Yesterday I wrote about the tension between self improvement and self confidence. At first glance it seems as if accepting oneself and trying to improve oneself are at odds with each other. But this is just an illusion. Recognising that we can still grow doesn’t prevent us from accepting who we are.
The problem comes, as Leo Babauta points out here, is when the goals we set for ourselves become the ends rather than the means. When that happens we’re no longer free to grow. Instead, our expectations become a trap:
The clients I work with almost all put incredible expectations on themselves — they have higher standards than almost anybody I know. It’s why they work with me.
It can be hard to see, but the expectations they’ve set for themselves often stand in the way of what they want the most.
It’s hard to see, because they became successful because of those expectations. It’s what got them this far.
But after a certain point, the expectations become the anchor, not the engine.
The breakthrough to the next level for many of us who perform at high levels — and actually for people of all kinds — is to let go of all expectations.
Th internet is filled with articles telling you what you need to do to be more productive. What you should read, what your morning routine should be, how to optimise your email triage system. But collecting these tips can be a productivity drain all of it’s own. The tips themselves become goals to pursue. All you need to do is perfect your productivity workflows and then you can get on with actually being productive.
It doesn’t matter how efficient you are if you are doing the wrong things. People get caught up in trying to be more efficient by writing down huge to-do lists of things that don’t really need to be done. If you aren’t working on things that are important, it doesn’t really matter how quickly you can do it. Make sure you are doing things that are important before you try to optimize your work.
"What the caterpillar calls the end, the rest of the world calls a butterfly."
Nathaniel Drew on where to find the balance between our pursuit of a more productive life and our need for a fulfilling life.
“It is not that we have a short time to live but that we waste a lot of it.” Those were words that Seneca said, and I am breaking my head trying to figure that out, because I just feel like there’s this constant push to do more, and I feel like I’ve gotta fill my time with as many experiences as possible.
And I think there is a wonderful aspect to that, but then there’s a part of me that feels like it’s running. It’s running from something. There’s a scary truth. I spend a lot of time kind of thinking about why I’m so interested in productivity and having more order in my life and y’know, just being more structured in general. And it’s making me think that maybe even productivity itself is a distraction to a bigger question.
I think he’s nailed it here. It’s easy for productivity to end up feeling like an end instead of a means. Our time is limited. It makes sense to use that time judiciously. But that can easily tick over into a fear of allowing a moment to pass which isn’t crammed full of activity and arbitrarily labelled achievement.
Perhaps the bigger question is; Why am I doing this? Productivity is great at answering the how, but it’s the why which will sustain us through our lives.
We all have the feeling that we could be doing more from time to time. It’s this guilty little monster that glares at us from the gap between what we are doing and what we have the potential to do.
But it’s even worse when somebody else succeeds by doing something we believe we could have done just as well ourselves if only we’d taken the time to do so. So how do we find that time? Derek Sivers shares his thoughts about that here. This paragraph hit especially hard:
It takes many hours to make what you want to make. The hours don’t suddenly appear. You have to steal them from comfort. Whatever you were doing before was comfortable. This is not. This will be really uncomfortable.
How many of your problems would be solved if you just had more willpower? You’d have the body of your dreams, you’d finish that project you’ve been putting off for years, you’d spend far less time watching cat videos. Willpower is the most essential tool there is in achieving any of our goals
Here, Art of Manliness bings us some tips for strengthening our willpower. Like most things, willpower is a tool that is strengthened by using it. So get ready to put he ice-cream back in the freezer.
While there are many ways to conserve your willpower, there’s really just one way to strengthen it.
By working on any goal or habit that exercises your self-control.
Remember when we talked about how willpower is like a muscle, and that just like a muscle, you have to exhaust it in the short-term in order to build its strength in the long-term? When you work to change a habit, you deplete your willpower in the struggle, but over time, the strength of your willpower muscle increases from these exercises, making you better able to take on future tasks.
Wouldn’t it be nice if your brain was more willing to work with you? You know what you should be doing, you know the reasons why you shouldn’t sit around all day eating ice cream and watching cat videos on Youtube, but when it comes down to it, which one sounds more appealing?
Self discipline is much more of an environmental issue that it is an individual one. While an individual can change their beliefs and behaviour through education, the resources available for education are presented by the environment. Furthermore, the habits an individual builds to meet their desires are, in large part, a product of what’s available in the environment.
At a basic level, this is the logic behind removing ice cream and cakes from your house if you’re trying to lose weight, or turning g off your phone if you want to concentrate on your work. Willpower is important, and we can all do with building our reserves of it, but it never hurts to manipulate our environment into boosting our chances of sticking to our goals.
Most of us feel like we should be getting more sleep. But this infographic showing the sleep routines of 50 highly successful people shows that there is no single “correct” amount. Sleeping times vary from only 3 hours to a far more appealing 9 hours a night. I guess it’s the hours we’re awake we really need to worry about…
July 31, 2020 3:41 pm - Steve Peters
I’ve been hitting it pretty hard on the writing recently. A couple of months ago I set myself the target of writing every day, and so far, so good. It’s been hard, there have been sacrifices, but that’s what it takes to be successful. Right? Right?? Lately, I’ve been wondering about that. My focus on…continue reading on Medium…
July 30, 2020 7:42 pm - Steve Peters
Faith has always made me uncomfortable, which is inconvenient if you’re the beneficiary of a Catholic upbringing. My sceptical nature didn’t go down well in religious studies at all. I was the kid who identified with Doubting Thomas, the one who asked for proof of Jesus’ resurrection. If I were one of the disciples I’d…continue reading on Medium…
We could all use a little help achieving our goals from time to time, even if that help comes from the wisdom of a man born almost 2000 years ago. No, not that man. I’m talking about Epictetus, one of the most renowned Stoics in history:
The great stoic Epictetus put forth his “dichotomy of control” illustrating that the world is divided into things that are in our control (thoughts, emotions, and actions) and things that are out of our control (possessions, looks, or privilege).
If you carefully differentiate the things that are in your control from the things that are not, you influence the things that are in your control to make your life the way you visualize it. You also stop worrying about things that are not under your control. You come to realize how pointless it is and that saves you a great deal of time and energy.