Ambitious people are a dime a dozen. Most people doubt themselves. All of us — in some shape or form — are stuck in la la land.
One of the most difficult yet useful skills is the ability to balance your aspirations with reality. A pessimist and an idealist both miss the point.
The point is to have optimism about your future but look at the state of society, your environment, and your circumstances without rose-colored glasses.
Many of these truths sit right under your nose. Intuitively you know they’re true, but facing them head-on means discomfort.
Success or failure in life comes from which type of discomfort you choose.
You can choose the discomfort of facing reality, making decisions to change, and having the difficult dialogue needed to do both.
You can also choose the discomfort of rationalizing your situation, lying to yourself, and making excuses.
The choice is yours. In my experience, and from what I’ve observed, taking the discomfort upfront can feel horrible in the short run but rewarding in the long run. Pushing it away with the avoidance of truth alleviates discomfort in the short term, but it always comes back and persists until you do something about it.
Take a look at the truths I’m about to share with you. Technically, they are my opinions. You’re free to disagree with them. Before you do, though, try to take a look at yourself and your situation honestly to determine whether you really disagree with me, or you’re just hiding.
The World Will Never Quit Poking You
Most [people] make the error of thinking that one day it will be done. They think, “If I can work enough, then one day I could rest.”Or, “I’m only doing this now so that one day I can do what I really want with my life.” The […] error is to think that eventually, things will be different in some fundamental way. They won’t. It never ends. As long as life continues, the creative challenge is to tussle, play, andmake love with the present moment while giving your unique gift. — David Deida
Have you ever felt like your circumstances were trying to break you?
Just when you’ve improved your finances, your car breaks down. You wake up on the wrong side of the bed, come to work to a nagging boss and go home to an indifferent spouse.
Every time you take a step forward, you take three back. Inevitably, just as you’re on the rise, something or someone tries to knock you down.
If only life would give you a little bit of a break, you tell yourself, you’d have enough energy to make an effort to become successful.
Deep down, you believe success provides an escape from life’s problems. You figure if you had enough income, freedom, and positive experiences in your life…the bullshit would stop.
It doesn’t and it never will.
In fact, when you push to do something outside of the box — start a business, write a book, become an artist, carve your own route — not only will things get worse before they get better, you’ll still have to work to maintain what you’ve achieved.
People of all walks of life have problems. Billionaires have problems, Hollywood actors, the Dalai Lama all have problems. Around every corner, just when you think you’ve won, life will find a way to see what you’re made of.
But there’s beauty in the struggle of life when you look at the right way. When life tests you, you get the chance to prove you’re resilient. One of the deepest levels of satisfaction comes from knowing how strong you are. Few memories are better than those of overcoming struggles, persisting, and absorbing pressure and turning it into fuel instead of letting it break you.
Realizing the world will constantly test you removes the element of surprise. When you find yourself in a bad spot, it feels doubly worse because you didn’t see it coming.
Know that life is preparing its next right hook, but as Jim Rohn said, “Don’t wish it was easier. Wish you were Better. Don’t wish for fewer problems. Wish for more skills.”
Our first reaction to pain and hardship — mine included — is to dwell on how much it sucks. A few of us, however, realize there’s an opportunity to be had.
It’s easy to say and difficult to do, but if you can learn how to transform pain into purpose you’ll feel a type of happiness that is ten times better than the feeling of having a life devoid of difficulties.
Maybe our purpose on this planet isn’t to feel good. Maybe we’ve been placed here to see what we’re made of.
Almost every time life tests you, you won’t want to find the opportunity in it. I never look positively at a challenge or hardship instantly, but after I’m done sulking, I look to take a step in a positive direction.
Try it. Over time, it works wonders.
Things Will Never be the Way They “Should” Be
“We unconsciously imprison ourselves to avoid our most primal fears. We choose Should because choosing Must is terrifying, incomprehensible.”- Elle Luna
Should — what a simultaneously dangerous and useless word.
People often use should in one of two ways — to give themselves an excuse for not doing something or for complaining about an unchangeable circumstance.
A perfect world doesn’t exist — the one without inequality, injustice, unfairness, superficial people, hate, greed, envy, lust, the list goes on.
Are you using the world to avoid living in reality?
Maybe you think you should be making more money. But you’re not, and believing you should make more isn’t going to change that. Finding a new job could change that. Improving your performance and negotiating a raise could change that.
Complaining definitely won’t.
Maybe you think you shouldn’t have to work twice as hard to achieve the same level of success as someone else. But what if you do have to work twice as hard? Are you going to wait for the scales of justice to even out? They won’t.
Again, you can complain if you want, but complaining isn’t a strategy. It doesn’t do anything.
The same energy you use to rail against the way life should or shouldn’t be could be used to improve your situation.
Should also become dangerous when you talk about the things you aspire to do. “I should start working out,” you tell yourself. “I should start working harder and being motivated.” The minute you use the word in your head or out loud, you’ve already lost. It gives you an out. You almost get a perverse satisfaction from thinking about doing something. It gives you the credit you don’t deserve yet.
Instead of talking about what you should do and the way the world should be, you’re better off doing.
Doers make change happen for themselves and for others. Doers don’t have time to think about what they should or shouldn’t do. They know what to do. If they don’t, they gather enough information to have an idea of what to do and act on it.
Ask yourself where the word should is causing harm in your life. Now, what are you going to do about it?
No One is Coming to Save You
“Sure, raise the minimum wage if you plan to stay there your entire life.” — Jim Rohn
When was the last time the government came to your rescue?
The answer is likely never. Yet we treat it like a savior or a demon when it’s neither. It’s a machine. An uncaring machine that’s completely self-interested. Regardless, we make our way to the voting booths to ensure our guy or girl wins.
Look at your own life. Has it changed dramatically between presidencies — not in terms of news coverage or your feelings about the president — but your actual life from day to day?
Are you waiting for an employer to save you with a raise or magically improving your work environment? If so, you might be waiting for a long time.
It’s easy to blame the government, your employer, or someone other than yourself for your woes. It’s easier to say wages should be higher than to try to become more valuable.
I’m not saying the institutions of society are fair. They’re definitely not. With the fleeting life you live, however, you don’t have time to wait for institutions to save you.
Odds are, you’ll have to lift yourself out of your circumstances. Will it be easy? Hell no. But you really don’t have a choice — not if you want to change your life.
Everything is Your Fault
“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”-Theodore Roosevelt
I know what you’re thinking.
You were born poor, your parents didn’t treat you well, you have a disability, you have a funny accent, you live in the wrong city, you’re sick, your boss hates you, you have no money, you’re a disabled veteran, you’re black, you’re a woman, you’re gay, you’re trans.
You’re special. And because your circumstances are so unique, you couldn’t possibly be to blame for your failures.
Deep down we know we’re the common denominator of all our problems, but it’s hard to face. Why?
Because it means we’re the ones who have to change our situations. And if we don’t change our situations, we can only blame ourselves. Nobody wants to think they’re the only real barrier to their own success, happiness, and well-being. It’s easier to blame someone or something else.
And no, I don’t think you’re lazy, mediocre, or “don’t want it bad enough.” It’s genuinely difficult to take full ownership of your life. It can be uncomfortable or downright painful. The natural reaction is blaming someone other than yourself because your brain wants to protect you from harm and danger. But you can overcome these excuses.
You’re in control of your life.
Are you in control of what happens to you? No, but you’re in control of how you react to what happens to you.
You choose how to react to situations, maybe not fully and consciously, but choose nonetheless.
If you don’t take responsibility for your life, who will? I know how hard it is. Denial feels bad, but it hurts a little less than accepting the truth of your role in your own life.
If you go through the painful period of acceptance and get up from the floor, I promise greater things are ahead.
You’ll Never Find the Perfect Time Start
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” — Proverb
I remember the first time I told my wife I wanted to start writing.
“I think it would be really fun to have a blog and start writing,” I said.
“Well…why don’t you start writing then?” She replied.
I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was 17 years old. I didn’t start until I was 25. Maybe I was too immature to write anything of value until I’d lived a little, but I still wonder how much further along I could be now if I started earlier.
Did I make a declaration to become a writer, buy a typewriter, and lock myself in a room to write for hours? No.
I started with one blog post…and I’ve been writing nearly every day for years since. There’s power in starting. You don’t have to make a big deal out of starting a new project, just do it.
Seriously, what are you waiting for?
Are you waiting for the kids to grow older or move out so you can write that book?
Leo Tolstoy had 13 kids when he wrote War and Peace.
Are you waiting to have enough money to start your business?
If you have a good idea, there are various ways to start businesses at a low cost or find seed money. Oh, it’s hard to find seed money? Well, starting a business is hard. Deal with it.
All salesmen know the phrase “now isn’t the right time,” is a lie. There’s always a hidden objection behind the polite ones given such as lack of time, money, or ideal circumstances. The objection could be that the buyer doesn’t trust the seller, they don’t believe the product will deliver on its benefits, or they do believe in the product but not in themselves to get the most from it.
The way you self-talk is much like the relationship between a salesperson and a customer. You give yourself the polite out, but the truth is there’s a deeper objection.
What is it? You may not have even consciously thought of it yet. You really might believe in your own polite excuses. Until you dig deep to find the hidden reasons behind your behavior, you’ll never change. I talk about this process at length in my book.
We all have deeply embedded beliefs about ourselves and about the world we live in — business is “risky,” intelligence and talent are fixed traits, finding a secure job will make us happy, others are luckier than you are, rich people steal, you’re left or right brained and can’t cross over, being healthy means depriving yourself, you must own a home and have kids, men are evil, women are evil, the list goes on and on and on.
Many of these beliefs keep you from starting. You’re not a “numbers person” you tell yourself. Richard Branson has dyslexia and teachers labeled him learning disabled as a child — he’s a billionaire.
You think you can’t succeed because you’re ill or have a disability. Jon Morrow — a man who cannot move anything below his neck — owns a multi-million dollar blog with a viewership of millions per month.
I can find a counterexample to every excuse you have for not starting “x.”Rather than argue with me about it, why not just start?
Learn How to See
There’s a lot of noise in the world. A lot of b.s. You can find success by seeing through it all.
You can wait for the world to change into the ideal state you want it to be, or you can learn to navigate it.
The people we call successful, they can see — through the limits, society tries to place on people, through the cliches that aren’t true, through the joy-sucking prisons called institutions.
Can you see now?
I hope you decide to use the lens of truth to shape your decisions moving forward. It won’t feel good right away, but it will feel amazing when you look back at all you’ve done.
Ayodeji is the author of You 2.0 — Stop Feeling Stuck, Reinvent Yourself, and Become a Brand New You. Want a free copy of my first book? Get it here.