ONE INSANELY POPULAR WAY TO WASTE A LIFE (AND HOW TO AVOID IT)
Let’s cut to the chase today…
What we truly need to do is often what we most feel like avoiding. This is a harsh reality, even in our present times.
But… If we don’t go after what we want, we will never get it. If we don’t ask the right questions, we will always get the wrong answers. If we don’t take a step forward, we are always going to be standing in the same exact place.
Life is a journey comprised of small steps. The key is to take these steps, every single day, even in tougher times that require us to be extra resourceful.
To an extent, we know this already, right?
Yet how often are we stuck in a cycle of worry, fear, and other forms of over-thinking? How often are we aimlessly distracted? And how often do we procrastinate?
After consistently working on my mindfulness and time management habits, I’ve become reasonably proficient at getting things done with minimal distraction and procrastination, even while working from home.
Today, for example, I wrote a 1,200-word blog post, proof-read and cleaned up a chapter in a new book Marc and I are co-writing, coached one of our Getting Back to Happy Course students, responded to comments and emails from dozens of students and readers, worked on business planning and strategizing for a few active side-projects, spent a quality afternoon and evening with my family, and of course, now I’m writing this email which I’ll queue up for tomorrow morning.
It might seem like a lot, but it happens one small step at a time, with presence and focus.
With that said, however, I’ll be the first to admit that Marc and I still struggle with some detrimental habits that sneak up on us sometimes and get in the way of our effectiveness (because we’re human). And there is one particular habit we struggle with that’s super common among our friends, family, acquaintances, and students alike – this is something we all do that ends up wasting our lives, one precious moment at a time. The word “waste” may sound overly dramatic, but it’s really not. After spending over a decade coaching thousands of people, and working through my own personal issues, there’s little doubt that this is one of the most popular ways we all collectively waste our lives:
We waste our lives with a lack of self-discipline.
Self-discipline is a skill. It is the ability to focus and overcome distractions. It involves acting according to what you know is right instead of how you feel in the moment (perhaps tired or lazy). It typically requires sacrificing immediate pleasure and excitement for what matters most in life.
A lack of self-discipline for most of us is often the result of a lack of focus. In other words, we tell ourselves we are going to work on something, but then we don’t. When this happens to me, first and foremost, I forgive myself for messing up, and then I strive to be mindful of what’s really going on. Am I procrastinating for some reason? Am I distracted? Instead of telling myself that I’m “bad” or “undisciplined,” I try to productively uncover a more specific, solvable problem and then address it.
What do you do if your life is in complete disarray, you have hardly any self-discipline or consistent routines, can’t stick to anything, procrastinate constantly, and feel completely out of control?
How do you get started with building a healthy ritual of self-discipline when you have so many changes to make?
You start small. Very small.
If you don’t know where to start, let me suggest that you start by simply washing your dishes. Yes, I mean literally washing your dishes. It’s just one small step forward: When you eat your oatmeal, wash your bowl and spoon. When you finish drinking your morning coffee, rinse the coffee pot and your mug. Don’t leave any dirty dishes in the sink or on the counter for later. Wash them immediately.
Form this ritual one dish at a time, one day at a time. Once you do this consistently for a couple of weeks, you can start making sure the sink has been wiped clean too. Then the counter. Then put your clothes where they belong when you take them off. Then start doing a few sit-ups every morning. Eat a few vegetables for dinner. And so forth.
Do one of these at a time, and you’ll start to build a healthy ritual of self-discipline, and finally know yourself to be capable of doing what must be done… and finishing what you start.
But, again, for right now, just wash your dishes. Mindfully, with a smile.
And of course, if you’re struggling with any of this, know that you are not alone. Many of us are right there with you, working hard to feel better, think more clearly, and get our lives back on track.