignore this area of lifebut, like many things, if the focus isentirely on one aspect, imbalance occurs.Sadly, the West has been driven verylargely by the work ethic and has lostmany values in the process. Even thewelfare principle behind social security,originally introduced to alleviate poverty,has suffered very much as more and morepeople seek rewards and rights forthemselves that often go beyond neededassistance. By and large, the focus of themajority of individuals is not so much onwhat improvements they could make tothe world around them but what they candraw on to benefit their own personalcircumstances.But if we turn that around just a little andthink of how we can improve ourselves sothat we react in a way that is beneficial tothe wider environment, the focuschanges. Instead of thinking of our owncomfort and wanting things for ourselves,we begin to see how we affect others byour thinking, by our speech and by ourreactions to all events in life. Instead of seeing the world as a resource to drawupon, we see it as both a learningenvironment and one to which we maycontribute. Looking at things from thisperspective, it is not so difficult to seethat life is an enormous opportunity. Wecan, if we choose, pass it up or ignore it;alternatively we can grasp it with bothhands and improve ourselves and ourworld simultaneously.From this point of view, education has avast role to play and many educationalistsare philanthropists also. The problem forus is that once school, college oruniversity is over, education in any formalsense tends to stop. Then we rely on, orare subject to, the media or our ownvoluntary inquiry for information that cantransform the way we think. If we tacklethis responsibly, we can make steady andsometimes significant inroads; but if weare to transform ourselves into better andmore responsible human beings, therehas to be an inner change that does notdepend just on intellectual understanding.Intellectual understanding is importantbut it doesn’t necessarily make us intokinder, more compassionate or moreselfless human beings. Something in ushas to transcend the tendency to wantthings for ourselves and see very clearlythat we are all part of one magnificentwhole.