At the start of every year we scramble to convince ourselves we’ll be better this year than the one before. But let’s be honest. How often does that really pan out? I don’t need a soapbox. Y’all know where this is headed.
If you’re gonna surpass your former self, you gotta push harder than you’ve ever pushed. Mush the one-(wo)man dogsled harder than you’ve ever mushed. Redefine the entire standard by which you live. That means standing in front of the proverbial mirror buck naked (metaphorically speaking) and examining yourself. Acknowledging flaws and weaknesses and minimizing their hold on you. Identifying strengths and playing them up to the max.
No matter what you do in life… It’s time to take control. You can be your own boss in your little corner of existence. So do it.
Here are some tried and true steps to make the journey easier.
1. Be Realistic
First thing’s first. You need to understand that this ain’t gonna be cupcakes and roses. It’s gonna take work. For some, that’s no big deal. Others have to get out the wire cutters and jumper cables. Threaten to take off some toes. Electrocute some nipples. But it’s safer to avoid all that self-flagellation and just be a good grunt. That means working your ass off. For yourself. ‘Cause you’re worth it, right?
So make peace with the idea that it ain’t gonna be easy. Just get that out of the way. But also realize that you can do it. And there’s a ton of free information out there to keep you going.
2. Know Your Weaknesses
Time to self-reflect. If you know that your weakness is playing Words with Friends, or running around mindlessly in Skyrim for hours on end, then you have to plan accordingly. Ration it out. Don’t get in your own way. That doesn’t mean being a ruthless slave driver and never enjoying yourself. You don’t want to feel weighed down by your work, either. So set aside time for your Netflix binging, Twitter surfing, and Reddit lurking needs. Just make sure you also set aside time to get work done.
Or don’t. It’s your future.
3. Have a Plan
Ok, so let’s pretend you’re committed to taking a firm hold of your Miami vices and are determined to devote some time to bettering yourself. Now what? Now you need a plan. A simple goal. Don’t plan ten goals at once. Start with one. Break it down into a list of tasks you need to complete in order to actually accomplish it. That means getting down to brass tacks. Don’t just wing it. Put some thought into it.
I like using Wunderlist to keep track of my to-dos, but there are other free apps out there to help you. Regardless of how you manage your tasks, the key is to make sure you always know what to do next. Then get to it.
4. Baby Steps
Remember to be practical. Start with small and easy-to-accomplish goals. Then, as you start to reach your stride, and really determine what kind of workload you can handle (and having already been successful with some smaller goals) move on to some big Kahunas. But do it as a progression. Ease your way up to a full schedule. Don’t just dive into the deep end and expect to wrestle Jaws into submission. Trust me, you’re gonna need a bigger boat.
Now you have a game plan. What’s next?
5. Create a Timetable
You need a time frame. Don’t just sit on your goal, with the same “I’ll start tomorrow” attitude. No dice. Not if you’re serious about self-improvement. You need a timeline to help keep yourself in check.
Pick a start date. Make it soon. Sometime this week. Now get a calendar, compass, sextant, lick your thumb and put it to the wind. It’s time to chart out your progression for the coming days and weeks.
If you’re a writer like me, then you might create a document showing how many words you have to write each day to reach your desired deadline. Don’t forget to calculate for your relaxation and Netflix vegetation time. Be realistic.
6. Get Excited
So you’ve gone about the construction of some goals, and have a time frame. It’s time to get excited. Wear your crazy smile. Try it right now. I said grin, you goofy bastard! Smiling releases dopamine from the brain, the reward-motivated-behavior drug. Be a smile “dopehead.” Bonus points if you do it in public and make eye contact with a specific victim… er… recipient.
Passion goes a long way in keeping us engaged in our goals. Stay on the hunt for things that inspire you. Keep them close at hand when you start to lose that spark. Watch a movie, Google some quotes, read a book. As a writer I create a “bookipedia” for my work in progress by tailoring music playlists, collecting folders of relevant images, and compiling anything else that keeps me inspired about my project.
The idea is to get excited and stay that way.
7. Enlist Support
It helps to share your goals with your pals. Making your ambitions public garners support, and also creates a sense of accountability to the expectations you’ve built. Use that to your advantage. Positive pressure can go a long way. And if your friends are some lazy, unexcitable bastards then find a peer group or six to support you. Don’t go it alone. Even Han Solo had Chewie around to ululate and tear the arms off protocol droids.
8. Use Incentives
You have steps. You have a time table. Some excitement. Maybe some dudebros on the sideline cheering for you. Now all you need is the willpower to follow through. Simple right? We all know that ain’t true.
Willpower is a tuffy. There are a lot of things that help, though. When you’re a good grunt, don’t forget to be a good boss. Dish out some rewards. Jot down some juicy incentives you unlock at different intervals of success. Treat. Yo. Self.
A steak dinner. A trip to the aquarium. A foot massage. Whatever it is you enjoy in life, but can’t always justify, give yourself a reason. Then earn it.
If you sneak the reward before you earn it, get out those wire-cutters and jumper cables out. Or not. No biggie. At the end of the day, you’re only cheating yourself out of your dreams.
9. Imagine the Future
Remind yourself of the benefits of reaching your goal. Give some thought to what things will be like when you get where you want to be. Seriously think about it. Hold onto that image. The better you can imagine living into your goal the more excited you’ll be.
And when you find yourself nose to nose with self-sabotaging urges, use your head. Throw a vicious headbutt. Or. Rationalize your way through the situation.
How is sitting around staring at your computer screen until bedtime going to make you feel tomorrow? Will you be okay with the wasted time? Will you feel bad about being a useless blob of protein and Cream Soda? Well, you probably won’t regret the Cream Soda. Unless your goal is to quit soda. The point is, don’t give in to the urge to be lazy.
So think about how your actions will affect you tomorrow. And get your ass in gear.
10. Just Start
Instead of sitting around thinking about how hard it will be. Or how long it will take. Or how you’re exhausted from binge watching every season of Supernatural without sleep… Instead of letting those negative thoughts invade your brain jelly, just start. That’s right. Just turn the key and start.
It’s like skydiving. When you get to that open door and look out, your nerves lock up. But once you jump, you start picking up speed and enjoying yourself. You might even pee a little. Whether from pure terror or giddy hysteria is another matter. But leaping out of the plane is the hardest part.
Go forth and conquer,
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