1) Love yourself
You deserve the best. You should strive for your potential – the most fulfilled version of yourself – and that potential is virtually limitless. This is the single most important mindset to adopt, as it serves as a foundation for literally everything else. It’s not a case of arrogance or entitlement, but in the sense that you would want the best for a family member of SO that you deeply love.
A lot of people self-sabotage (often inadvertently), and complain that they can’t break free of negative habits… I believe this is largely due to the fact that deep down they’ve built up so much self-hatred that they don’t even feel worthy of attaining their goals and living their most fulfilling life. Fuck that. I don’t care what your backstory is, you are worthy. I am. We all are. You wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t believe you were.
2) Understand that you are the architect of your fate.
A lot of people adopt a fatalistic mindset as a coping mechanism, but instead believe that you can achieve anything you set your mind to, and let go of limiting beliefs. Sounds like some bombastic BS you were told in primary school before reality hit you like a ton of bricks right? I thought so too since I’m a rational minded guy, but then I realized there’s literally no sense in not believing that. Yeah you’ll probably never win Mr Olympia, you’ll probably never be a billionaire, you’ll probably never be entirely content with the choices you’ve made – but that shouldn’t stop you from trying to attain your aspirations and realize your dreams potential.
Dreams are passive not proactive. No matter how disastrous your position may seem, I can guarantee that people in worse positions than you have gone on to achieve their goals through the adoption of principles not unlike these. Use that as inspiration.
Also remember that no matter how ‘unfair’ life has been to you; whether you were born crippled, you’ve had to bury your child, you were just wrongly imprisoned for 20 years, whatever – you are the only one who can help yourself now, so long as there’s a will, which ties back to the first principle. When life gives you lemons, you can either squeeze them in your eyes, or make lemonade…you can’t change the hand you’ve been given, but you can decide how to play it…basically you’re not responsible for all the things that befall you, but you’re entirely responsible for how you deal with them, which in turn will determine future events.
So in this sense, whilst a few pages will be torn every now and then, you can write your future. This notion should be empowering, not daunting.
Be mindful that whilst learning from the past, and planning for the future you should still very much be living in the present. Don’t just dwell in the past and dream of the future…If your life were a film, that would be tantamount to you whipping out your phone half-way through and re watching the intro scene on YouTube, or conversely, browsing reddit during a slower paced character development section whilst you wait for a cool scene you’ve heard about. It’s a rather shit way to watch a movie.
I know there are all kinds of reasons why someone may attempt to avoid the present – pain, grief, anticipation, yearning and so on – but these headspaces are like quicksand in that the longer you allow yourself to wallow in them the deeper you’ll sink, and the harder it will become to return to he present. Completely dysfunctional PTSD afflicted war veterans have gone on to recover and lead healthy lives, so it’s entirely possible of course.
3) Never stop growing.
Never rest on your laurels. Be proud of past accomplishments, but understand that you’re forever a work in progress, and always be eager to continue refining yourself. Don’t allow your static achievements to define you, e.g. “I won a national bodybuilding competition”, “I got the highest grade in my cohort”, “I earn the most out of my peer group”… they’re not solid foundations for self-worth. Instead, be proud of the fortitude, dedication, creativity etc you possess, which manifested in such achievements.
Circumstances can change as the wind blows, but mental faculties you’ve developed will remain a core part of your character. Learn from constructive criticism, but dismiss other forms.
4) Don’t let a molehill develop into a mountain
Pull the bandaid off quickly. When you procrastinate, the thing you’re avoiding doesn’t disappear it just amplifies until it’s almost (mentally) insurmountable. Time spent procrastinating is never remotely enjoyable. You always have that sword looming over your head everywhere you go, everything you do… you know this, now train yourself to get used to dealing with things as early as possible and getting it over with – then enjoying the satisfaction of doing so.
So harken the Nike slogan and…just do it. Beginning is always the greatest hurdle. If you’re a master procrastinator you’ll need to pull in the opposite direction and essentially turn your mind off and just start the task at hand. Literally, pretend you’re just a non-sentient creature devoid of thought for the 30 seconds that it takes to open up your Assignment document and type your name, or 5 minutes that it takes to drive to the gym, or 5 seconds that it takes to approach the cute girl who smiled at you earlier. Just go through the motions. You’ll probably be amazed at how well you handle the next steps, and it’ll become slightly easier every time.
Here’s another good rule of thumb; If something can be done in 5 minutes or less, and you aren’t driving on the freeway or holding a newborn baby, drop what you’re doing and get it done immediately.
I’ve mentally imprinted the phrase “A year from now, you’ll wish you had started today” and I refer to that every now and then when I sense myself stalling off a new task.
5) Understand that life isn’t supposed to be easy
It would be boring if it were. There’s a quote painted on the wall of my gym “nothing worth achieving was ever achieved without effort”…I used to roll my eyes at it, but now I realise how incredibly accurate it is.
Imaging yourself having infinite wealth… once you’ve got the holidaying, partying, debauchery and materialistic spending sprees out of your system…unless you’ve cultivated some form of passion or cause you can devote yourself to, imagine how fucking unfulfilling and apathetic that lifestyle would be. Everything would lose its value…including relationships…and you’d struggle to find the motivation to do almost anything.
Learn to enjoy the grind itself, not merely the outcome…the journey not the destination. That’s the essence of life.
Naturally, without the negative spectrum of emotions and experiences, the positive ones wouldn’t exist either. Without adversity there would be no triumph. No matter how mentally resilient you become, you’ll always encounter fear…but in reality true courage isn’t a lack of fear, it’s acting in spite of it. I’m sure Ned Stark would agree with that.
6) Galvanize yourself into taking positive action.
Your conscious/intuition/better judgement, whatever you want to call it, generally knows what’s best for you and what it takes to get there, but is often overpowered by the pessimist in us. Here are two techniques you can use to confront that pessimistic voice;
1. Retroactive self-reflection. Here’s a confronting visualisation activity to motivate you into taking action; When faced with a daunting decision or challenge (one that you want to take but are hampered by your negative thoughts or anxiety), quickly visualize yourself as an old man or woman – Zimmer frame, toothless, baby food, incontinent, lonely, family only drop in once a month if you’re lucky – and you’re propped in front of the TV…but you’re not watching daytime talk shows or lawn bowl championships, rather you’re viewing a montage of all the opportunities you’ve passed up in your younger life, and you’re writhing with regret because you’ll never know what could have been.
Attach this scenario to a word or phrase you can mutter so you’re not actually trying to imagine an old man shitting himself when you’re at a critical moment.
Remember two adages; If you try you risk failure, if you back out you assure it…and…rejection stings for a minute (perhaps even a month), but regret will haunt you for a lifetime.
2. Explicitly stating negative behaviors before or whilst you’re engaging in them. For instance “I’m going to procrastinate on reddit for the rest of the evening, and most likely tomorrow morning, then panic tomorrow afternoon when I realize the assignment Is due in a few hours and I haven’t even started”, “I’m going to allow a spiteful comment to ruin my entire day because my self-worth is completely dependent on what a stranger thinks of me” “I’m now going to go masturbate to some unrealistic BS for 40 seconds of mild pleasure then feel utterly awful afterwards, and ruin one of my socks in the process.”
Make sure to articulate it in a silly dopey voice so it highlights how ridiculous that line of thinking is, and separates it from the self that wants to improve i.e. the true self. If you’re anything like me, you’ll actually struggle to even get the full thing out before you’re launching a counterattack.
7) Interrupt negative thoughts with positive ones.
Just as the former pervade your mind whenever you consider a possibility or opportunity, you can give them a taste of their own medicine by interrupting them with optimism.
For instance fellas; you see a gorgeous, friendly looking girl browsing a few meters away at the supermarket, you make eye contact and she briefly smiles at you…your immediate response is actually to approach her…but that thought is swiftly interrupted by “What if she thinks I’m creepy? What if this complete stranger laughs at my face? What if I shit my pants and vomit on her?” Well, here’s the solution….Interrupt those pessimistic thoughts instantaneously with “…ok, or what if we have incredibly chemistry, we’re exactly what the other one has been searching for, and we fall into a passionate romance that develops into a lifelong friendship?” or even just “Ok so what if that happens? If she thinks I’m creepy I’ll know I need to work on how I project myself. If she laughs at me I will have dodges a bullet. If I shit myself and vomit I’ll become more resilient for it because I will have survived the worst case scenario.”
So put yourself outside your comfort zone, and into situations where you’ll have the opportunity to silence that naysaying motherfucker…then to really spite it, take action.
Of course, in situations where there is a substantial degree of risk, you must always make the distinction between baseless pessimistic thoughts (which should be overridden) versus the conscience speaking from experience (which should be heeded within reason).
8) Positively reframe situations
This is similar to the previous point, but more generalized. Instead of looking at the gym as a place of sweat and pain, look at it as a place for strengthening your body and your mind. Instead of looking at a job interview as a torturous exercise in awkward silences, humble bragging, and sycophantism aka brown nosing the interviewer, look at is as an opportunity to improve the way you project yourself, fortify mental resilience, and potentially enter a fulfilling career path.
Instead of telling yourself ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘I’m terrible at this’ reframe it with ‘yet’ and ‘but, I can learn’. Learn to enjoy challenges as they become opportunities for either success or learning. Look at failures as being opportunities for error correction and personal growth.
Learn to deal with setbacks and failures constructively, without giving up and reverting back to detrimental habits.
Don’t expect yourself to fail, but don’t lambaste yourself if you do – treat it all as a learning experience. Many are scared to try their absolute hardest in the fear that they may still ‘fail’ – however the silver lining in this situation is that you’ve now experienced the worst case scenario and lived to tell the tale, thus you become that much more resilient to future failures, and are able to focus on identifying the causes rather than the act itself. After all, humanity has progressed on the back of countless failures, but wouldn’t have if they were never capitalized as learning opportunities.
9) Any progress is good progress.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. You can’t edit a blank page etc. Don’t expect to go from a lazy, unstructured layabout to Mr efficient marathon running supersoldier overnight, over a week, over a month, hell even over a year – this is setting (often deliberately) unrealistic expectations for yourself and setting yourself up for disappointment.
Deeply ingrained negative thought loops and harmful habits take time to overcome and redirect into positive ones. Our brains are adaptable and It will happen eventually, but it’s done incrementally, and it takes time, consistency and resolve.
Lastly, everyone runs their own race at their own pace – don’t compare your progress to that of anybody else, no matter how similar you believe yourselves to be. The only person you should compare yourself to is your younger self. Another crucial axiom to remember when pursuing goals is “Never give up on a dream goal because of the time it will take to accomplish. The time will pass anyway.”
10) Keep yourself accountable
Note the tasks you wish to achieve that day in a journal of some sort, and reflect on your completion of them at the end. Commend yourself for those that you did achieve, but don’t beat yourself up over those you didn’t. This is crucial in building self-efficacy, and eventually it will become habitual.
Try to minimize the concessions you give yourself e.g “today is gonna be a lazy day, I’ll get back on top of things tomorrow” but don’t allow one of these days to completely ruin any momentum and progress you’ve made. You’re only human, and even the most productive people have ‘lazy days’ every now and then – plus anger directed inward isn’t a sustainable motivator to improve.
Nonetheless, endeavor to remain mindful of what you’re doing as often as possible, and gently guide yourself back on track if you’ve become derailed.