Your Life Is Judged By What You Complete

We all have good intentions.

We intend to start working out.
We intend to write that book.
We intend to spend more time with our family.
We intend to work hard.
We intend to be happier.

The thing is: If you died tomorrow, what would your legacy be?

All the things you intended to do, or what you’ve actually done?

The only answer: What you have finished.

No one talks at funerals about all the great plans, intentions, and goals you had.

Life doesn’t wait for you to complete our goals before ripping us from this planet.

The only thing you can do in the race against time is to stay focused and make sure you finish everything you start. Finishing is the secret to leaving behind a legacy.

As of today, there are 108 days left in 2015.

Everywhere I go, I see people talking about how much they’re going to accomplish in 2016. Why wait until 2016? Why not start RIGHT NOW?

Every time you push something off into the future, there is a higher chance it will never be completed.

Looking through Theodore Roosevelt’s accomplishments, a man who only lived until 60, we see a long list of completed items:

  • Wrote 35 books
  • Worked as state legislator, police commissioner, governor in New York, vice president, and eventually president of the United States for two terms
  • Served in the Spanish-American War as a Rough Rider
  • Owned and worked on a ranch in the Dakotas
  • Graduated from Harvard
  • Federally preserved 230 million acres of land

Every single thing on that list was something he finished.

Whatever it is you want in life, you have to get started with the first steps to making it happen.

Not next year.
Not next month.
Not next week.
NOW.

Live A Life Defined By Your Own Values

While stress is rampant among today’s society, particularly among today’s youth, everyone wants to point at technology.

It’s understandable, since my phone and e-mail seem to always be buzzing, but there’s another theory I’ve been thinking about that causes so much stress:

Living life outside of our values.

It’s not a flashy idea, but everyone has internal values they live by, whether they have taken the time to reflect on them or not.

Some examples:

  • Maybe you truly value a life of minimalism, but you can’t stop buying things. The stress then builds on your life because your heart wants less clutter but your home doesn’t give you that peace.
  • Maybe you value adventure, but your daily grind without a single break to get outside is wearing you down.
  • Maybe you value being self-reliant, and having to borrow from your parents is eating away at your self-worth.
  • Maybe you value your health, but you can’t stop drinking soda when you’re at work.
  • Maybe you value the strenuous life, and your comfortable living is clashing with your internal feelings.

While the modern living is stressful with all the new demands we never had in the past, the real stress comes from not harnessing this new technology to get us closer to what we value.

Instead, we constantly distract ourselves from what we care about and convince ourselves that it is everything we need.

We all value different things, that’s why there is no one lifestyle that is perfect for everyone, even though every “guru” out there tries to sell you something otherwise.

Yes, stress is a good thing every now and then. Stress of exercising your body, striving for your goals, asking someone on a date, but that’s a much different kind of stress than living a life outside of what we value.

A life outside of what we value is one that wears away at the soul. It’s a stress that will kill your spirit and make you feel empty inside.

Actually, science has determined a name for the different kinds of stress: eustress and distress. One is good, and one is bad.

We want more of the good stress and less of the bad stress.

Here’s how to get your life back on track:

1. Take the time to determine your values.

The Art of Manliness has an incredible post on how to take the time to find your values.

What I did was find a notebook and write down every time something made me feel irritated. I found a few common themes: eating food I knew was bad for my system, skipping a workout, buying cheap goods made in China, having too much clutter, not making any progress on my main goals… All of those made me feel irritated.

Yes, it will feel weird to have a notebook of complaints for a month, but this is valuable in order to determine what you actually care about. You’ll be able to tally up certain things to find the real underlying values that guide your life and why you feel so stressed.

2. Calculate how you’re going to live your values.

This is the hard step. You’re going to have to change parts of your life that might feel hard to change.

A relationship might have to go, you might have to cancel that online gaming account, you might have to start changing your career. Just make sure to start with one value at a time. Start with the easiest one first if it’s a huge change.

You might have years, or even decades, of living a life outside of what you truly value so give yourself the time to make slow steps toward what matters.

3. List your basic rules.

There will be a set of minimum rules you will not break at any cost.

Some examples include:

  • No phone at bed time.
  • No video games until all your work is done.
  • You will not sleep until you have done 100 squats.
  • You will not cheat on your spouse.
  • You will do something adventurous every month.
  • You will donate one box a week.
  • You will play outside with your kids 3x/week.

Understand some weeks will be better than others, but if you have a simple list of rules you follow, it will make life so much easier. It will also make your weekly planning much easier (A series on weekly planning is coming!).

4. Stay focused on what matters.

Don’t fall back into the trap of superficial distractions.

Sometimes we feel unnecessarily irritated and it’s important to let that feeling sink in until you find the root cause of the feeling.

Modern life makes it all too easy to distract ourselves when we’re feeling bad. There’s all kinds of stimulation to keep us busy and away from what we’re really feeling.

Benjamin Franklin is known for tracking his virtues in a chart:

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 9.46.12 AM

(Virtues and values aren’t exactly the same thing, but hopefully you get my point.)

This might be something worth doing yourself as well. Tracking each day whether you were closer to a life you value or when you made choices that didn’t help.

Dealing With Stress: Use The 10/10/10 Rule

Stress is unavoidable.

If you’re choosing to actively live the strenuous life, you will encounter many times when you feel so outside your comfort zone, that you’re not sure how you’ll handle it.

You’ll stay up late with visions of failure.
Your palms will sweat.
You’ll feel like your whole world is caving in.

The good news is that a simple perspective shift will change these times.

Years ago, I heard this rule and I thought I would pass it onto other people. It is a way to deal with the overwhelming facts of life, especially in those moments of crushing worry.

This is called the 10/10/10 Rule.

I remember reading this in an article somewhere a long time ago. I can’t find it to link to it, but I’m going to recreate the general message.

When you feel that crushing stress, you simply ask yourself:
“Will this matter in 10 days?” Yes/No.
“Will this matter in 10 months?” Yes/No.
“Will this matter in 10 years?” Yes/No.

You’ll find that for the most part, the things you’re currently worried about will not matter in the grand perspective of life.

Every time I’m worried about paying a bill, passing a test, worried about friends, or any other stress that comes into my life, I write these questions out and actively imagine my life after that period of time.

Most of our problems will not matter in 10 years, but the astonishing fact is that I realize how soon most problems will be over. If something stressing me out, I realize that in 10 days it simply won’t matter.

Those school finals? They end.
Those payments on your debt? You’ll figure it out. Sell some stuff. Do some freelance work. You’ll be free one day.
That relationship problem? You’ll figure it out, or the relationship will end.

Once you realize there is an end point to a certain problem, you realize this problem won’t kill you. It forces you to get outside of your body and create a birds-eye view of your problems.

What do you do when a problem doesn’t go away?

You accept it. Period. If you can’t change it, you have to stop feeling sorry for yourself and move on knowing this is a fact in life. Maybe you were born shorter than you want. Maybe you were born with a different skin color. Maybe someone close to you passed away.

These are all facts that cannot be changed, so the faster you accept it, the faster you move on to building your legendary life.

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Accepting Death Helps You Live Life

American culture completely rejects death.

This is why the “anti-aging’ industry makes billions of dollars.

We will do anything to hide from the fact that we only live a certain amount of years on this planet.

For whatever reason, March was a crazy month. Things were piling up, my inbox was bursting at the seams, family drama, etc.

Most people I know have been there: where it feels like no matter what you do, everything seems to be going wrong.

At the same time, I have been big on the idea of having mental mentors. A council you can go to so you can seek advice.

I thought about what Theodore Roosevelt would do in this situation.

While I was flipping through one of my many books about him:

...too many?

…too many?

I came upon his quote:

The worst lesson that can be taught to a man is to rely upon others and to whine over his sufferings.

Which was exactly what I needed to hear.

Worry, complaining, anxiety, fear… all have their purpose but rarely do they help accomplish anything worthwhile. Sitting around and worrying solves nothing.

Then, I thought about our culture and the rejection of age.

What I have found to be completely counterintuitive is the fact that accepting death releases worries.

I thought about all my stress and asked, “Will this matter when I’m dead?” Nope. None of it will.

Bills won’t matter.
Credit scores won’t matter.
College degrees won’t matter.
Jobs won’t matter.

All those sleepless nights of worry will die with us.

What matters is packing as much life as possible into those years we have.

The legacy we leave behind is what truly matters.

Stop worrying. Start doing.