In your life right now, there’s a challenge you’re avoiding.
Actually, there’s probably a lot of challenges you’re avoiding.
Day-to-day life can feel exhausting. Work, obligations, home duties, friends, relationships, family, hobbies, kids… The list of things to do each day is a mile long.
However, for every single person who has so much to do, there was someone out there who overcame the daily grind and still pursued their dreams.
Being busy has become a band-aid term for not pursuing dreams.
It’s a constant excuse that makes us feel validated in our whining. We get to avoid the pain of realizing we’re not putting enough effort in.
Of course, there are a million difficult things that can get in the way of what you want.
Cancer, death, paralyzing fears, car accidents, natural disasters…
But the truth is that things will always keep happening. There is never a time of perfect circumstances or where the “time is right”.
Theodore Roosevelt lost his mother and his wife on the same day, and he managed to overcome it. It doesn’t mean it was easy to get through. It means he looked the challenge in the face and took on the emotional pain, woke up every day, and kept putting one foot in front of the other.
There has to be a point where you start chasing your fears instead of running away from them.
There will always be a lot going on, but you need to decide what matters most to you and make time for it.
Sometimes the challenges are small, such as finally cleaning out your garage. Sometimes they’re big challenges, such as finally moving across the country.
Ah, social media. It’s brought about some of the best in humanity but also brought about new challenges we have to deal with.
Before, we only heard about all the things our friends are doing through catching up with them or by hearing it through other people.
Now, you just flip on your phone and can see all of the things everyone you’ve ever known are doing with their lives.
Sure, it would be nice to say to simply delete social media and never use it again, and that’s great for the people who can do that. However, not all of us can. Some people like social media or work in a career that needs it. This will be more of a balance when you have no choice but you still need to stay focused on your own life, even when the people around you are doing cool things.
Accepting your path
The first thing you need to accept is that everyone is on a different journey. We can’t all be on the same blueprint, because what would be the purpose?
When you look at successful people over time, you’ll see that every single one of them had a different journey. Some found success at 18, some became successful in their 60’s. Some with a family, some without. Some with parents some without. You get the idea.
Knowing what YOU want
On this site, I’ve said time and time again that the most important part of life is to know what YOU want. Not what your parents want for you, not what your teachers want, not what your friends want, not what your partner wants… What YOU want.
A lot of us turn to social media instead of facing those hard questions and thoughts. Every time we feel uncomfortable or realize we’re unhappy where we are, we pop up those stimulating apps that distract us from that discomfort.
When you realize you’re falling into that pattern, it’s more important than ever to take a social media break and step back a bit.
Compare what you want to what you see
My career requires me to be on social media far too much (digital marketing), so I had to figure out a way to deal with this.
The best solution I have found is to notice when I’m feeling jealous or behind and ask myself:
* Am I actively working toward what I want?
* Is this thing I’m jealous over something I actually want?
The biggest thing I’ve realized is that when I’m not actively working toward what I want, it’s easy to become bitter when you see other people happy. (That’s also the case for every single troll on the internet.)
When you’re making progress every day toward what you want, you have little time to be jealous or upset. You’ll actually be happy for other people doing the same thing.
The second question helps you realize that so much of what we see online isn’t something we actually want. For example, if you saw your friend giving a speech to a huge crowd and you were a little envious, ask yourself if public speaking is even something you want.
Avoid self-sabotage thinking
It’s so easy to get caught in a downward spiral of feeling like there’s something wrong with you when you see other people succeeding. This is especially true if you see people achieving the things that you have on your own goal list.
Remember that the things you already have, someone in the world is praying to have. You’re blessed in different ways, whether you see those blessing or not. Someone would kill for your life.
Stay focused on what you want, remind yourself that your life path will be unique, and take note of how far you’ve come.
“100% is Easy, 99% is Hard” is a quote I came across recently that took me quite some time to absorb.
The essential premise is that when you’re 100% committed, everything becomes easy. When you’re just 1% hesitant, that hesitancy can destroy your productivity.
This has been a year of a lot of 99%. And the problem is, 99% sounds great, right? Like, you’re almost fully committed. “It’s a lot more than 1%!” you tell yourself.
However, every number on the scale to 100% is enough to stop you. Only being 10% committed… 40%… 51%… It doesn’t matter.
If you aren’t getting the right things done, take a minute to think for a second. Ask yourself if you are 100% committed to what you want.
If you’re being honest with yourself, you’ll know that you are somewhere under 100% committed.
Of course, we can accomplish the things on our to-do lists that are required to get done without being 100% committed. If your parents need a favor, you need to finish something your boss gives you to do, you need to go grocery shopping… Those are different.
I’m talking about the true passion that burns in your soul. The one your mind just went to. The thing you’re dying to do that you just keep putting off.
2018 is just around the corner, how much longer are you going to wait?
For years, I’ve been a writer for my work. I can write client projects without much of a struggle and without writers block getting in the way. However, look at this blog. I love this site. It’s a baby passion project. But look at how few times I post. (Yes, this is me calling myself out.)
It’s easy to sit down and be like “oh, I can’t write today, writers block” but in the back of my mind I know that’s not true.
Think about all the other areas of your life. Where are you lacking 100% commitment when it’s important?
Whether it’s in sports, relationships, goals, or for any other thing that matters to you, it’s essential that you remove that one percent that’s holding you back.
You can be scared, you can be nervous, you can want to scream, but you must be fully committed and follow through.
Let’s go through some examples you’ve probably been in.
If you aren’t 100% committed to your diet, you’ll easily excuse those cheat meals here and there that add up to additional weight. When you’re 100% committed, you don’t even look at those tempting snacks. You already know you’re not going to touch them.
If you aren’t 100% committed to your relationship, all kinds of temptations are everywhere. You’ll start flirting, your thoughts will start looking outside your relationship. Most of all, you won’t put in the commitment to fix it, you’ll just want to bail out. When you’re committed, you’re ready to fix whatever problems come up.
If you aren’t 100% committed to pursuing that burning passion or dream, you’ll let things like your feelings, the weather, or being tired get in the way. You’ll do it “tomorrow”. When you’re 100% committed, it doesn’t matter how you feel.
Until you’re at 100%, you can kiss progress goodbye.
All throughout time, the people who truly accomplished what they wanted to hit the 100% committed mark.
There is a lot to be said for planning out a year. (If you still need to plan your year: this guide will help.)
At a certain point, though, you can only add so many things into your life before you need to start subtracting to make room for all the new.
One of the best ways to start doing that is to track your time.
Most people think they’re utilizing every single minute of every day, but if you actually track your time you’ll see plenty of holes.
When I spent time tracking what I was doing during every hour of every day, I realized I was wasting a lot of time waiting on responses from people. Once I realized this, I found productive things to do while I wait for edits, responses, or anything else that depends on someone else getting back to me.
So many people claim they don’t have time, yet can tell you every detail of what happened this season on Game of Thrones.
(On a side note: Consuming media isn’t a bad thing, but consuming media at the expense of your goals is where people start to get in trouble.)
Finding A Goal
The first step is to know what goals you want in your life.
If you don’t have goals, you have no idea if you’re using your time well or not and when you have free time, you don’t know what to do.
When you have a vision for your life, or at least an overriding goal for the year, it’s easy to ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing right now getting me closer or farther from that goal?”
Your time becomes clear.
This is what a lot of “productivity experts” overlook: having something to work toward.
Who cares if you meditate, clean your room, exercise daily, plan your day, or anything else if it’s all meaningless? I’ve seen on a lot of posts on productivity forums along the lines of, “My life is totally in order yet I feel empty inside… why?”
Simple: Because we humans are meant for more than to be tidy.
Being tidy for the sake of looking like you have it together doesn’t make sense. Being tidy because that helps you spend less time on clutter and more time on what matters makes sense.
Having goals, values, a purpose gives meaning to the small tasks.
You might not know what your life’s purpose is, but having literally anything to work toward gives meaning to the day-to-day grind.
Plus, it removes that, “What should I be working on?” feeling when you have downtime.
Track Your Time
There are multiple ways to track your time.
Some prefer digital tools like RescueTime that can track your web activity.
Some prefer paper, and what has worked for me is this planner, where I can track each day 15 minutes at a time. Plus, each day is blank so you can track the days you want without wasting paper when you miss some days. I don’t work at my computer all the time, so I had to find something else I could take offline.
Every 60 minutes I go back and write down what I worked on for the past hour.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard to keep writing it down and I actually had to set a 60-minute timer to remember to do it, but it’s eye-opening.
When you complain about not having enough time to work on that creative project, but then write down “Facebook” as what you’ve spent the last hour doing, you understand where your time has gone.
Cut, Cut, Cut
Once you have an accurate look at your week and where your time went, this is when you need to re-prioritize.
There are a million reasons our time goes out the window. Not being organized enough, having too many things on our plate, saying “yes” to too many things, falling into time-wasting activities, and so on.
You can’t audit your life until you have an actual overlook at where your time goes.
This is when you can make plans for the time-sucks that eat away at your life.
For example, here are some things I’ve altered:
I made my Facebook password ridiculously complicated and I sign out after being done. Having a complicated password prevents me from signing in at any moment. I also took Facebook, along with some other social media platforms, off my phone so I stopped burning time on those mindless activities.
I meal prep as often as I can. One huge time suck was cooking every single day, so I’ve been working to change that. I don’t want to eat out every day, because that’s a financial drain, but just having things prepared has made everything so much easier.
Stopped multi-tasking. I thought I was getting so much done when I would multi-task, but after tracking my time I discovered this wasn’t true at all. Doing multiple tasks took longer than me focusing and doing one at a time.
I now only consume media I really enjoy. Sometimes we all get sucked in to keeping up with the “hot” things of our time, but that can be such a waste of time. I stopped watching a lot of TV shows for that reason.
It’s normal to fall off the wagon when you’re trying to build new habits or shift your focus, but if you keep tracking and trying to improve, you can make your life better with each passing day.
What have you realized was a complete time-suck, and how did you change it? Leave a comment!
Since our little team has received a ton of e-mails about if this site is associated with The Art of Manliness’ Strenuous Life program, I wanted to be clear that it’s not. This blog was started years ago.
We wishwe were because AofM is one of the best blogs on the planet, but no, this is another completely separate site. We just both happen to share an interest in TR, his legacy, and living the strenuous life values.
You can read their post about the New Strenuous Age. <- A MUST read for anyone interested in the strenuous life.
It has always amazed me how America goes from being grateful for everything we have (Thanksgiving) to immediately feeling like we need to spend money to fill some void in our souls for the next few weeks until Christmas.
(Actually what I’ve really realized is that people barely spend any time actually being grateful and they spend most of it overindulging, but that’s not the point of this post.)
Through analyzing consumerism, I’ve realized so many people buy things to feel like they live exciting lives instead of actually living an exciting life.
There’s nothing you could buy on Black Friday that can actually change your character. It can give you the appearance of someone exciting, but it doesn’t actually make you that way.
Once I realized this within my own life, I no longer have a strong pull to shop all the time or buy junk to impress people I don’t actually like.
I can’t even imagine what Theodore Roosevelt would say about our consumerism in the new world. He’d surely think it was over-the-top and at an excessive level. Of course, he thought capitalism was a good thing, but not at the expense of character development.
People buy fancy tech gear, yet they never do anything creative with it.
People buy athletic shoes that they only use for taking laps around the processed food aisles at the grocery store.
People buy fancy TV’s so they can keep watching Netflix alone.
People buy another book on business instead of actually launching the one that they have been dreaming of starting.
You can’t buy character, morality, or values. Those are things you must earn, but only a select amount of people want to put in that kind of work.
If you want a better 2017, focus on the values you need to develop instead of the items you need. I get it, your family expects gifts. There’s not much you can do there, but you can choose to opt-out.
Creating the life you want will always come from your own efforts and determination, not some cheap plastic that will end up in a landfill and take far too long to decompose.
Just something to mentally chew on as you navigate this holiday season.
Either way, it is Thanksgiving and I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for ever reading any of my posts. Thank you for taking the steps to live the strenuous life. Thank you to T.R. for existing and leaving us all a legacy to study.
Everyone seems to be on a mission to figure out who they are. With the rise of self-help books, magazines, tv shows, and seminars, there’s a lot of hype around “finding yourself”.
They make all kinds of money on the idea that you’re not good enough and if you buy their book and go to their seminars you’ll be “fixed” and “find your passion” so you can “live your dreams”. <- All the buzzwords and marketing I see every day.
Like there’s some great part of you that’s hidden and you could only find it if you look hard enough.
Yes, there’s something to be said for taking the time to explore in silence and get to in touch with what matters to you or to reset your values if you’ve fallen off track.
However, at a certain point it, trying to “find yourself” just becomes a form of procrastination.
You’re fine just how you are. You just might need to work harder on what matters. Thinking too hard about yourself and your life can cause you to think too much, then you’re stuck in your head going nowhere because you’ve built up this idea in your head.
Instead of taking small action steps, it becomes and endless chase of finding the next form of media that will have the “right” answers you need.
I know a ton of unemployed people and people working way below their qualifications who are so busy “finding themselves” instead of working on their big goals. They spend their free time drinking and smoking weed instead of putting in the hours to excel at what matters.
There are so many people who have real, serious talent, but they don’t progress in life because they refuse to put in the work. Talent isn’t enough to carry anyone without some sweat put in.
That’s what these self-help books rarely look at: the hard work that must be put in. The effort that it takes to create something new out of your life.
If you’re going to take the time off to find yourself, you must get somewhere quiet or out in nature.
Not long after losing both his mother and his wife within the same 24 hours, Theodore Roosevelt moved to North Dakota to become a cowboy and deputy sheriff.
In the silence and hard work, he was able to sort out his mind. That’s a part of what Roosevelt calls living the strenuous life. The ability to work hard and spend little time dwelling over any misfortunes. To wake up, serve the world and your community, and not paralyzing yourself with your thoughts.
There is also another theory I’d like you to think about: Instead of “finding yourself”, what if you made up your mind about who you were going to be and what you were going to achieve and simply made it happen?
This is a lesson I must keep reminding myself of: the ability to create your own life.
The ability to just decide in a moment that you’re going to work on a new path and put in the work.
I recently fell into the “what do I want” black hole. You can spend months thinking about life and what you want, but until you get out in the world and put in the work, you’ll never really know.
I realized at a certain point, all you need is a small idea and commitment to your new path.
I wrote out all the traits I would need to start to get the things I want:
Discipline in writing
Outgoing enough to meet people in a new city
Perseverance to overcome rejection
To be able to finance an apartment not far from the beach and also to eventually save up for a house
Relentless effort day in and day out
The ability to overcome rejection and not let it ever stop me
This is also what I did when I decided I was going to leave my hometown and move thousands of miles away to Colorado.
I am not the brave type to generally do things like that, and if I had sat around and thought about it too much, it never would have happened.
Instead, I knew I needed to be brave, so I just was.
No second thoughts. I decided to create my life because the thought of regret was greater than the fear of going.
I’ve known to many people who blame their lives and actions on “who they are”. Sure, we all have our own preferences and quirks, but at a certain point it’s just a lame excuse.
“Sorry, I lied / cheated / stole / didn’t reply / am always late / get angry / I can’t help it, it’s just who I am.”
Yes. You can help it. You’re not a lifetime victim to your mind. Some things may take more time to fix, but it’s always possible.
You don’t need to “find” anything. I have a sneaking suspicion you already know what you want out of life, but you’ve just been either too scared to go after it, or you built it up so much in your mind that you’ve stopped yourself from taking action.
Here’s what you should do:
1. Cut the shit.
You know what you want. If you don’t, take only a few days and get away with a notebook.
2. Write out the habits and virtues you need to develop to achieve these goals.
Every single goal requires different virtues to be developed. More discipline, effort, focus, etc., or whatever it needs.
3. Get working.
There’s no book, workshop, school, or anything else that will teach you more than simply diving in and getting started. Almost every single successful person just started.
They didn’t focus on anything else but crossing things off their To Do list every single day.
Stop over thinking. Start doing.
That’s it. Literally three steps. Decide what you want, outline a simple plan, and get going.
The world has tried to convince you that it’s harder than that to make things happen, but that’s simply not true. It’s not sexy marketing, so it’s not easy to sell.
If you liked this post, subscribe for future updates so you don’t miss a post. Click here to sign up (it’s free!)
When you want to get in shape, you’re aware that you must build your body through baby steps. You lift weights, do cardio, and make it progressively harder.
But when it comes to the mind and our lives, we forget these principles. We think we can just wake up and be disciplined, committed, and focused because it’s a new year or Monday or whatever new day you decide you’re going to get it together.
Instead of approaching it like fitness, and building a plan to make it progressively harder, you expect perfection from day one.
I’ve put myself through this trap too many times. No amount of planners, visualizing, goal-mapping, or anything else actually builds the discipline required to make these come to life.
It’s the small, committed steps that make the biggest difference.
The next day that’s slightly harder than the day before.
How long have you ever lasted on a completely new schedule? Only a few days, right?
Same with the gym if you start out too heavy and overwhelming right away. You’ll pull muscles and want to start skipping the gym immediately.
I would also argue that it is important to build your mind for discomfort and hard life struggles we all have to endure. Too many people live lives of comfort, only to be crushed by life with the smallest setback.
Comfort is a killer. It kills dreams, goals, passion, and grit.
Note: Comfort is different than contentment. People confuse the two all the time.
Comfort = complacent. The definition is, “A state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint.”
Contentment = gratitude. The definition is, “A state of happiness or satisfaction.”
You can be satisfied with where you are, but complete freedom from constraint is not the right state of mind.
Being uncomfortable is a good thing, not a bad thing.
The problem is that a lot of us have struggles, but no purpose. When you’re focused and determined, struggle becomes easier.
Just being in pain all the time mentally or physically with no purpose is the root of an unnecessarily hard life. When you struggle in life and have nothing to work for, that is the root of some forms of depression. That’s when life seems unfair and thoughts of “why me?” begin to creep in.
Being in pain in the pursuit of something great makes the pain have a purpose.
Discipline is a great tool to build a quality life, but building discipline in the pursuit of a mission is what makes a legendary life.
Your mission can change, your goals can change, your passions can change, but never stop moving forward.
Whatever your goal is, you can make today harder than yesterday. You can build the beginning steps to achieving that goal. You can accomplish just a little more today than yesterday.
Even people with vast amounts of privilege still have their battles.
Buddhism has the rule of Dukkha, often translated to suffering.
When you accept that suffering is a part of life, you can move forward. If you think everything is supposed to be “easy” and all forms of pain are “bad” then you’re going to constantly meet mental roadblocks and fall into the “Why me?” pity party.
Struggles and problems force you to grow.
For a lot of us, that’s a hard pill to swallow.
Life has ups and downs and it can be hard to stay hungry for your goals when life is kicking you in the teeth.
However, if you look at almost any successful person throughout history, they all had times that were incredibly hard on their journey.
Even Theodore Roosevelt suffered through his wife and mother dying on the same day.
What matters is the pushing through, but that’s easier said than done.
Not every person is the same in how they deal with struggle.
In past posts, I’ve mentioned coming to a career crossroads recently.
After escaping into the woods for a week to think about my next steps, I came to one conclusion: It was time to put my head down and get to work on all of the ideas I had.
Thinking about my problem wasn’t going to bring me any closer to a solution. Clarity can only be found through action.
Even in tough times, it’s important to not dwell. The dwelling on issues is what makes mental holes hard to climb out of.
What I learned on my vacation is that sometimes rest isn’t the answer. Sometimes you already know what you need to do, if you’ll just actually put some trust in yourself to make it happen.
It’s hard to listen to your own inner voice when the whole world is telling you how you “should” feel all the time.
When life is kicking you around and beating you up, listen to your own gut for once, because it knows more than you think.
The Wrong Path
Sometimes, your gut is screaming at you that you’re on the wrong path.
You’re in the wrong relationship/job/city/career/etc. and you’re just too stubborn to acknowledge it.
The Wrong Work
Sometimes, you’re doing the wrong work.
I don’t necessarily mean you’re in the wrong career, but you’re like a hamster running in a wheel: You’re not making the moves that matter.
For example, when I first started out in the writing field, I thought I wanted to be a journalist, then a copywriter, and now I’ve realized that all I truly wanted to do was write blogs like this that help other people.
Of course, I’ve learned the hard way that it’s not just about writing well, it’s about marketing, too. I could spend all day writing, but if no one finds it, it doesn’t matter.
Make bigger moves in life.
Take Bigger Risks
Sometimes when life is kicking us around, the struggle comes from soaking in mediocrity.
My life is always shit when I’m not pushing hard enough.
I feel like everyone else around me is succeeding and I’m rolling around in an endless merry-go-round.
When I stop whining, I realize it’s because I’m not putting more on the line.
Taking risks is the only thing that truly pays off.
Some people think they’re a little “woo woo”, but a vision board can help a lot.
It’s important to soak into your subconscious your new vision for your life as often as possible.
If vision boards aren’t your thing, write out your goals every single morning.
Never, ever forget what is important to you.
A Deeper “Why”
Sometimes what you think you want, isn’t what you really want.
Maybe you think you want a mansion, but upon further thought, you realize you just want to be able to provide for your family and never worry about money again.
One great exercise for this is to ask yourself what you want and follow the answer up with “Why?”
“I want a mansion.”
“So I have enough room for my friends and family.”
“Because I want to be able to provide for them.”
You get the point.
Get with a friend and challenge each other to go deeper.
You’ll know you found your true purpose and motivation when it chokes you up a little bit.
Maybe your struggles come from stopping and starting on the goals you want.
Get accountable. Find someone who will hold you to what you promise, even if you’re only friends online.
There are few things more motivating than having to report to another person your progress for the week/day/month.
If you really feel down in the dumps, remember that there is someone out there who would kill for the life you have.
Go help someone.
Spend time with someone who isn’t as lucky as you are.
Get out of your own head and into the world around you.
There were too many times when life was kicking me around and I backed down instead of just putting my head down and staying focused on what mattered.
It’s cheesy, but it’s absolutely true: When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
Everything wants your attention, but what deserves your attention?
Everything in today’s world wants our eyeballs.
The news makes us all terrified.
Social media makes us afraid that we’re missing out.
Another inflamed argument on Facebook grabs your attention.
This is a never-ending loop we all fall into: reading things that don’t enhance our lives.
Sure, it’s important to stay informed on the world and what’s happening, but when it is during a time you should be working, it’s only a negative.
Steve Kamb over at Nerd Fitness made a great post about this topic, and it’s something I haven’t stopped thinking about since reading it.
After working for a few years in marketing, I have intimate knowledge of how companies go the extra mile to get our attention.
It’s debatable how ethical some of the ways are, but the main thing to know is that they’re doing it all the time.
I get it, companies need to make sales.
However, you need to be just as tough with your time as they are with their tactics.
Of course Facebook wants you on their site 24/7.
Of course ads are meant to be ridiculous to get your attention.
Of course Tinder wants you to be on there swiping your thumbs off instead of actually out in the world meeting people face to face.
What deserves your attention?
That’s the big question: Which of these things deserve your attention?
That’s what I’ve asked myself when I find myself deep in something that has my attention.
Will this distraction contribute to your legacy?
Nothing comes before your legacy work
Whatever it is you want to be known for and contribute to society, there is nothing in the world more important than that.
I always remember that humans have survived an incredibly long time before now without the internet and without these distractions. So, no, that article is probably not going to change my life.
(But keep checking in on this blog, please. 🙂 )
Nothing comes before your goals this year
If you’ve planned out your year (I have post on this: here), then you already know what needs to be done.
You know what you need to focus on this month, this week, this day, and this hour.
Keep those goals next to your computer at all times so you stay focused on what matters.