The Astounding Power Of Doing Some Things Right Some Of The Time

I’m not perfect. Far from it. In fact, I’m not even sure I’d qualify as average in many areas(though I’m starting suspect that this isn’t really a bad thing). But to achieve something you want to in your life, it turns out that you don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be making all the right decisions, all of the time. Or even spend your time right when you do decide to spend it towards your goal.

Sometimes, all it takes for change to happen is to do some things right, some of the time, and keep at it for a long time.

Even after I decided to change, I spent a lot of time worrying about how difficult it would be, or whether or not it would be possible at all for “someone like me”. But some of the time, I did some things right. Things added up, and I’ve been able to change both myself and the reality I find myself in, in big ways.

As far as freelancing goes, basically a couple of thrown-together pitches along with my on-and-off daily writing practice got me to a level where I will likely not have to scramble for work unless unfortunate events leave me suddenly strapped for cash.

I mean, I should have probably realized this a long time ago, when I almost off-handedly lost 70 pounds over the course of a year, while according to my parents all I was doing was “lying in bed, magically shedding the weight”. When in reality, it was the collective results of many different small things that I did right, compounded over the entire year. I chose to ate more protein and fiber. I opted to walk where I would usually take the bus or hitch a ride. I stopped drinking soda/eating sweets/chips outside of weekends.

All these small things came together and left my physical body completely different. It would make sense if you could replicate this with similar results when it comes to things like self-perception and mindset.

But let’s get back to the present.In some ways it feels like I haven’t changed at all, but as a whole I am now a far shot away from the workophobic, borderline suicidal, not-exactly-proud-of-living-at-home-with-parents-at-22 kind of guy that I was almost a year ago. Not only have a lot of the actual cells that make up my physical body changed, but perhaps more importantly, my own perception of myself has changed significantly. On the work side of things, while I might not have a “job”, I am now able to sustain myself completely from freelance income, something that was achieved in coordination with significantly improving my spending habits, and of course.. moving far, far away from Norway. (Maybe something like hell on earth for anyone who wants to start freelancing from scratch… unless it’s somehow related to the oil sector.)

You don’t have to get everything right before you start. And you don’t even have to spend all your time doing it… hell, you don’t even have to believe in yourself. But if you make a choice to commit to it some of the time, for a long time, you will be surprised how far it can take you.

Don’t Make Time For Feeling Guilty

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You feel a slight sting in your abdomen. “Why did I do that?” You think, annoyed with yourself. You understand the reasons why perfectly, and yet, it’s often easier to tie it into a negative narrative.. “Ugh I always do this kind of stuff.” Or “Why do I always fail?”

Sound familiar? Well it’s not entirely your fault.

We’ve been taught that assuming the blame yourself is an act of integrity. That it’s just the right thing to do. And if you steal your best friend’s kinder egg, you SHOULD accept the blame, and repent!  And when you’re only failing yourself, playing the blame game can have similar consequences. Unfortunately, the road between accepting the blame, and going too far, is a little bit on the short side for many of us.

Introspection is a tool you can use to gain insights into your strengths, weaknesses, interests, passions, and much more. It can guide your growth, and help you circumvent failure. But many of us go about it the wrong way. Instead of reviewing our thoughts and actions calmly, with a level head, it’s easy to get overtaken by guilt, and reinforce a preexisting negative narrative. This guilt then becomes a hurdle towards progress. One that grows exponentially with the time you spend feeding it.

If you make time for guilt, you will not only lose the time you put into feeling guilty, but it will spill into the rest of your time to. Less, if any, motivation. Less, if any, energy. You might even feel physically heavier!  Not to mention, obsessing over the guilt can lead to shame, self-doubt, self-pity, or even rekindled the flames of self-hatred.

It’s a slippery slope.

To side-step the guilt, remove yourself from the equation completely during introspection. Look back at your thoughts and actions as though they were the thoughts and actions of a third-person.

You know how you’re some kind of freak genius at giving awesome advice to other people? Well it’s time you turned around and used that skill on yourself. Analyze the situation with the honesty and unbiased clarity of a third person, and combine it with your own depths of knowledge of yourself. (There will always be some bias, of course, but the important part is to lay the blame once, and then move on to WHY this all happened, in a very pragmatical sense.)

(Be careful that you don’t resort to using excuses to alleviate the guilt, this can easily turn into a horrible, horrible habit.)

Even if you master the art of unjudgemental introspection the first time around, more likely than not, you will feel guilty again. But don’t berate yourself for feeling guilty. Instead recognize that feeling guilt is natural, accept your momentary emotional response, and move on. (Stolen principle from Stoicism. It’s not about controlling emotions, as they will always be there, to some extent. It’s about controlling the response to such emotions. Guilt on it’s own is not so bad. It’s the actions, and often the lack thereof, that comes after the initial pang of guilt that are the true villain.)

The last, and perhaps more important step, is to make it a principle to relatively quickly hypothesize a solution(where possible) and start fixing(move on if there is none). While even systematically reviewing possible reasons why you failed yourself can be a way to escape the guilt, it’s all-to-easy to get stuck at this stage. Which is, for all intents and purposes, not that much better than dwelling in self-pity.

This is not an instant fix. It can be a tiresome uphill battle. I know I still have to catch myself, and adjust my perspective at least half the times I mess up.

But even quickly overcoming the guilt and moving on half the time is more than worth the effort.

Most of the time, you feel guilt for a reason. Let that initial feeling of guilt be the compass that guides your actions in the right direction.

Make less time for feeling guilty, and more time for things that matter.

Original picture by Danesh J.

Becoming Better At Being Your Own Boss

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One of the most challenging aspects of freelancing, or starting a business venture on your own, is that you have to effectively fill two roles, the role of a boss, and the role of a worker.

If you’ve ever tried going out on your own, you know that it can be hard to strike a good balance between the two.

It can be particularly easy to be stuck in the “creative boss” mode, the “visionary” mode, if you will. Idea evaluation time will leak over into your worker time, and all of a sudden no work is getting done at all. Then when you finally get to working, it can be easy to tunnel-vision and end up going too far down a path that is doomed to fail.

Successfully navigating this tightrope-walk can tremendously increase your productivity.

Here are some of my own, and some borrowed, ideas on how you can become better at being your own boss:

Delegate Effectively To Your Worker Self

As simultaneously the boss and the worker, you have to find a way to delegate work to yourself in a way that it gets done effectively.

One way to do this, is monitoring how energetic you feel throughout the day for a week(or longer), and delegate the most draining work to the periods where you have the most energy. Another option is to experiment with the schedule itself.

I found that even though I’m not a morning person by any means, starting with focused work relatively early in the morning motivates me to put in a significantly larger amount of work than if I start later in the day. (Although the feeling of a head-start of waking up early can help, it’s really been about working about an hour after I wake up.) Continue reading

Be The Turtle (And The Turtle Habit Challenge)

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Have you ever started out on a new project, brimming with motivation and dying to get started?

So instead of taking it easy, and starting out slow, you hit the gym for 4 hours, only to wake up next morning barely able to move. You were supposed to go to the gym again next day. Or maybe you decide to take up writing, and you aim for 1000 words a day. The first day is easy. The second day it gets a little harder. Third day, harder again. And before the week is over you’re making excuses and the experiment is all but over.

It’s not your fault.. and there’s nothing wrong with you. It’s quite normal. The turtle and the hare is an incredibly apt analogy for how we mostly tackle new projects, or goals. Like the hare, we’re overconfident in our ability, start out fast, then feel almost entitled to take a break… then we give up/just forget about it. In the game of life slow and steady really does win the race.

Or as Bruce Lee put it: “Long term consistency trumps short term intensity”.

We are only able to experience one moment at a time. It can sometimes be hard to imagine the long-term. But before you brazenly start something “with a bang”, think a few weeks ahead. “Is it realistic to expect that I will be able to do this every day/week at this rate?” If the answer is no, dial down a little bit. (Be realistic when evaluating yourself. Think of things that might happen, how much free time you actually have, weekly/monthly commitments that might interfere.)

The bigger, the more optimistic your daily/weekly goals are, the more overwhelming it will be to get started. The easier it is to find excuses to skip a day. The more disappointment you feel when you do skip one. Conversely, the smaller your daily/weekly goals are, the less threatening they seem. The easier it is to get them done (and keep feeling like you’re on a roll) even when you’re super busy.

The reality of setting tiny weekly goals is that you’re going to outperform your expectations on many days, if not most, and feel like a true boss. And even when you get the bare minimum in, you still get to check that box and say “yep I did my daily/weekly quota”.

The Turtle Habit Challenge

So I’m challenging you. If there’s something you’ve been thinking about starting to do, or do more of. Like going on daily walks, or reading more… instead of starting with 30 minutes a day, or 1 book a week, start smaller. Simpler. A 2 minute walk, or 1 page.

It can be anything. Everything. Don’t spend too much time thinking about it (you will probably make a better decision if you just wing it anyway.)

Of course I wouldn’t ask anyone to do something I wasn’t going to do myself, so I’m participating. I will be restarting my meditation habit. The last time I decided to take up meditation, I started at 5 minutes. It didn’t stick. The only time I could meditate for that long consistently was when I was waiting for my tea to cool down, and now that I don’t have an easy way to cook tea/the desire to drink it because it’s a lot warmer where I live now, it completely disappeared.

This time around I’m starting with 1 minute, every morning after I wake up. Back to complete basics.

What habit will you start? When will you do it? Why are you doing it?

Let me know below!