People think they’re smart or clever when they point out how difficult it is to get self-improvement to work.
They’ll point out how people have access to different opportunities and privileges because of circumstances they have no control over. I always grant that point. They’ll talk about low the odds are for many of the different pursuits that fall over this big self-improvement umbrella, e.g., pointing out that most businesses fail. I’ll grant that one too.
Others will point out that many aspects of the industry play on people’s insecurities. Or they’ll say that the idea of self-improvement is a product of Western rugged individualism rooted in a capitalist system that doesn’t serve the needs of the common person or some shit like that. Sure, why not?
I’m not here to convince you of anything, really. At this point, I’m just sharing my opinions and letting people decide what to do with them. And my opinion on self-improvement aligns with many of its critics. It’s difficult, inefficient, and often leads to nowhere.
But, it can also be the most powerful and life-changing process you ever go through. The difficulty of the process is the point. Pretty much all the mindsets it takes to get what you want from life are either difficult to ask of you, unfair to ask of you, or insane to ask of you. Going on some journey to self-actualization might not technically be the healthiest route for you, but it’s a worthwhile one nonetheless. Up to you to choose whether or not you want to go through with it.
If you do, here are some powerful mindsets to adopt, even if they’re hard as hell to embrace and execute.
I didn’t say everything is your fault. But it’s useful to think of everything that happens in your life as your responsibility to deal with. Yes, this is a self-help cliche, but I’m going to talk about it in a way you might not have heard of before, a way that might help you adopt it.
You shouldn’t accept responsibility for everything in your life because it makes you morally superior. You shouldn’t do it because it gives you this big boost of pride to know that you overcame every obstacle, even the ones you didn’t cause.
Take responsibility for everything that happens in your life because it’s the most efficient thing to do. When you place the responsibility for what happens in your life on someone or something else, you have to wait for that someone or something to resolve that issue for you.
Hell, some of those resolutions may not come in your lifetime if you know what I mean, so why worry about it? Why waste your most valuable commodity on it? Taking responsibility for your life is also the most efficient process because you’re the only variable in your life you have any real control over.
That’s the number one thing I notice in people who shirk responsibility or fight for the collective instead of focusing on themselves. I make no moral judgments on them, but they are wasting a ton of time to make their own lives better.
Let’s just cut to the chase. When you get deeply rejected or embarrassed, it hurts badly. When people don’t like you, it feels bad. When you look stupid in front of a group of people, it feels bad. The more public your humiliation the worse you feel. And it usually requires higher public exposure to get what you want.
Make no question about it, whether your goal is to build a business, get more dates, speak in public, whatever it may be, you’re going to have to go through some negative feelings to get there.
You can’t just stop caring what people think. It’s impossible. At best, you can stop orienting your entire life around what people think. You can stop focusing on what the wrong people think. You can accept that even though it would be nice for everyone to like, approve, and accept you, it just isn’t going to happen. There will be social pain on the path to getting what you want and you can’t avoid it.
Personally, I literally ask myself whether or not I’m going to let the opinions of others get in the way of what I want. And if I buckle, I ask myself why? What’s the worst that could happen if I write an article that everyone hates, launch a business that fails, or walk right up to the stone-cold fox at the bar and get shut down in front of my entire group of friends? If those situations were to happen, what really would’ve happened other than a sense of fleeting sensory experiences? Not all that much. Funny how ‘not all that much’ can feel like everything. I can’t quell that feeling for you. But I can tell you it’s worth facing.
I’m guessing you’re of reasonable intelligence (dumb people don’t tend to read). You’re somewhat savvy and have some level of talent at something. The fact that you read this type of content at all means that you at least have some hope that a better future is in the cards for you.
Why am I bringing all this up? Because if you’re smart enough, have some talents or skills, and can translate your hope for a better future into motivation and discipline, you genuinely can transform your entire life in a few years. But it’s that whole ‘years’ part that tends to get in the way now, doesn’t it?
The truth about long-term goals? They’re not hard to pull off, but you have to get through a certain level of tedium, repetition, and boredom to get there. The feeling of boredom can be excruciating for some reason. I don’t know why, but it is. I had to get comfortable with doing all the boring little things I didn’t want to do so that I could achieve my ultimate goal of becoming a full-time writer.
On top of dealing with tedium, you have to master patience. How do you master patience? From personal experience, I only exhibited patience in my life when I found something worth being patient for. I always use the word compelling to describe the type of reasons for goals that will help you stay the course. You have to find a pretty damn good reason to delay gratification for years at a time. Find that reason, and you stand a chance.
Chance and circumstances play a role in your success, but it’s useful to look at your life primarily through the lens of decision-making. It’s useful to look at everything in your life as a choice.
You can’t control what happens to you, but you can choose how to react. Another cliche, but I’ve seen so many wildly different reactions to similar situations that it’s one of those cliches that really hit home for me.
Radio host Colin Cowherd has a saying: by your 40’s or 50’s, you ended up where you’re supposed to be. Once you zoom out long enough from childhood, the impact of your decision-making grows. You can’t keep blaming your circumstances on the distant past. Actually, you can. See how that works?
You can choose not just how to behave, but how to analyze your own behavior. You can choose whether or not you want to behave the same way in the future. Just get it out of your head that you’re not making decisions. You are. Things aren’t just happening to you. Yes, sometimes the decks are so stacked against you that one choice makes much more sense than another. But you always have a choice.
You don’t have to work at the job you have right now. You’re choosing to. You don’t have to live your life the way you currently living it. You’re choosing to even if like feels like it’s forcing your hand. Circumstances help shape choices, but we still choose nonetheless.
Put yourself in a position of power by taking the power over your decisions. Or don’t. Your choice.
I don’t choose to act as if the world is against me, even if it is. Actually, in many ways, society is out to get you. But it’s not out to get you personally. The world is full of unfairness, cruelty, and oppression. This is a feature of human nature, not a bug. I’m not holding my breath waiting for the world to be fair and neither should you.
My mom grew up in the most segregated city in the United States. My father grew up in one of the poorest countries in the world. The racial and economic hurdles they had were worse than any of the ones I’ve ever had to deal with. And they never brought them up to me once.
They never talked to me about how their lives were harder because of those factors and they never told me that my life would be harder because of those factors. I never had ‘that talk.’ Instead, they just set high expectations of me. They told me I was smart and that everything in my life would work out well if I worked hard. Turns out, they were right.
Does that mean racism doesn’t exist? No. Does that mean there should be zero focus on issues of social justice? Nope. What does it mean, then? It means that it’s simply more useful to focus on your ability to get what you want for your life regardless of what the outside world thinks about you. Not saying it’s fair. I’m saying it’s probably the best route for you.
I know people from all walks of life who have done really well for themselves. And they all had one thing in common. They set their sights on a mission and saw it through regardless of the obstacles. Again, ask yourself, even if life is somehow being unfair to you, which route will help you get what you want faster? Waiting for the world to be fair? Or saying ‘fuck fair’ and going for what you want anyway?