If you’ve ever felt that you are not achieving your true potential, you are not alone. Based on my conversations, it seems that most people think this about themselves.
Is unfulfilled potential part of being a human being? Or, are we not good at utilizing the time and talent that we have?
It is especially easy in the modern world to waste opportunities and be lazy. There are endless distractions everywhere. We have built the entire economy on making ourselves distracted.
Finishing the TV Series on Netflix is easier than starting that book you want to write.
Ordering a food delivery is easier than ensuring you have fresh ingredients at home — and then cooking and washing the dishes.
Using Tinder is easier than going over to a stranger in person and striking up a conversation.
It is rare that someone has no idea of the steps required to change their life. To steer the direction of the ship to a brighter horizon. And yet, day in and day out, we fail to execute. We fail to cultivate the small habits that will grow over time.
We seem to put a lot of home into tomorrow, and not much faith into today. Cheat on your diet, because tomorrow you’ll be able to make up for it.
You’ll write that book you’ve always wanted to write, but you will start tomorrow.
There is a common fallacy that achieving great thing is all about that one push, but that is not actually how it works.
Making any type of meaningful change does not happen overnight. It is like the way mountains grow.
Small changes over long periods of time add up to large meaningful changes. If you observe a mountain for a year, it does not appears to move. If we could somehow make a time-lapse of a mountain over millions of years, the changes would be startling.
The same with our lives. Minute by minute, hour by hour, the days go by, each day appearing much rather like the last. And yet, if you persevere on the course of action you know is right, the results will come.
Ignore the voices in your head that try to delay you or take you on the wrong course. The days will then add up into weeks, those weeks turn into months, and you’ll already see improvements. By the time the months turn into years, you’ll amaze yourself and others.
I actually like to ask myself, what do I feel like not doing? Then I go and do that thing.
It might be something as trivial as washing my leftover dishes after dinner, to waking up at 6 am in the morning. It might be sitting down to write when I feel uninspired, to doing my calisthenics routine when I am tired after a day of work.
Even tackling small things in this way has a greater purpose. You are building up your mental ability to overcome resistance. After all, if you cannot motivate yourself to overcome resistance to the small things in life, how will you ever be able to tackle the large important tasks of your life?
Don’t underestimate this. Nurture the ability to overcome the mental resistance to tasks that bring no short-term pleasure but have long-term benefits. It is one of the most important skills in life.
Eventually, you may intrinsically enjoy what you do, not only the results you get from it. Very much the same way that someone who starts running to lose weight may hate running, but over time they may come to love it. They may even join running clubs and partake in competitions.
Silence and solitude also play an important role. You cannot be “always-on” in your life and expect to be able to analyze where you are at. The brain is not wired for constant notifications, alerts, and entertainment. You need to spend time alone in a quiet place and think. Write down your thoughts, think about where you are at in your life.
When I first started found this rather mundane and boring. Spending thirty or sixty minutes without some type of entertainment or outside stimulation was very unusual for me. Over time, I learned that these moments are to be cherished. The thinking that happens at this point in my week is the type that helps me move forwards with my life.
If you make a decision when you are in these moments of solitude, about any aspect of your life, you’ll notice greater confidence. This is because you had this incredible focus on the various inputs to make that decision. This is instead of the usual approach where decisions are made more out of mental fatigue and exhaustion.
Socrates advises us that the best place to start with self-discipline is with food. This is because we all need to tackle this challenge, and we have several opportunities to do so each day. This is even more important if you have any relationship with any type of drug or are overweight. I include fast food, cigarettes, and alcohol in my definition of “drugs”.
This is the first challenge you must overcome before you tackle anything else in your life. Build a solid foundation where you overcome your base desires on food. Force yourself to eat food that you think of as bland, and then taste it with a focus that you have never experienced before.
As an experiment, eat it without distractions, do not watch television, or read a book. Enjoy the fact that you are eating something that is providing nourishment to your body. That you are laying down the foundations for your future success.
With a healthy diet comes a healthier body. This then provides a clear mind to think through the various challenges in your life.
Overcoming the default resistance to change in your life is not difficult. Overcome the inertia on small things, and then build up to larger and more important tasks over time.
Putting things off to the future is a favorite trick because it gives you a great excuse. Yes, you will do it, but not today because…insert a great-sounding excuse for yourself.
If you are lucky, you may realize that your life is a set of moments that are slipping by. Then you’ll understand that now is the only time to achieve anything.
There is no other moment but right now.
This means having a sense of urgency. At the same time, keep in mind that meaningful things that a long time to come to fruition.
The practice of thinking about death, how it might happen, and when is a great way to ensure that you value your life. It is inevitable that one day you will die. So what will you do in those moments between reading these very words right now to taking that last breath?
Once you build the habits to escape the daily resistance you experience in regards to the things you care about, it is then time to focus on two key things:
- Being Prolific
While I have ordered these two things, I do not believe that you have to have one “done” before you can move to the next. For instance, you don’t have to have your technique on a musical instrument perfect before upping your number of hours or repertoire, and vice versa. They will both come in tandem as you focus on taking daily action.
As quality increases, you’ll find whatever it is you do far more enjoyable. This means you will do more of it, and then guess what, quality improves. And so on and so on.
You build yourself a positive cycle that is self-reinforcing. Apart from accidents in life, most bad things happen due to negative cycles that aren’t broken for years.
So, I reiterate this one piece of advice:
Think of the things you don’t want to do right now, and start doing them immediately.