IF YOUR LIFE is anything like mine, then somewhere between the waking up; showering; taking a dump; masturbating; singing; watching youtube videos of cats; watching youtube videos with a cat; wondering what it would be like if your bus smashed into someone; reading a book; browsing the internet and feeling guilty about not reading a book; being late for work; waiting for the day to end; replying to a message in the group chat only to start an argument; approaching that girl in the supermarket; getting too nervous to approach that girl in the supermarket; chastising yourself for being a pussy; arguing with your manager; arguing with your manager’s manager; going to bed on time because you’re content; going to bed too late because you fundamentally dislike yourself; writing something worthwhile; writing something that’s a complete load of shit; checking your website stats; or measuring your penis, it’s incredibly easy to lose track of your day.
And if you lose track of your day. You lose track of your week. And if you lose track of your week, then that starts to add up exponentially and all of a sudden you realize you haven’t done anything worthwhile in a hell of a lot of time, and your mother was right when she told you that you were a loser.
In order to keep track of a life that is going to get away from you, it pays to have a measure of just what exactly you’ve driven forward.
Human willpower is about as sturdy as a three legged chair. The more we exert ourselves, the less we end up having, and the less we have, the more we fall prey to making decisions that we do not truly wish to make. And far from willpower being something we can realistically train throughout our weeks, more often than not, the simple nature of the routine in our lives often causes it to deplete on mundane tasks.
The reality of willpower is this:
Through the simple act of being swamped by your day to day routine, you are going to run out of willpower, and you are going to make decisions that are contrary to your goals and interests.
Just as it pays to recognize the limits of your willpower and take steps to expand those limits, it also pays to recognize that those limits are going to defeat you more often than not, and you are going to suffer as a result. Just as you cannot go to the gym for the first time and lift the biggest weight on the rack, you cannot hope to force your mind into a state where it will be able to perform feats of incredible force of will. The training takes time, and again, as with the gym, if you over-train, you will see set backs and more failure.
This may seem fairly straight forward and obvious – but the problem is that when we want to improve our lives, our happiness is often tied to metrics of how much we have improved, and because our happiness is so deeply tied to that improvement, we measure our performance on a day by day basis based on how much we’ve improved. This leads us, inevitably, to notice how much we’re not improving, and exert more willpower in the effort to improve.
Which, as I’ve mentioned above, more often than not leaves us in a place where improvement is unlikely.
It’s a process that we all engage in, and it’s a process that cripples our effectiveness.
The trick then is to break the process.
And we do this by addressing what causes us to expend our willpower. That being the way in which we choose to view our own progress.
I can’t remember who it was, but in a book about success (one of the many I’ve swallowed), some guy said that he reviewed his week, every week, and he credited his success to this. An idea I liked at the time, but one that never caught on, this is something that lingered in the back of my mind ever since.
The idea is a simple one, but one that can be deeply tied to our self-image. As I wrote above, when we desire improvement, all we notice is when we aren’t improving, and this leads us to pursue and expend excessive effort from a state of neuroticism. In other words, when you hate yourself, you treat yourself badly. When our foundation for improvement is flawed, so too will all of our efforts; and the longer we engage with flawed efforts, the more they will compound upon each other, corrupt our motivation, and sink our dreams.
I propose another idea. Look at where you’ve moved your life forward. Maybe this week. Maybe this day. Just look for where you’ve moved it forward. In any way shape or form. Look for where you’ve moved it forward.
Instead of being lost in a race against who you no longer wish to be, or what you’re trying to escape from – look at where you’ve moved your life forward. Maybe this week. Maybe this day. Just look for where you’ve moved it forward. In any way shape or form. It doesn’t have to be a success, it doesn’t have to be some ringing achievement, it just has to be some kind of forward movement of any measure. Because cumulatively, over any period of time, any movement, of any size, adds up to a bigger movement.
And in life, big movements add up to big changes.
And it is within these scarcely perceptible changes that we actually grow, not in the goals or wins that we drive ourselves to seek.
And in any form of ambition, whether that be specific or an emotion change within you, it is the movement that constitutes the distance gained.
But right now, I’m sure you thinking, that’s all well and good, but what if I haven’t moved my life forward in anyway. Not today, not last week. Not ever.
Uh, okay? Who cares? Move it forward now. Move it forward tomorrow. Just move it forward in whatever way you can. Just do something, anything, other than giving yourself shit. After all, is dragging yourself down and beating yourself up internally not a step backward? Is it not a destruction rather than a construction?
Because at the heart of it, any forward movement is an action you’ve taken towards building something new.
Maybe you want to be more social; maybe you want to get a better work ethic; maybe you want to have a better dating life; maybe you want to be better at guitar; maybe you just want to get better at being proud of yourself. Whatever it is, within that desire, is a tiny, microscopic improvement you can make on a daily basis, that in some way, will move you forward; will move your life forward.
You could do something as small as saying something nice to a friend. You could do something as small as saying hi to a colleague you haven’t spoken to. You could do something as small as not looking at your phone for 30 minutes; focusing on work for 20; read a few pages of a book; ask a girl for directions; tell a girl she looks great; spend 10 minutes practicing a guitar riff; read some music theory; or just sit down and take a moment to figure out what your values are in life.
Y’know, important stuff.
Because within any goal, there are tiny steps of progress. And all you have to do is take them, and recognize that you’re achieving movement.
When we fail to accurately measure our lives, we become neurotic about our progress and exert unnecessary, excessive effort in an attempt to accelerate our progress. This results in us losing control of our will, and falling into poor routine and poor decision making.
This all stems from our sights being on the win that we want, rather than the steps what we’re taking. But it is only the steps that get us there. The steps we take are the vehicle that carries us the distance. In other words, the steps are the win.
When we learn to measure our lives by the movements we have taken, we learn to keep our actions in the present, consciously advance our lives in realistic ways, and prevent ourselves from falling into neuroticism. Because at its core, measuring our lives accurately comes from a place of self-acceptance, not self-hatred.
Isn’t that foundation you’d rather build from?
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