If you’ve ever felt that you are not achieving your true potential, you are not alone. Based on my conversations, it seems that most people think this about themselves.
Perhaps it is part of being human, or perhaps we are just not very good at utilising the gifts that we are born with or develop over time.
It is especially easy in the modern world to waste opportunities and be lazy, because there are endless distractions. Finishing TV Series on Netflix is easier than starting that book.
Ordering a food delivery from your favorite restaurant is easier than ensuring you have fresh ingredients at home and then cooking and washing the dishes.
Using Tinder and social Media to create relationships is easier than actually going over to a stranger in person and striking up a conversation.
But apart from our daily habits which stop us from doing as much as we could, there is also a timeless factor that stops us which is the resistance we have to doing the right thing.
Logically, all of us know the steps we need to take to improve our lives significantly. If you are overweight, the knowledge of losing weight is not hard to acquire. The actual day to day practicalities of following a permanent lifestyle change, on the other hand, are difficult.
This is because there is that voice inside our heads which pushes things towards tomorrow. Cheat on your diet, because tomorrow you’ll be able to make up for it.
You’ll write that book you’ve always wanted to write, but you will start tomorrow.
There is a common fallacy that achieving great thing is all about that one push, but that is not actually how it works.
It is far more similar to the way mountains are created. Small changes over long periods of time add up to large meaningful changes. If you observe a mountain for a year, it barely appears to move. If we could somehow make a time-lapse of a mountain over millions of years, the changes would be startling.
The same with our lives. Minute by minute, hour by hour, the days go by, each day appearing much rather like the last. And yet, if you persevere on the course of action you know is right, and ignore the voices in your head that try to delay you or take you on the wrong course, those days add up into weeks, those weeks turn into months, and you’ll already see improvements. By the time the months turn into years, both yourself and other people will be amazed by the results.
I actually like to ask myself, what do I feel like not doing? Then I go and precisely do that thing. It might be something as trivial as washing my leftover dishes after dinner, to waking up at 6am in the morning. It might be sitting down to write when I feel uninspired, to doing my calisthenics routine when I am tired after a day of work.
Even tackling small things in this way has a greater purpose, you are building up your mental ability to overcome resistance. After all, if you cannot motivate yourself to overcome resistance on the small things in life, how will you ever be able to tackle the large important tasks of your life?
Silence and solitude also plays an important role. You cannot be “always on” in your life and expect to be able to deeply analyze where you are at. The brain is simply not wired for constant notifications, alerts, and entertainment. You need to spend time alone in a quiet place and just think. Write down your thoughts, think about where you are at in your life, regardless if you are just starting out or towards the end.
Initially, I found this rather mundane and boring, spending thirty or sixty minutes without some type of entertainment or outside stimulation was very unusual for me. Over time, I learned that these moments are to be cherished, and the thinking that happens at this point in my week is the type that helps me move forwards with my life.
If you make a decision when you are in these moments of solitude, about any aspect of your life, you’ll notice that you will be more confident in that decision when you get back to the “real world” because you had this incredible focus on the various inputs to make that decision, instead of the usual approach where decisions are made more out of mental fatigue and exhaustion that by using the ultimate gift of rationality.
Socrates advises us that the best place to start with self-discipline is with food, because we all need to tackle this challenge, and we have several opportunities to do so each and every day. This is even more important if you have any relationship with any type of drug (and I include fast food, cigarettes, and alcohol in this definition) or are overweight.
This is absolutely the first challenge you must overcome before you tackle anything else in your life. Build a solid foundation where you overcome your base desires on food. Force yourself to eat food that you would normally think of as bland, and then truly taste it. Eat it without distractions, do not watch television or read a book, but simply enjoy the fact that you are eating something that is providing nourishment to your body and that you are laying down the foundations for your future success. With a healthy diet comes a healthier body, and that provides a clear mind to think through the various challenges in your life.
Overcoming the default resistance to change in your life is not difficult, you just have to overcome the inertia on small things, and then build up to larger and more important tasks over time.
Putting things off to the future is a favorite trick, because it gives you a great excuse. Yes, you will do it, but not today because…insert a great sounding excuse for yourself.
When you realize that your life is purely a set of moments that are constantly slipping by, then you understand that now is the only time to achieve anything. This means having a sense of urgency, while keeping in mind that meaningful things that a long time to come to fruition.
The practice of thinking about death, and how it might happen and when, is a great way to ensure that you value your life. It is inevitable that one day you will die, so what will you do in those moments between reading these very words right now to taking that last breath, whether it’s just before you have an accident and you’re immediately gone, or if you pass away in your sleep at a ripe old age.
Eventually, once you build the habits to escape the daily resistance you experience in regards to the things you care about, it is then time to focus on two key things:
- Being Prolific.
While I have numbered/ordered these two things, I do not believe that you have to have one “done” before you can move to the next. For instance, you don’t have to have your technique on a musical instrument perfect before upping yuor number of hours or repertoire, and vice versa. They will both come in tandem as you focus on taking daily action.
As quality increases, you’ll normally find whatever it is your do far more enjoyable, which means you will do more of it, and then guess what, quality improves. And so on and so on.
You build yourself a positive cycle that is self-reinforcing, instead of the typical negative cycles that many of us choose to embrace into our lives.
So, I reiterate this one piece of advice:
Think of the things you don’t want to do right now, and start doing them immediately.