No matter how rock solid you are in terms of your routines and habits, there are days (or weeks) where things just aren't going they way they normally do, and you seem powerless to stop it. It's as if you're watching yourself from a detached perspective make the wrong choices, do the wrong things, and neglect what you know you should be doing to drive yourself forward.
When this happens to me, it feels like I can't actually make the right decisions, even though I know exactly what they are and how to do them. However, I've come up with a way to drag myself out of the mud that I think a lot of people may resonate with. When I say "come up with", I really mean "culled information from various people I respect and tested it out in my life."
Here they are:
1. When was the last time you exerted so much physical energy that you felt like you were going to die - in a good way?
Something interesting has happened after switching to SETT on my blog...I'm actually getting comments! I started this blog for these reasons:
Prior to SETT, I was the only person that looked at the blog. This is corroborated with a quick scan at my analytics since the blog was created...and this was just fine. I wasn't writing for anyone but myself, and I did absolutely no promotion of my material whatsoever.
If you're afflicted with this idea that you need something to be perfect - whether that be a skill, deliverable, project, whatever - you probably know how crippling it can be. You'll spend 2x as much time getting something from 90% to 100% as you did getting it from 0% to 90%.
A while back I started thinking about how little I learned in college/high school, and then realizing that I was dead wrong. I definitely learned a lot of concepts, most of which are applied in totally different ways than my teachers and professors intended.
Take calculus for example. Don't really care about it in my day to day life...doesn't help me much. But the concept of limits has been awesome for understanding how to view perfection and growth in general.
If you're unfamiliar, a limit is a value that a function "approaches" - never to actually reach the value...which is why it's called the limit.
If you view your progression at anything as a limit approaching perfection, I guarantee you'll have a much better time in life. For example, if you're trying to ship out a project for a client, it's often best to ship it out at 95% rather than 100%. You might be thinking that this shortchanges the client's investment in you, but it's not true. Shipping out at 95% allows you to ship something else out at 95% instead of spending that time on the last 5% of the initial deliverable.
It’s been said that most people fear public speaking more than dying. While I personally don’t share this sentiment, I can definitely remember the anxiety I felt when giving my first speeches in high school.
Why do we fear public speaking? Sweaty palms, a constricted throat, a wavering voice. All common symptoms to something that has a next to zero chance of hurting you physically.
A better question is, why do we fear anything? In my opinion, all irrational fears stem from a lack of reference experience. Imagine you are absolutely terrified of jumping out of planes – a somewhat healthy fear for the most part. However, you want to skydive, but you can’t get over the fact that you will literally jump out of a plane, potentially to your death.
Imagine you were forced to repeatedly skydive at gunpoint. Jump or die. Those are your options. Clearly you’d jump. With each jump your fear would degrade as you gained the reference experience needed to truly evaluate the situation. This is known as progressive desensitization. If you click through to that Wikipedia link it seems awfully complex, but trust me – it’s not.
You don’t need to be a behavioral psychologist or therapist to overcome your personal fears. There’s a very simple method you can use to slowly but surely hack away at your irrational fear of public speaking. I’ve used it many times for many fears of my own. It uses progressive desensitization to chip away at your fear bit by bit. I like to call it the Fyramid:
I've been very successful in my quest to eliminate hardcore competitive video games from my life. By using Stickk, a friend, a monetary incentive, and accountability, I've hard-quit League of Legends and repurposed the hours a week that I was spending playing games.
This next year is going to be very exciting for me, but is also going to require a lot out of me as a person. It is going to require me to become a different person if I want to have what I will consider a "successful year."
There are no financial, travel, or social goals planned for 2013 at all.
Instead, I will call 2013 the Habitual Year. The only true "goal" that I have for the year is that I commit to implementing or quitting one habit per month using the framework that has worked so well for me this past month. The way I see it, if I implement or remove a total of 12 major habits (think nutrition, exercise, meditation, socializing, etc) then 365 days from now there really is no way I can have a bad year.
I need to focus on habits that other people can easily see if I have accomplished or not. For LoL, it was easy because there are 3rd party websites that track gameplay, allowing Jon to see if I'd played or not regardless of if I wanted to tell him the truth. This needs to be the case in any future habit challenge.
There was a time (2010) where I consumed vast amounts of information on a wide spread of topics, thinking that the knowledge would somehow translate magically into results. While I gained a lot of insight on a broad range of topics, the knowledge didn't do much for me in the way of results in the real world.
Here are just some of the topics I studied in 2010:
And the list goes on. When I say I studied these topics, I mean I really studied them. I surfed for 3-4 hours per day for a month straight. I played drums for 3-4 hours a day. I would go out for hours at night and take photographs to get better at long exposure photography.
While 2010 wasn't all fun and games, I'm very fortunate to have had the savings to afford spending a year pursuing whatever interested me.
Having the luxury of spending a year of my life like this is something that a lot of people dream of. I know plenty of people who would have loved to do the same, but needed to pay down school debt or get started in a career. I thought I should get started in a career...but with money in the bank and a stubbornly curious mind, I couldn't pull the trigger on that just yet.
As a follow up to my post on habits in 2013, I wanted to touch on some improvements that I have made to the system.
Previously I was tracking just one habit per month, making sure that it was likely to be a keystone habit - one that, if implemented, has a "cascade" effect on other parts of your life. Regular exercise is a great example of this, because you'll usually have more energy to devote to other aspects of your life and will achieve more things throughout your day.
I've upped the ante and am starting to think not only of single habit formation, but tracking many different habits throughout the day and using perfection as an ideal, not the desired result.
Because willpower is finite, there are simply going to be some days where my willpower gets tapped by business or personal life and some habits fall by the wayside for the day. The idea is to track a multitude of habits - some small, some large - over long periods of time and work on the meta-structure of your day and the order of the actions you take throughout the day.
Here's an idea of what it looks like:
At the end of a month, there's usually a lot of random nonsense that has built up. I'm testing out a strategy for dealing with that by dedicating the least-important day in the last week of the month to task crushing.
Here's what I do.
This is similar to the GTD method of dumping everything from your brain. I write down the main categories that tasks sit in, and then I sit down for 10 minutes and scribble down everything I can think of, no matter how trivial.
"Host webinar" goes down on the list right with "Get a vitamin holder". I keep going until I can't think of anything.
I use a simple dot system to rank the categories, then I go into the tasks themselves. One dot is most important, two is middle, and three is least.
Health and wealth. A lot of problems can be distilled into these two gigantic verticals. In the marketing world, there are thousands and thousands of different businesses that are positioned around these particular macro niches.
Most of us stress about one of these two...or if you're like the average person...both! One thing I've found to be very helpful is an exercise I call returning to reality.
It's a cold hard smack in the face if you're not where you want to be in these two areas, but as Peter Drucker says:
2011 has been a year where I’ve taken action on some things that have made me feel very uncomfortable. I joined Toastmasters in early January, and gave my first speech in February. Why? I don’t have a direct need to learn public speaking – I don’t work in a position that requires it, and I don’t have any (current) plans to become a public speaker.
I did it simply because I didn’t want to do it. It was something I’d tossed around in my head for ages. ”I’ll get around to it,” I would say. Then when it came time to join, I would end up saying to myself, “Only weird people join groups like that. It’s not for me.”
Finally I realized that I was limiting myself in a major way, so I went to a local club as a guest and checked it out. I was pleasantly surprised at how supportive everyone was and how committed they were to becoming better at this craft. It’s now been almost seven months since I joined, and I’m halfway through the first speech manual, as well as the acting Sergeant of Arms for our club. I’ve engaged in a project to redesign the website for my chapter, and have met some truly awesome and inspiring people. Oh and my public speaking skills have gotten better, too.
Seek not to be comfortable as a state of being. Seek instead to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, this is where true growth lies. There will always be a fake reason behind why you shouldn’t do something – try to look behind this.
While reading The Personal MBA, I came across a method called the Five Fold Why. It’s used to discover the true reason behind any goal you might have. For example, if one of your goals is “Get to 10% bodyfat”, you’d begin by asking “Why do I want to get to 10% bodyfat?” to which you might respond, “I want to look and feel better.” Then ask, “Why do I want to look and feel better?” and keep doing this until you get to the true reason – when the answer to your question is “Because I want it.”