I’m not used to being uncomfortable, or patient enough to do what I actually want.
The first reason we don’t get what we want because we don’t act on what we want.
We don’t act on what we want, because we don’t precisely know why we want it.
We don’t know why we want what we want, because we are looking around at what other people want, and to see what resonates with us. Look at Jim, he’s lost 100 000 kg, everyone is looking at Jim. Jim is amazing. I want to be Jim. I want to lose 100 000 kg, by Friday. Ok, maybe not this Friday, because we’ve got that thing coming up, and it’s really important. Ok, definitely next Friday…
The fix: Be a schmuck, for a moment. Look at the area you want to improve as if it were someone else’s life, and fire that truth-gun with both barrels. Be mean. Be cruel. Say the worst possible things you can think of, as long as they are completely factual. This is a very old exercise that philosophers used to try and see truth: expensive wine is old grape juice stored in slabs of dead trees for years, and cheese is old bodily fluids from an animal meant for it’s young, that is infested with bacteria.
Once you can see things as they actually are, you can see where change is needed, and you can create realistic sustainable goals, and systems for reaching them.
The second reason we don’t get what we want, is because even if we did know exactly what we really wanted, and why we wanted it, most of us are a little afraid of what other people will think.
What’s that? You don’t care what anyone thinks about you?
Ok then, say something incredibly dumb, and pretend to back it up, to someone you respect. Or dance purposefully badly at the side of the road.
Only idiots aren’t scared of looking like idiots, and seeing as you’re not an idiot, it’s normal to be scared. This fear, is misplaced though. Fear is there to keep us safe, and we won’t get hurt or actually die from embarrassment.
So, the best way to dodge the “scary judgy people” is to build up an inner resistance, so that the “scary judgy people” become only “people”. We can do this by changing our baseline of what is uncomfortable for us.
Fantastically, when we change what is uncomfortable for us in one area, it eats away at all the other areas that are uncomfortable.
The fix: By doing something that sucks every day, we change what we consider normal.
So if I’m not comfortable talking to people on the phone, I should have a cold shower. The cold shower won’t change how I talk on the phone, but over time my mind will start to think “that wasn’t as bad as I thought, maybe other things won’t be as bad either?”.
The third reason I don’t get what I want is because I keep changing tack, instead of sticking with one thing methodically. I was raised in a magical time when suddenly there were crazy innovations that popped up like mushrooms over night. It was a time where every movie I wanted to watch had an underdog that transformed during a montage scene, that lasted 3 minutes at the most, and came out the other end a real winner, changed forever, and obviously also got the girl.
What I’ve found out through my attempts at “adulting”, is that life is the montage scene in the movie, and it’s usually not very entertaining for those watching.
The fix (pt.1): Be like an ant.
Ants can eat tigers, with enough bites.
The hard part isn’t the actual work. The hard part is setting up the systems so that you can work and improve on a daily basis.
On Duolingo (a fantastic language learning app), apparently the people that get the most out of it are people that spend 10 – 15 minutes a day on the app. That’s only about 1% of your day. Consistency is the key.
All we have to do is plan for the distractions we know we’ll face, and make systematic consistency our goal.
The fix (pt.2): Stop gambling. Start investing.
Gamblers bet small amounts to hopefully win a large amount quickly, but the game is always rigged so the house wins in the end.
It sounds obvious and idiotic to gamble if you know that eventually you will always lose, but we do it all the time.
I did it when I decided to “get fit” and spent hours in the gym in January, until I hurt myself. The house won.
I did it when I decided the money I had was “too little” to invest, and that the next money that comes in I’ll put some away. The money came in, and before I knew it it “wasn’t enough” to invest with, again. The house won.
I did it when I decided it was ok to fail a subject at university because I was stressed and tired, and I would be smarter, and work harder on that subject next time round. The house won.
In all of these situations I was hoping my future self would win, but I was gambling on someone that was actively choosing to start with a bad track record. The house won.
Instead, what I try to do now is think of everything with an investment mindset.
This mindset feels wrong, because it’s not flashy and you don’t get the hit of dopamine when you do some small actions every day. Only when you start seeing results miraculously appear do you get that rush.
Some of my slow but steady plans:
Language: I would like to speak Swedish, and slowly getting there. Duolingo is part of my daily routine, but I would like to incorporate speaking to people, as well as reading Swedish newspapers, watching movies, etc.
For any Swedes out there: Jag svenska är inte fina fisken. (but I’m getting better!)
Please let me know if you want to chat in Swedish, or know any good movies/books/etc. I’ve started watching Bron, and really enjoying it.
Instrument: I am learning piano. There are a lot of neighbors that can hear me, and you can’t play a piano softly, so it makes me nervous to play, but every day I’m playing a bit and trying to get the most out of each session by systematically imagining each note before I play it. Also, playing with my eyes closed has helped so much to build a mental image of the keyboard.
Finance: 10-20% of all money that comes in, I’m trying to automatically put away in bonds, as well as a set monthly amount that goes to a managed portfolio. I am still very new to investing, and both of these are fairly safe. Right now the habit is as important as the financial outcome.
Money is definitely connected to some strong emotions with me, so it’s a daily struggle to not spend money for the hit of Dopamine.
I try and imagine that I have a robot that can build other robots, until I have an army of robots that can fulfill my every desire, or I can trade in that robot for a cheese burger. That robot is called money.
Meditation: I almost always have something going on and don’t really to be still for too long. So every day for 15 minutes I sit still with my eyes closed and focus on my breathing and being as present as I can. When the millions of other thoughts come into my head, I don’t judge them, and just let them past. The main aim of this practice is to get me to realize, at a deep level, that I am not my thoughts, and that in a way, I can make a space between me and my thoughts. I’ve been doing this for a while now and whenever I feel an emotion/thought that isn’t constructive, I can decide if I want to pick it up or not. I am responsible for how I act, so I may as well have control over how I feel.
Decide not to be hurt, and you don’t feel hurt.
Don’t feel hurt, and you haven’t been.
– Marcus Aurelius –
Other: I often feel like I have insight to things I mull over, but seldom write about them. It’s because I know that as soon as you read something you will automatically judge it, and being judged is uncomfortable, especially when it’s my own thoughts. That discomfort is why I’m writing this. I want to be a better writer, and a better thinker, and this is part of my slow but steady process.
I really hope you got something actionable out of this. I felt exposed writing it. I’ll work on that.
Have a wonderful day.