Ineffective People Focus on Everything Outside of Themselves
The internal is where the magic happens. The external is where the mediocre happens. What’s the difference? You control the internal. Ineffective people accidentally fall into the trap of focusing on the external.
They blame people, processes, society, politics, for all of the misery in their life. It’s not their fault. It’s their default programming. It’s a ritual. And before you think I’m god, I am not immune.
I fall for the external all the time. I found myself stuck in a one-hour phone call today, commenting on someone else’s customer. It felt like a time warp. I got stuck and didn’t even realize it. The moment was stolen from me.
The ritual of commentary, over the discipline of silence, had got away from me. The point isn’t to entirely avoid the external factors. The point is to tip the scales in favor of the internal factors you can control. You become ineffective when you focus on everything outside of yourself. These are the traps.
Comment More than You Create
You can spend your life dropping comments on people’s content. This is extreme reactivity at its finest. Pretty soon you will be overreacting to every little thing. All of us, whether you admit it or not, are content creators.
You have an idea and share it as a tweet. You compose and send an SMS to see how someone is. You reach out to a person related to your goals and pitch them. You create an email and send it out to bring people together for a social event. You record a video and upload it to Youtube to teach people a skill. You write and publish a book to share your life lessons.
One form of content is putting yourself out there. One is reacting to someone putting themselves out there. A way to be more effective is to keep score. How many bits of content did you create versus how many comments did you leave on other people’s content? The difference between the two is a sign of your effectiveness versus ineffectiveness.
Health Journalist, podcaster, blogger, and the founding editor of Experience Life magazine that reaches more than 3 million people, Pilar Gerasimo, agrees. “When our creativity- and consumption-based pleasures get out of balance, our health and happiness start to suffer. Giving without receiving can be exhausting, while consuming without producing can feel aimless.”
Get Stuck in a Routine You Know You’ve Outgrown
An addiction is easy to acquire. Nobody is Wonder Woman in real life. These addictions become a routine. You do them without even thinking about them. This serves you short-term. I get you need a little relief after a difficult situation. The trick is to pay attention to when you have outgrown a routine.
I used to have a routine of putting on a red power tie every morning before work. I dropped that routine years ago. The routine served me well for that moment in my career. But it doesn’t serve me anymore.
There came a point where I realized the routine was taking away from who I wanted to be. I want to be relatable. I like wearing jeans and a t-shirt. People like Steve Jobs preferred jeans and a turtleneck instead of a suit. When your self-image changes it’s easy to forget you’ve collected habits you’ve outgrown. Pay attention to your routines. They were once useful. Are they still useful?
Sit Idle Every Day
I haven’t moved for three days. I am a lazy ass. My girlfriend went back to work so I stopped exercising. It’s so easy to work from home and never leave your house. Life is motion. Get moving.
When I sit idle I become highly ineffective. I feel drained. My surroundings start to feel the same. The biggest problem: I take things for granted. Home becomes like a bubble. I feel far too safe. When I start moving again I feel the return of momentum. Getting my body active makes me want to come home and work on my goals. Walking step by step is progress.
Neuroscientist Dr Sarah Fox says, “Exercise improves goal-directed activity. This includes selecting, planning and coordinating actions, as well as ignoring distracters and managing several pieces of information at once allowing inhibition and flexible thinking.”
The physical action of progress subconsciously enables you to make non-physical progress. You can progress your ideas or do activities that require brainpower, focus, and concentration.
Lose Yourself in Strategy
A strategy is a future hope. Actions beats strategy every time. You control today’s actions. But the long-term strategy is open to external forces. You could strategize and fetishize for five years to start a business.
You could be one day away from launch. Then a pandemic changes everything. Your strategy is dead. You never got to start. What a waste. It’s more effective to take action than lose yourself in strategies that probably will never play out the way you think they will.
Accept the Complexity the World Gives You
Complexity is what the world gives you without asking. Simplicity makes your life easier, and it’s a choice. How you describe things to yourself is important. Take two people. One person says “I wake up and go to the gym.”
The other person says “I wake up, turn the alarm off, go to the toilet, find my shoes, pack my gym bag, eat something, check my phone, answer urgent emails, walk downstairs to the garage, get in my car, freeze to death, drive on a busy road to the gym, struggle to find a carpark, park the car, walk up a huge flight of stairs, arrive, find a locker, put my stuff in it, prepare myself mentally…”
Which person effectively completes their gym routine? The first person. The second person has made the gym sound so complex, they have to talk themselves into going to the gym each time. Completing all those steps is a mammoth task. The first person sees the gym as a two-step process. They forget all the micro-steps because they quickly become simplified automation.
Acting “as if” becomes acting “as is.” — Anthony Moore
Ignore Your Own Reactions and Blame People
The ineffective external strategy is to blame people when things go wrong. The effective internal strategy is to notice your reaction when things go wrong. People are the way you describe them. A closely related thought to consider is the downside of thinking you know it all.
Your experience is not even 0.1% of reality. Divide reality by the billions of people who inhabit the planet. Now you can see how wrong what you think you know can be with mathematical precision. “I know nothing” is the best mantra I’ve ever discovered.
Give up the Leverage You Have over Yourself
Make it easy to do dumb stuff. Put yourself in places you know you shouldn’t be. Become an alcoholic and then put a bottle of tequila in arms reach of your favorite couch position.
Or you can use leverage on yourself. You can move to a new state, away from the person who broke your heart, so you don’t need to see them anymore. You can put your phone in the other room, so you won’t be tempted to look at her all day and be captivated by her glowing appeal. You can purposely leave your laptop at home, so you won’t be tempted to pull it out and write at a family picnic with your in-laws.
You’re more effective when you make it harder to cheat on the life you want. It doesn’t mean you’ll be perfect either. You’ll screw up. You’ll just screw up less with leverage.
Spend Your Energy Recklessly
Every decision or action you make today costs you energy. It’s extremely easy to overspend your energy. Shivendra Misra will change how you think about energy.
Meditation puffs the fire of your consciousness.
Yesterday morning, I meditated for two hours. I was feeling inward. And even though I had a lot of work to do, didn’t matter because I was feeling content inside. Then, suddenly my friends called up to meet.
I tried my best to avoid the request. It’s not that I don’t like hanging out with them. But I was worried I’d slowly lose the level of consciousness I’d gained after my practices.
And as I expected, while returning home, I felt drained — not in energy but of my consciousness.
You can waste your energy on anger, resentment, decisions, or activities that have no value in your life. Energy leaks are one way you can become ineffective.
The other way to become ineffective is to lose your consciousness. High states of consciousness bring you close to an internal focus again. The internal focus is something you can control; when you do you have epiphanies.
These epiphanies start out as strange thoughts. These thoughts end up becoming different paths in life. Before you know it, you’re acting on an entirely different level. Protect your energy. Uplift your consciousness.
Leave Lots of Browser Tabs Open
As writers, we always leave some tabs open for later reading, from research articles to news or other inspirational/informational content to be fed with or use in our writing.
These readings can turn into a huge pile if we are continuously collecting them and keeping them open on our tabs, which will eventually distract and exhaust us — Sude Hammal
Sude’s advice doesn’t only apply to writers. You’re used to hoarding stuff in your home. Have you ever taken a look to see if you hoard things in your browser tabs, too? I thought I was a perfect representation of a good minimalist Jesus.
Then I realized I’d cleaned up my home, and transferred my junk to the computer. It is not uncommon for me to have 100 tabs open when I’m writing. I’m hoarding bookmarks from 10 years ago. If I look hard enough, I probably still have bookmarks from 1996 on my external hard drive, somewhere. I am a recovering browser tab hoarder.
Browser tabs screw with your focus. One solution is a Chrome extension called OneTab. Put all your tabs on a single web page and then close it. They’ll still be there and you can always reopen your perfect little browser window of goodness later on.
What you’ll realize when you close all your open tabs is you were already done with them. You just couldn’t let them go out of fear you will lose them to cyberspace. Letting go is a powerful habit to make yourself more focused.
What is it you control? Start with that. When you work on yourself you realize most of the problems you talk about are created by your mind. You create effectiveness and ineffectiveness based on where you see control stemming from. If you feel you are in control, then you are.
If you feel politicians, the climate, aliens, a virus, a country or something outside of your control is, well, it will control you. Start with you.