What You Are Purposely Ignoring is the Answer To the Way Forward
“A problem is a chance for you to do your best.” — Duke Ellington
When you’re unwilling to see the truth, all the strategy in the world can’t help you move forward.
It’s like trying to pilot a submarine with a saboteur onboard. Everything you try to do will be met with problems and setbacks. This saboteur will stop at nothing to ruin your plans.
It’s no use trying to move forward without kicking out the saboteur first.
Tony Robbins once said that people are like thermostats; everyone has a pre-set “temperature” they operate in. If you have high self-esteem (and thus high mental “temperature”), and things in your life start to go badly, your mental thermostat will kick in and bring your temperature back to normal. You’ll work harder, be more disciplined, and be more productive as you get back to what you’re familiar with.
But the same is also true if things start going too well in your life.
If you’re not used to success, and things finally start going a little too well, a large portion of your subconscious thinking will work towards “getting back to normal”…which might mean sabotaging your own plans.
You have to set a high mental temperature. Otherwise, you’ll always revert to your familiar routines, even if those routines are negative and stale.
There’s a scene from my favorite TV comedy Community that illustrates this principle well. A cheat sheet is found in Spanish class, and one of the characters, Britta, is accused of cheating on a college exam.
When pressed about why she cheated, her response was poignant (and heartbreaking):
“I just have more experience being worthless. I think I left that cheat sheet on the floor because I wanted to get caught. I’m so used to screwing everything up I just wanted to get it over with.”
A lot of people have low internal temperatures, and subconsciously sabotage their own lives to revert back to what they’re used to — even if they’re used to mediocrity and failure.
But if you want to make true progress and achieve a lifestyle and mentality you’ve never had, you have to unlearn these negative mindsets.
How? By finally confronting the thoughts, people, and choices you’ve been purposely ignoring.
I Don’t Know the Answer To Your Problem. But You Probably Do.
Very few people quickly confront their biggest problems, and thus enjoy maximum peace in their life. On the contrary, most people avoid their problems for a while, putting them off as long as possible.
These people don’t realize the deeper truth at work in their lives:
It’s actually more exhausting to keep running from problems than actually confronting and resolving them.
Things are rarely as bad as they seem. But by putting off even minor problems, they grow bigger and bigger until they’re the size of a dragon. By then, they’re the last thing in the world you want to face.
The college graduate who hasn’t looked at his student loan payments in months…
The desk worker who hasn’t checked on her dwindling retirement fund all year…
The spouse who’s afraid to come home because they know there’s a fight brewing…
Life becomes far more unbearable during the days and weeks spent avoiding difficult conversations and stressful scenarios. This is the greatest truth that lazy, undisciplined people must avoid thinking about every morning.
But people spend enormous, truly ridiculous amounts of energy avoiding their problems than actually confronting them, and so invite needless stress and anxiety in their life. Sure, the difficult conversation with your boss/spouse/mom won’t be fun. It’ll probably be very uncomfortable, actually.
But it’s almost always worse to wait.
The only way out of your problems is through them. Otherwise, the unaddressed problem gets bigger and bigger until it permanently finds a home in the back of your brain, draining excessive energy and focus from you every hour you don’t fix it.
This type of thinking is not common. But if you choose to adopt this mindset and be someone who confronts problems rather than avoid them, you’ll start seeing more peace in your life.
This is because something else, something much deeper is happening — for every difficult conversation you choose to have, you’re actually becoming a more responsible, capable, and courageous person.
Your Success in Life Can Usually Be Measured By How Many Difficult Conversations You Choose to Have
#1 New York Times best-selling author Tim Ferriss said one of the most-highlighted sections on the kindle-version of his book The 4-Hour Workweek was this passage:
A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.
How you do one thing is usually how you do everything. If you make a habit of tackling difficult conversations with intimidating people, odds all you’ll be braver and more steadfast in other parts of your life, too.
I once read a book about the importance of taking cold showers. The biggest lesson I remember was simple, and I’ve never forgotten it:
If you’re too scared to take a cold shower, how on earth will you have the courage to confront the real dragons in your life?
Start practicing being a courageous person by choosing to have difficult conversations, and you’ll build unstoppable momentum in the more important areas of your life.
The opposite is also true — every time you run from an intimidating scenario, you’re reinforcing a powerful identity in your mind that “you aren’t someone who has difficult conversations.”
Things get even worse from here. This identity is inherently connected to other negative traits; a coward is usually also selfish and probably also has small, if any goals.
The point is simple: you are what you think you are. If you continue reinforcing negative identity traits, that behavior will build momentum you’ll become that person. Soon, your entire day and week will be determined by these choices. As James Clear explained in his book Atomic Habits, your day is determined by dozens of these little choices:
One bad choice made out of fear and anxiety has dramatic consequences. But so does a good choice, bravely made in the face of danger.
When’s the last time you had a chance to have an uncomfortable conversation — and totally ran away?
It’s more costly than you think.
It’s Not About Being Fearless, It’s About Becoming Someone Who’s Willing To Confront Problems
I read some really silly self-help junk the other day, just true clickbait. It said things like “you make or break your life before 7:00am” or something.
Most self-help gurus and productivity junkies spew this kind of nonsense, making you feel you have to be an incredible version of yourself starting now and make perfect choices from now on.
That’s total B.S. Life is hard enough without feeling like you have to be perfect to succeed.
Sometimes, it’s taken me a really long time to confront problems, or have difficult conversations. I’ve put things off for months because I wasn’t willing to face the music.
That’s fine. It’s not about being fearless; it’s about being someone who’s willing to have those conversations in the first place.
That’s where you start; by changing your identity. There’s a simple process everyone goes through that determines their entire life:
First, their thoughts determine their beliefs.
Then, these beliefs determine the actions they take.
Finally, these actions determine what your life looks like.
If you think to yourself, there’s no way I could ever ask my boss for a raise. They’d never give it to me. This thought creates powerful beliefs:
- Your boss is mean and doesn’t like you.
- No matter how hard you work, you won’t be rewarded.
- There’s no point in working hard.
These beliefs determine the actions you take — you don’t work as hard. You resent your boss. You spend more time complaining than improving. As a result, your life becomes smaller and more empty.
Now consider the alternative. If you think to yourself, I deserve a raise, and I’m going to ask my boss for one. This thought creates some new beliefs:
- You are in control of your finances and work.
- If you work hard, you’ll be rewarded.
- Even if your boss doesn’t like you, you’re still an awesome worker and deserve to be rewarded somehow.
See where I’m going with this? It’s not about being fearless, or some perfect version of yourself. It’s just about being willing to consider confronting hard problems or having difficult conversations.
That willingness will lead to powerful beliefs that ultimately determine what your life looks like.
It’s hard to have difficult conversations. There’s no doubt. That’s why most people avoid them, and confronting difficult problems.
But it’s far more exhausting to stew in fear and anxiety than actually address the problem.
Every time you finally summon the courage to do that thing you’ve been purposefully avoiding, you’re sending a powerful signal to your brain that reinforces who you are.
Are you a brave fighter, or a cowardly weakling?
Are you willing to work hard, or do you take the easy way out?
Each little choice you make solidifies certain traits you have. You can totally throw out old traits and replace them with new ones, but the fastest way to do that is to start confronting your problems head-on.
It’s hard, I know.
But it’s worth it.
Do the thing.
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