Truth hurts, but someone has to say it. Your life is what you make of it and the only person who can help you is yourself. If you’re ready to take personal responsibility and improve your life, I invite you to apply these seven harsh truths today.
1. No One Is Going to Fix You
If you are waiting for a knight in shining armor to gallop into your life and heal your broken heart, you will be waiting forever. The only person who can help you is yourself. Be happy for the other people in your life, but do not become dependent on them for happiness unlike (I think he meant “unless”) you like to be on a never-ending emotional roller-coaster that is far beyond the realm of your control. Are you alone? No, far from it. But no one is going to fix you, so it is in your best interest to take personal responsibility for your own life. When you do that, you’ll discover you are more powerful than you ever thought possible.
The original article includes a short video by Oprah Winfrey on exactly this idea. You CANNOT allow the entire foundation of your happiness to be based exclusively on one person, or their existence in your life, or their behavior. Nor can your relinquish control over your behavior and choices to someone else (ie, “so-and-so makes me angry, so I do “x” bad behavior”) I need to stress this one over and over again: NO ONE IS GOING TO FIX YOU. If you’re not happy where you are, it’s your job to do what you need to do to get where you want to be. Can you lean on friends and family for support? Certainly. But it is not their job to be responsible for your happiness or your perceived level of fulfillment. That responsibility is yours alone.
2. Life Will Never Be Perfect
If you are waiting for the “right” time to do something — pursue self-employment, begin a fitness plan, dive into the dating pool, or move to a new town — you’re going to be waiting forever. There is no such thing as a “right” time to do anything. This reaction is based on your fear-of-change, plain and simple. If you keep waiting for that mysterious “perfect time to act” (please tell me, when have you ever experienced such a thing?), this means you will never actually have to take action and confront your fear. Do the scary thing. You will be so glad you did.
This is hard. It’s hard to take risks, and so we excuse our inaction by saying it’s not the right time. There will never be perfect timing, with every variable exactly as you want it. Once you’ve decided it’s something you want to do, go after it wholeheartedly. Jump in with both feet. As Ms Frizzle always says, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!”
3. You Might Fail (a Lot)
If you attempt to achieve an ambitious new goal, then it is possible that you will fall on your face while pursuing said goal. Welcome to reality. It’s time to change your thinking about failure. It is not a big, bad thing that you should be frightened of. Failure is a learning opportunity and nothing more. If successful people quit pursuing their goal after failing the first time they tried something new, then there would be approximately zero successful people ever. There is no such thing as a “hole-in-one” in life. Do you want to know how many times I’ve failed? Over a hundred. The only reason I’ve managed to accomplish anything is because I am a firm believer in continuous improvement. If you fail in something, distance from the event for a day or two, because agonizing over the problem will not make it go away (and will make it a lot worse). Read a good book, catch up with some friends you haven’t seen in a long time, or go on a nature hike. You will be able to look at the issue with a fresh perspective. After you have done that, ask yourself: “Why didn’t this work out and how can I do better next time?” This process very well could repeat itself several times depending on the nature of your goal, but if you keep making a firm commitment to continuously improve yourself, you will develop so much that the only option left is success. Consistent hustle always wins.
Failure is not a big, bad thing that you should be frightened of. It is a learning opportunity and nothing more. I’ve said this many times about relationships, because even the worst relationship can at the very least teach you what you DON’T want. But it applies equally to every other potential failure as well. One of my favorite quotes from Thomas Edison is “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” (more quotes about being willing to fail) The biggest thing is that you do not let failure, even repeated failure, stop you. You may have HAD a failure, but you will not BE a failure until you give up completely.
4. The Past Is Already Written
Have you ever made a mistake so monumental that you wish you could go back in time and do it all over again? Join the club. It’s called being human. I know you might feel immense regret, but beating yourself up over something that is already done serves no purpose. Shift your attention to the present, where you can take control of your life and move forward into a better future.
This is not to say we should be flippant about the monumentally stupid thing we did, or refuse to apologize if it involved hurting someone else, but seriously. Ask for forgiveness, and give it to yourself if necessary, and move on. Try to think about how you would treat a beloved friend who made the same mistake. I hope you would be able to say, “Yeah, that was dumb. Just make sure you don’t do it again.” If you’re not capable of saying that to your dear friend, you have a whole other issue that needs to be dealt with. But often it’s harder to say it to ourselves. Self-flagellation can’t erase the mistake. We need to learn to admit that we had an attack of temporary stupidity and then get on with life.
5. Tomorrow Is Not Guaranteed
Steve Jobs said it best, so I’m going to defer to him for this harsh truth:
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”
The next time you catch yourself playing the “I will do it tomorrow” game, remember that tomorrow is not guaranteed. Traffic accidents, heart attacks, and acts of violence do happen. Live in the present and take action today, because that is where progress happens.
This seems a little morbid, perhaps, but it really is true. Live like there’s no tomorrow. Love fiercely, and fight for your dreams. Don’t wait for tomorrow.
6. Just Because You’re “Busy” Doesn’t Mean You’re Accomplishing Something
If you like to brag about how great you are at multitasking, stop it, because you are only kidding yourself. Changing tasks without rhyme or reason is wasting your productivity, stressing you out, and possibly causing you to make mistakes. It will probably take you longer to complete two tasks that you are switching back-and-forth between than it would to complete each one separately. If you want to save time, instead of multitasking, try grouping similar tasks together. Have a bunch of e-mails you need to send? Do them all at once. Have an article or essay you need to write? Get it done before moving onto anything else. Different tasks require different mind-sets, so focus on one thing at a time. Being “busy” does not guarantee that you are doing something useful (it probably just means you are doing a lot of things badly).
I have a problem with this. If I do not stay focused on a task, it may never get finished. I’ll start something, and then get distracted by something else that needs to be done, and forget to finish the first thing. I find I am infinitely more productive when I keep myself on task, especially if I have a to-do list that allows me to tackle things in order of importance. I just have to remember to be pleased with what I have accomplished instead of fretting over the things that are left on my list. I like these suggestions for making a to-do list effective.
7. You Have More Time Than You Think You Do
You should eliminate the phrase, “I don’t have the time,” from your vocabulary, because it is profoundly untrue. There are 168 hours every week. Let that sink in for a moment. That is a monumental amount of time. Where could it possibly go? The average person spends 4.09 hours on leisure activities per day according to a survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most of that time, 2.8 hours per day, is devoted to the television. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think watching TV does much to help me grow as a person. You could spend that time creating art that adds value to the world, reading books that will help you improve your life, or exercising for a better body and health. The next time you say you “don’t have the time,” change your wording to say “it isn’t a priority.” No time to exercise? Your fitness isn’t a priority. No time to prepare healthy meals at home? Your health isn’t a priority. No time to do something nice for the love of your life? Your relationship isn’t a priority. It’s harsh, but it’s true. How you spend your time is a choice, so spend it wisely. You also might want to check out this article that will help you get more done in a day.
In some ways, this is just delving deeper into the previous point. There is an age-old adage that says, “Work smarter, not harder.” That is so true. By making sure that your time is spent getting things done that you really want to accomplish, you’ll find that there are far more hours available to you than you thought. Now, I’m not dead-set against television. Everyone has to have some down time, and veg out a bit. I usually prefer to do this with a book, but to each his own. However, if keeping up with the new episodes of the seventeen different series you “have” to watch is keeping you from getting done what you need and want to get done, it’s a problem.
But how do you decide what’s important? Ask yourself what you really want. Most of us are not at exactly where we want to be in our lives right at this moment. Perhaps we want to learn a new skill, train for a new job, start our own business, or whatever it might be. Think about the steps that are necessary to reach that goal. Spend at least a little time each day planning or working toward that goal. Chances are, that’s going to help you decide what to focus on. Think of your time as a valuable resource, and you are choosing how to spend it, just as you choose how to spend your money. Do you really want the majority of your time to be spent on things that will not help you towards your dreams?
And then the problem becomes whether or not we have talked ourselves out of pursuing our dreams, because they are unattainable, impractical, or just plain difficult. But I’ll tackle that one next time.
What do you think? Which of these points resonates the most with you?