If you could just figure out how to get your shit together, you can make a lot of amazing things happen in your life. You know this. That gap between who you are right now and who you know you could be bothers you because it seems pretty straightforward, but you just can’t do it.
You know you have the talent to more or less get what you want. See, the thing about most of us? Even though we can doubt ourselves quite a bit, we have that little voice in our heads that tells us we’re legitimately destined for greatness.
That’s why daydreaming is so pleasurable. Not because it’s unrealistic, but because it is realistic based on the version of you who had their shit together. So these daydreams get you fired up. Maybe you act on them for a short period of time. Then you inevitably stumble. You want to get out of this rut and genuinely feel like you have your shit together. So how do you do it?
You already know how to get your shit together. The key to getting started with the process is knowing that you already know. One of the hardest things to do is simply stop lying to yourself. You’re not lost. You just don’t want to find yourself. You’re not aimless. There are plenty of places you’d aim if you weren’t so tied to your current identity.
If you want to make a sincere change in your life you have to have a brutally honest self-assessment. It’s as simple as comparing yourself right now to the person you know you could be. Be brutally honest about that mismatch. A lot of people like to imagine themselves greater than they are to cope, but this keeps them from making real improvements because they can’t be honest about where they’re currently at.
I used to think I was a smart kid who was going places. But when I looked at my life, I was headed nowhere fast. Plenty of potential, but no results, and the results are all that matter. The results were abysmal and I had to admit that to myself instead of trying to cope by saying things would get better eventually.
This goes for you, too. Understand that things won’t magically get better eventually. Stop telling yourself you’ll get out of that entry-level job and start your business eventually. No, the odds are you’ll stay in that career far too long or forever. Stop telling yourself you’ll get in shape eventually. No, the more out of shape you continue to get the harder it will be to get in shape and the less likely you are to do it.
Combine that brutally honest self-assessment with a sense of urgency. If you’re not where you want to be in this life, you should be worried. If I could describe how I felt when I first started to change my life for real, I’d use the word panic. At only 25 years old, it was very apparent I needed to do something to change and I needed to do it fast. You don’t have as much time as you think. With that sense of urgency in mind, focus on the two-step process you need to follow to get your shit together.
Regardless of where you are right now, just focus on not making things worse. Don’t fall into what I like to call ‘death spirals.’ Death spirals are these actions you take because you’re already so much in the hole you figure a few extra inches won’t hurt. You’re out of shape so you binge eat telling yourself that you’ll start your workouts tomorrow. Before you quit alcohol you go on one last bender. It’s the equivalent of putting one last coin into the slot machine after you’ve lost all your money at the casino. You know you’re not gonna hit the jackpot, but you get some sort of release with the last-ditch effort of pulling that lever.
As the Last Psychiatrist explains, this allows you to ‘play-act catharsis.’ You tell yourself that one last hurrah with your shitty life will give you the motivation to make things better, but it does the opposite, it further reinforces the fact that you’re not serious about changing your life at all. If you’re serious about changing your life you have to stop the bleeding as soon as possible. Cut it off the moment you’re really ready to change and don’t have a ‘final shitty habits’ ceremony.
Think about all the things that are making your life worse and then stop doing those things. Stop trying to be smart, stop being dumb. Stop thinking you’re going to magically create this perfect life and start eliminating the things that are obviously destructive and keeping you from living the life you know you’re supposed to live.
Getting rid of those nasty vices or actions you know that clearly go against your goals makes one thing clear to both yourself and to ‘the universe.’ You’re finally ready to change. Letting go of self-sabotage is a monumental feat because self-sabotage is the primary tool you use to cope. You screw up and then get to blame the results in your life not on the screwups themselves, but in the fact that you are a screw-up. You get to hide in your self-pity because self-pity isn’t as bad as having to face the world. You can make sense of self-pity, but you can’t make sense of the unknown life ahead of you if you decide to stop messing up. Once you stop screwing up you have nowhere to hide. That’s scary. But in that position, you also have nowhere to go but up.
After you eliminate the things you know you definitely shouldn’t be doing, start to think about the things you know you should be doing and start wherever you need to start to build momentum in your life. You have to articulate the person you want to be and reverse engineer backward. That’s a big topic in and of itself, so read this guide for further guidance.
First, simply be willing to go to the drawing board as many times as necessary. You just have to hit a hot streak once to start making major long-term changes. Second, if you keep trying to get your shit together and you keep failing, you have to lower your criteria for what success looks like. I don’t know how far gone you are, but the further gone you are, the lower your criteria have to be.
I just watched a podcast with Theo Von and Jordan Peterson. They talked about the slow and gradual process of getting your shit together when you’re just absolutely failing at life. Jordan mentions his classic piece of advice ‘clean your room.’ It’s such a minimal effort strategy that even a wretched loser nobody could figure out how to do. Then Theo goes on to talk about how that process could spark change.
Maybe you start with cleaning your room. Then, after a while, you buy a plant for decoration. Now you have the responsibility of both caring for your room and your plant. As trivial as it might seem, you’re keeping a living thing alive. Then maybe you start to decorate your whole home and fill it with art. Step by step you’re slowly becoming more of a functioning person. Better yet, you’re now a functional person with something to be proud of.
Maybe you’re not that far gone. On a day-to-day basis, you have the normal things handled, but you want to level up. What do you do? You find the tiniest challenge you can overcome and master on the path to becoming a higher version of yourself. It has to be slightly outside of where you currently are. Some people are so far gone they have to start with cleaning their rooms. For you, it might be another basic but important habit you could start to build.
If you want to get in shape, wake up and do 10 pushups. Instead of trying to have some crazy morning routine, stop hitting snooze or wake up 30 minutes earlier than usual. If you want to get smarter, read for ten minutes a day. If you want to work on your social skills, start with making eye contact with people and saying a simple ‘Hi.’ Do you get where I’m coming from? Unless you’re humble enough to start at the origin point you really need to start from, you’ll never change. Most people are too arrogant to first approach their goals with humility. They take the all-or-nothing approach and fail every time. Stop trying to get your shit together in a hurry by trying way harder than what works for you. Focus on getting momentum first.
It’s interesting to see what happens in your life after you get some basic self-improvement methods going. You create that ‘I’m going places’ energy and the universe seems to respond in kind. When I was working on getting my shit together, I chose habits like reading and exercise to build the foundation. After that, I just started to carry myself differently and people noticed.
I got offered a managerial position and a job I applied to be a ‘clerk’ at. While working at said job, I can’t tell you how many people told me there was just something about me. A friend of mine reached out to me and asked me to start writing for a site he owned. I’d always wanted to write and the universe delivered my dream to my door once I was actually ready to receive it.
You cover the basics to create the energy that you’re ready to receive amazing opportunities in your life. How are you supposed to be able to handle a lot when you can’t even handle a little bit of responsibility? So make little steady strides and watch all the opportunities come your way. There will come a time when you’ll come across something that seems really compelling to work on — a project, a business idea, or some particular path you feel you need to follow.
Once you come across that opportunity, dive in and work on it without questioning too much where it’ll go right away. I had no idea that writing one teeny-tiny article would lead to transforming my entire life. I just knew when I got started that something felt really right about doing it. More right than anything else had in my entire life. I told myself I was committed to seeing this through because I was tired of having a head full of dreams with nothing to show for it. Trust that focusing on getting your shit together, in general, will lead to an opportunity. Once that opportunity comes or you have an idea that hits you, you have to run with it like you’ve never run with anything before.