Stop Hitting the Snooze Button
Everyone does this. We are all stuck in some area of our life, pretending it’s not that bad so we can justify doing nothing. You do it, too. You persuade yourself that things are not that bad because you don’t want to have to change. You also minimize the situation when you don’t know how to change something. Ironically, the more trapped you feel by your life, the more you’ll convince yourself it’s okay.
You downplay your disappointment in life. Everyone does. No one wants to tell the truth about what he really wants and how he really feels about his life. Especially when you see friends with cooler lives than you on Facebook, hear about people who somehow turned it all around, or watch perfect strangers get made over on reality television. The pressure to make sure that you are keeping up is everywhere. But keeping up with appearances won’t help you take action. It’s not powerful. You cannot get what you want if you refuse to face the truth. You are struggling. You long for more. We all do. That tension between where you are now and what you want to become is what makes you human.
Anti-Actions, Fake Limits, and Other Ways Your Brain Betrays You
Whether you’re eleven years old or forty, when you start worrying, it doesn’t mean anything is going to go wrong. It just means you are about to try something new. The only thing to do when the what-ifs come is to push through. Being powerful doesn’t mean the what-ifs disappear, it means you ignore them and move forward.
New things don’t feel safe. They make the forecasting engine in your mind go haywire. The only thing that feels safe to your mind is what you already know—being stuck (and even that isn’t as safe as your mind would like to believe). Your mind will trick you into expending enormous amounts of energy keeping you stuck. By stewing over what-ifs, you’re taking time and energy away from much more productive pursuits. It takes effort to avoid conversations. It takes effort to feel stressed out. It takes effort to cycle through what-ifs and torture yourself with worry.
Routines: Why Your Freedom Depends on Breaking Them
Breaking out of a routine creates a “butterfly effect” in your life. You change one little thing about your day and it can set off an entire chain reaction. Every new element that you introduce into your life becomes a clue to help you create a new direction. Every new direction is a pivot point in your life and a lever against inertia. Breaking out of routine is not a brute-force exercise. You just need to wake up and notice.
Just by paying attention to what’s hidden inside your routines, you will change. Quit with the efficiency—it’s great for machines, but overrated for people. Slow down your routines and take them apart. Discover your own “banner blindness.” You will end up finding small, positive things in your everyday patterns and build on them. This is exactly the kind of broadening of your daily life that leads to change.
You will start to notice more around you and find more to look forward to. Imagine how different your day might look if you made a point of doing something uncharacteristic and creative. What’s wrong with brushing your teeth with the opposite hand, taking a different drive home, using a different color pen? Imagine if you set about this change with a sense of humor, pulling back for a second and observing how odd all your ingrained habits really are. Imagine how different your life would look if you broke from your routine for a moment and admitted that your life could be so much more than it is.
The Method for Becoming Powerful and Getting What You Want
The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them. —GEORGE BERNARD SHAW
Step 1: Face It, You Are Not Fine
To regain control over your life you must stop pretending that everything is fine. The first step is to face the fact that your life has not turned out as you had hoped. Your brain works hard to insulate you from this fact. When it comes to the areas of your life that are blah, bothering you, or broken your brain does three clever things: It convinces you that you are fine even though you feel blah; it keeps you so busy that you have no time to stop and think about what’s truly bothering you; and it focuses your attention on the surface-level, easy stuff that you feel comfortable talking about so you can ignore what’s broken.
Convincing yourself that you are fine is a great strategy for keeping yourself stuck.
Step 2: Admit What You Want
You’ve fessed up about what’s wrong and identified the tricks your mind uses to keep you stuck. Now it’s time to admit what you want.
Your deepest desires are the most important tools you have to help you push through resistance. It’s time to use them. Your desire acts like a honing device. If you tune into it, it will point you in the direction you are meant to go. Admitting what you really want is the way you harness your desires and develop momentum.
This might sound obvious and simple, but it’s not. To admit what you really want can be embarrassing. It can seem like a cliché, or sound patently impossible. The idea that you might not get what you want can be so terrifying that you avoid even admitting you want it. Or maybe you don’t even know what you want—you just know you’re not happy with what you have.
But as tempting as it might be to avoid admitting what you really want, you must. If you do, you will instantly give your life some direction, a beacon to keep in sight. You will feel less afraid, which will make it easier to avoid taking the easy choice. And in imagining your future, you will start to build it.
Step 3: Go Public with What You Want
Until now, you’ve been working on these steps toward changing your life and getting unstuck by yourself. It is important work, but it’s been inside a bubble. Now it’s time to take your first step into the outside world—you will open your mouth and speak. The reason for going public is simple: Communicating is one of the most productive forms of action you can take.
When you share your ideas, or ask for someone’s help, you’re learning subtle new skills about yourself and others every time. And at the same time, you’re advancing your own personal agenda and taking concrete steps toward your goals. Ask anyone who went through law school, and he or she will tell you that you can’t really learn how to truly think on your feet without sparring with a partner. Preparedness and memorization counts, but there’s something else you learn when you rely on your verbal skills and perform a mock trial.
That’s because plain old thinking relies on well-worn, overused circuitry. School has gotten us all proficient at memorizing and juggling ideas in our minds. Thinking is not hard. It’s when we’re forced to socialize an idea, convey meaning in a persuasive manner, and juggle facts and rhetoric that our brains are really challenged and we discover what we’re capable of. It’s a skill that must be acquired, and studies have shown that thinking on your feet lights up completely different parts of your brain.
Step 4: Zoom Out and Create a Map
Now that you’ve overcome your embarrassment and gone public with your desire, I’ve got some good news. You are very lucky. You live at a time unlike any other. Your grandparents and your parents did not have the tools that you have at your disposal. If they wanted to change their lives, it took a lot of money, a new degree, and very probably a move across the country. In practice, most of them didn’t have a chance in hell of changing anything. They were stuck in the same job, the same circle of friends, and the same town for most of their adult lives. The only thing that changed was the seasons.
But the world has changed enormously since then. Unlike your parents, you have exactly what you need to get what you desire. Because of technology, the proliferation of information on the Web, hyperconnectivity, and oversharing through social media, you have access to everything you need. There’s a way to get whatever you want without requiring money, a degree, or a move across the country.
And no matter how crazy, far-fetched, or scary your desire feels, there is someone on the planet who has done it and has probably blogged about it, been featured in some magazine, or joined an online group to help himself get it done. There is a living, breathing example of the life you imagine out there right now, and you are going to use that person and all the tools at your disposal to help yourself get that life.
Step 5: Lean In to Change
So now you have your map to help guide you and keep you moving in the right direction. You know exactly what you have to do. But chances are when you sit down to do it, your resistance will rear its ugly head again and your brain will start doing everything it can to sabotage you. You will soon feel paralysis kicking in. Your mind will start to trick you. With your path all laid out in front of you, you will go into uncertainty hyperdrive and you will convince yourself that you don’t have a clue what to do first.
Your thoughts will spin off into endless circles, and meanwhile your life will go nowhere. But this is all just noise. Whenever your brain starts jabbering away like this, it is a sign to just keep going.
This is the moment. You will either stay stuck or you will push through. You must remember there is no “right” move to make. You can pick anything on your map to do right now, and it will be a step forward. There is no risk. So when your brain tries to look for a rigid step-by-step set of instructions, just remember that every single circle on your map takes you one step closer to what you desire. Every time you find yourself overanalyzing your choices, stop yourself, pick anything on your map, and push through.