Want to know what I love about writing, both as a writer and a reader?
Writing gives you the unique opportunity to take a dispassionate look at your own life. If I’m reading a book about a subject, I can interpret the things I both agree with and disagree with in the book without having to take anything personally because the author doesn’t know me.
Likewise, as a writer, I can speak my version of the truth to the world, talk about specific traits people have, and give insights in a blunt way because I know I’m not directing my words at any single person. “If the shoe fits.”
Writing gives us the opportunity to be objective about what we’re reading, but that doesn’t always mean we take that opportunity. As a human being, you have a tendency to take things personally if you feel they apply to you. And that defensiveness keeps you from living the life you want.
Sometimes I’ll come across opinions I disagree with, opinions from people I don’t like, or opinions that I know will benefit me long-term but bruise my ego short-term. I try to fight the tendency to reject these opinions and accept the truth regardless of the source because I know one important truth about life.
This truth applies to me, it applies to you, and it applies to everyone.
Whether or not you accept it is on you, but I encourage you to because it’s the only good option you have.
At the end of the day, it’s your life.
That’s what I always come back to. I try to share blunt truths and trigger people a bit because I want them to understand those three words. When I write an article called Nobody is Coming to Save You and detail the fact that you’re making rationalizations in your mind about waiting for a savior, you can accept it or reject it. But it’s still your life. You still have to accept the consequences of choosing to believe in saviors or choosing to believe in self-reliance.
When I talk about concepts like building freedom, starting a side project to add an income stream, and speak about the idea that safety and job security are a myth, you can do what you want with that information. It’s your life. Real-life will ultimately settle that debate.
Self-improvement is an interesting pace in that it’s the most cult-like followed and scoffed at genre at the same time. But I think the source of both camps is exactly the same.
We all want a better life. Well, most of us do. I know some of you are perfectly content, have everything you want, are deeply grateful for every moment, and don’t require worldly success whatsoever. Let’s set these people aside and talk about the rest of us.
The ones who get obsessed with self-improvement take the desire for a better life and try to will it into reality. The ones who scoff at self-improvement have that same level of desire but don’t believe they can pull it off. Or not. Maybe I’m projecting.
That’s the beauty of all this.
Only you know the truth. You can leave whatever type of comment you want. You can display yourself a certain way publicly. But you still have to be you, always. You know those deep thoughts you have when on one else is around. Doesn’t matter what happens “out there” because life is mostly an internal battle.
We spend so much time running from ourselves, but those whispers of truth just slowly follow us like Michael Meyers. I do it too. Rationalizations run deep. For me, the most motivating thought I can have is “It’s my life.”
It’s up to me to decide what I want, who I want to be, who I want to surround myself, who I want to listen to, and what kind of belief system I want to form from all of the above. I know I’m telling myself a story — a narrative that will shape my life.
Do you know that?
Do you know how much your personal story shapes the way your life turns out?
Think about your beliefs. Your deeply held ones. Where do they even come from?
It’s funny. We cling so hard to these beliefs, these narratives, scripts, stories, simply because they’re ours.
These beliefs are so deep that they shape the way you view reality. And the extent to which you think your beliefs equal literal reality is quite deep. So deep that you’ll find yourself living in a psychological box your entire life without ever making a legitimate attempt to escape it.
Do you know why the vast majority of people work jobs they hate, never have any real upward mobility, and put themselves through what is essentially indentured servitude for most of their lives? Because that’s how things are supposed to be. There’s no objective reason why society has to be this way, but we just accept it.
Even worse, many will not only reject but actively fight any narrative that counters the ones they hold.
I use the “it’s your life” frame to help lift this spell from your mind.
“Ayo, there are no opportunities out there. They need to raise the minimum wage!” Ok, it’s your life. Live by that mantra. See what happens. “How can anybody get ahead with this corrupt administration running the show?” Friend. It’s your life. Live by that mantra. See what happens. “But you don’t understand. My circumstances are special.” It’s your life. Live by that mantra. See what happens.
You can choose whatever narrative you want and that will be your narrative. Maybe an overly optimistic narrative isn’t guaranteed to work, but a mediocre or pessimistic narrative will surely work.
If you come to the conclusion success just isn’t for you, then it isn’t. You’re dead in the water.
If you look at society as this oppressive structure that keeps you from getting ahead, you’ll never get ahead.
For me, I look at my life and see delusion as a much better option than pragmatism steeped in negativity. Who cares if the odds are pulling off your dreams are low?
It’s your life.
Do you have to live in some fairytale to be happy? No.
You don’t need anything to be happy whatsoever. You can just choose to be happy, right now.
Do you know how you can make that choice easier, though? Live your life the way you want to. If that means you want a modest life, own it. If that means you want to be filthy rich, own it.
Just don’t live in limbo. Don’t half-step it. This is what people are prone to do. They can’t own who they are so they spend their whole life half-stepping. They pretend to be content but work a job they hate to keep up with the Joneses. They chase wealth money and status but they don’t create for joy at the same time.
We don’t say what we mean. We virtue signal. We’re a society full of bullshitters in varying degrees, myself included.
We just can’t seem to grasp that living life our own way should be the top priority.
How could anything possibly come above that?
Why should you do anything less than exactly what you want to do with your life? “My kids.” BS, incorporate your kids into that ideal life. They’re not mutually exclusive. “Gotta be realistic.” Who says you can’t be? You don’t have a half-hour per day to work on creating a new life? “I don’t need to be successful.” If you really don’t want to be successful then don’t try to be. Feel free to let it go.
Remember, though. No half-stepping.
Being honest with yourself is the most difficult and liberating thing you can do. When you’re honest with yourself, you’ll have to admit the heartbreaking fact that you’ve let so much time slip by. But then, you’ll also get the remaining time to try.
Looking at your own mistakes, flaws, and areas of guilt or shame can be difficult, but once you process that stuff and accept life as it is right now, you have a chance to live more fully in the future.
Be honest with yourself about all areas. Just like pretending to be content has its pitfalls, so does pretending like success can fill your void. The point isn’t to find the perfect answer, but simply to get to a point where you’re BSing yourself less and doing what you truly want more.
A good life is spent working on that ratio, dead seriously and playfully at the same time.
Look, I get it. I get how you find yourself thinking self-improvement is amazing one second and hyperbolic the next. You think to yourself, “How can I possibly be the one?” Why do you deserve to live a life most others won’t be able to?
I could ask the same questions inverted.
Why does someone else have to be the winner? Why not you? How could you not possibly be the one?
It’s your life.