You do almost everything the wrong way. We all do. We let our emotions run us instead of using them appropriately at the right time.
All emotions serve a purpose, even, maybe especially, the negative ones. But until you understand how, where, and when to apply your emotions, you’ll always feel stuck in that loop of anxiety.
You know what I’m talking about. How much of your day do you spend having counterproductive thoughts? Even after training myself to try to become a better thinker for a half-decade or so, I still struggle with it mightily because I’m a human being.
The good news?
You don’t have to have total mind control to be successful. You just need to regulate your emotions well enough to help you get what you want. I look at life as the process of getting major gains by maintaining slight edges. These numbers are made up, but you need to get three to five percent better at controlling your mind to have a 10x better life. We’re so bad at it and it’s so had to do that the tiniest improvement means everything.
You just have to escape this perpetual limbo most of us live in. Looping over and over and over again — you want a better life, you try to get it, you fail or hesitate, beat yourself up for failing or hesitating, more anxiety, anxiety about your anxiety, daily existential crises ensue. This is no way to live.
I know what it feels like to be stuck in that box. You muster up just enough motivation to feel like you’re going to do ‘the thing’ and then you come up just shy of doing it. Do this enough times and you just give up.
If you want to avoid quitting, you have to learn how to shift your emotions up and down like you’re driving a stick shift.
I don’t think people are negative enough.
We all have negative thoughts — self-doubt, self-pity, impostor syndrome about trying something outside the box, etc — but we don’t benefit from them because we keep these thoughts at this low-level malaise humming in the background of our lives.
We beat ourselves up little by little over a long period of time, creating this Chinese water torture effect. Instead, dial it up. If you’re going to beat yourself up, do it for real.
I remember having a conversation with a woman who worked at the electronics factory with me — $10/hr and 12-hour shifts six to seven days a week. She was near retirement age. She explained to me that she worked at another electronics factory for multiple decades and they somehow canned her and forfeited her pension at the same time. Dunno how that’s legal but that’s what she said. Moments like this have always stuck with me.
Whenever I felt like quitting, I used negative visualization to stay motivated. What if I ended up at an old age, no money for retirement, working some shit job? What if I ended up making money but ultimately selling my soul to corporate only to find it’s too late change when I realized what happened?
I used fear as motivation. But I pointed it in the right direction. I used fear as fuel. Try it.
What is your life going to look like if you keep living the way you’re living now? Picture it vividly. Paint the picture of a catastrophe so you can avoid it. No one becomes a Wal-Mart greeter, they end up becoming a Wal-Mart greeter. I sound mean, but I’m just trying to get through to you. Some will say I’m being mean to the Wal-Mart greeter when, in reality, the Wal-Mart greeter doesn’t want to be the Wal-Mart greeter.
Everyone else tells you everything is going to be okay for on reason. It’s not. Sure, it’ll be okay in that you’ll be more or less well-adjusted. You won’t live a tragic life, but living well below your potential will never feel okay for the vast majority of us.
This doesn’t sound very healthy, does it?
Beating yourself up and carrying a massive chip on your shoulder doesn’t fit the definition of self-care, does it?
Let me ask you something, do you look around at our society and see healthy people?
The stress that comes with living paycheck to paycheck can kill you. Collectively, we work jobs we don’t like, eat garbage food, we’re on medication, stressed out, anxiety, outraged at the world fighting in Facebook comments, drinking our pain away. I’m being hyperbolic, but you know what I mean.
Having a purpose for your life and the resources to fulfill that purpose and alleviate those stressors is a life or death matter that no one talks about and gets swept under the rug. Because it’s ‘mean’ to talk about these things.
You know what’s actually cruel? Lying.
Painting this false reality where someone will come save you and that you should just feel good for no reason even though your life is objectively not good is cruel. Trying to remove objectivity from our discourse is cruel. And that’s exactly what’s going on. So much so I have trepidation about getting as deep into the subject as I’d like. And you know the points I’d probably bring up.
You can either have rose-colored glasses on about reality or you can have that tough conversation with yourself about your future and give you that constant tough love you need to stay motivated.
“I just want to be happy,” they’ll say. Well, are you happy? The argument that you should pursue higher goals because they might not make you happy makes no sense if you’re currently definitely not happy.
If you know you need to level up, stop lying to yourself, and use those negative feelings to your advantage instead of letting them slowly kill your dreams in the background of your mind.
This is going to sound totally contradictory and antithetical to everything I just said, but you need to be kind to yourself. I’m a huge proponent of self-care, but only when it’s applied the right way.
There’s a difference between being nice and being kind.
Being nice is often manipulative, subversive, filled with disinformation. Don’t be nice to yourself by trying to lie your way into a positive self-image. Be kind to yourself by giving yourself that tough love and then taking opportunities to recharge and recuperate when you’ve earned the right to do so.
Two things can be true at the same time. You may have screwed up parts of your life at this point, thus requiring some negative energy to fuel you, but you also don’t need to beat yourself up at the level of your soul and core identity. Maybe you screwed up, but you are not a screw-up. Get it?
You want to give yourself an accurate and tough assessment of your behavior. But you always have to remember that you’re a good person. You’re talented. You’re capable of much more than you think you are. You have to be kind enough to yourself to push yourself in a real way.
See, giving yourself an out and patting yourself on the back for doing nothing is actually a form of cruelty. You’re poisoning your own future under the guise of self-care. This makes you secretly hate yourself.
Get back to liking yourself. Then, start loving yourself for real. If you truly cared about yourself, you’d do more for yourself.
I was watching the Michael Jordan documentary and one scene talked about the time where MJ got cut from the varsity basketball team. When his mom found out the news, she didn’t call the school and complain, she didn’t tell MJ the coaches were dumb for not picking him, she didn’t say “don’t worry baby everything is going to be okay.” She told him to practice all summer so he’d make the team next year.
Kindness is focusing on your long-term objectives over your short-term emotions.
Coddle culture is well-intentioned. It really us. But, as they say, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” I think the arbiters of coddle culture are trying to help you get by in life more easily because life is tough. But no amount of surface-level denial of reality changes reality. Life isn’t fair. And the kindest thing you can do for yourself is to never forget that.
So you do the work to improve your life and you take care of your mental health at the same time. I’ve noticed some readers comment on my articles as not just self-help, but mental health articles. Yes. Mental health has a proactive side to it, too. Maybe exercising, finding purpose, building a better career, training your mind, etc won’t cure all your problems, but they sure as hell won’t hurt, will they?
Self-improvement as mental health gives you the messages you need to hear in a deeper more visceral way. You can tell yourself affirmations about how strong you are, but putting yourself through a difficult situation that makes you stronger works better. You can treat yourself for doing nothing or you can treat yourself as a reward for hard work and build the feedback loops that make for a better life.
So, yes, do all of the self-care strategies in addition to working hard to fulfill your purpose. You don’t need to go all out to change your life. You can do it gradually and you can downshift when you need to. Don’t burn yourself out, take time off when you need it, blow your time doing fun stuff, don’t take yourself too seriously, push yourself to the edge without going over it.
All of this is achievable.
Society is moving to this extremely binary way of thinking. Either you hustle constantly and bow to the altar of capitalism or you do nothing at all and disavow the system altogether. Either you’re one hundred percent personally responsible or you want to be totally coddled and taken care of.
What happened to nuance?
What happened to navigating life and changing your mindset as time moves forward?
That spirit is still there and (some) people are hungry for it. If you’ve made it this far you’re probably one of those people.
Bottom line – I don’t think you’re some mediocre sheep who must build their four-hour workweek lifestyle, or whatever. Also, though, you probably could step your game up a little bit, eh? Don’t you think? Don’t you know?
That’s the thing about it. You know who you really are. The media can gaslight you all day, your friends and family can be a negative influence on your dreams, and you yourself can try to rationalize away your aspirations, but you can’t get rid of them totally.
This won’t happen for all who read this, but a few of you, maybe you, will one day come to that realization.
You’re just going to go for it. You’ll be fed up living the way you’re living and you’re going to use that fed up energy to push yourself. But you’re also going to remember that you’re good, you’re worthy, you deserve to be happy, you deserve to be successful.
You deserve to be successful.