Looking for some life-altering ideas, are you? Welcome, take a seat, and enjoy what the better part of my years of research* and self-discovery** has produced. These concepts are fundamentally simple, yet somehow still changed my perspective on what I do every day, how I think and what I prioritize. So, I thought they were worth sharing with you here in case you've been looking for ways to shake up your own patterns.
Without further ado…
#1 You become what you do every day
This concept is what inspired me to make some major changes, including quitting alcohol for three months. I read some really tactical examples of what bad habits, repeated every day, can do to your life and realized that I was allowing my bad habits to affect my health, my mood and even my relationships. The examples were from a great book called "The Compound Effect" by Darren Hardy. In it, he makes the argument that there is an operating system running your life whether you know it or not.
This operating system is programmed by your unconscious mind and controlled by the tiny little things you do out of habit. We do almost EVERYTHING out of habit, and those small, seemingly insignificant choices build on each other over time. If you look at all of the elements of your life as they are today - your health, your relationships, your career, your mindset - and rewind time, you'd see that they're simply a culmination of small things you did consistently over a very long period of time. And the kicker is that there is no standing still: those small things that you're doing automatically are either moving you forward towards your goals, or dragging you backwards away from them.
This is why the small things matter, like making your bed, paying your taxes, eating spinach, saying no to Jelly Bellys, controlling your temper, being nice to strangers, etc. Learning how to "hack" the unconscious operating system that's running your life in order to override bad habits and replace them with better ones that compound over time into the life outcomes you want - your ideal relationship, a fit body, a career with limitless potential - is what the book is all about.
Not a reader? I wrote a bonus post for my email subscribers with the top 10 pieces of advice from the book that you can immediately implement to improve your own life. You can sign up for the list here if you're interested in reading it.
#2 You are not your mind
Stop right now and think about what thoughts are floating around in your mind. Maybe you're thinking about that last paragraph you read and considering the eight million Reece's Peanut Butter Cups you ate last night and how much that onslaught of sugar will drag you backwards from your hot body goals. Whatever it is dinging around between your ears, the fact that you have literally taken a step outside of your mind to reflect on what's happening in your mind suggests that you are a separate entity than your mind. Spiritual implications aside, this is hugely powerful because it enables you to control your thoughts.
There are a lot of people in the world who don't control their thoughts and simply emote, allowing their minds to run wild and drive decisions that are irrational. (Think road rage and other public displays of emotion that violate social norms and make people uncomfortable, bad managers with biting feedback who make their subordinates despise them, etc.)
Although we all think that we're rational beings completely in control at all times, we're not. Think about the periods of your life that were the most stressful. Your emotions run high, your mind tends to race, and it can feel overwhelming. Learning how to take a step outside of your mind and reflect on why you're thinking what you're thinking is immediately calming because it imbues logic, refocuses you on outcomes and allows you to redirect your thoughts.
Recognizing that my mind was something that I could control was a game-changer for almost every area of my life. Although I joke a lot about my neuroses, there have been and will continue to be plenty of moments when I need to stamp them out and actively redirect my thoughts for better outcomes. For example, getting even remotely negative feedback at work used to make me angry or embarrassed, which can easily translate into defensiveness or crying in the bathroom. Both are irrational and don't exactly demonstrate that you're ready for more responsibility. Training myself to take a step back, think about why the feedback was making me think whatever it was that I was thinking, and then talk myself into using it as a data point and not taking it personally took some time and energy, but now it's my automatic response to all feedback. And I also now give a lot of unsolicited advice to my colleagues about how showing your negative emotions at work is a sign that you lack power and share tips on becoming unflappable.
#3 The present moment is the only thing that matters
If we can agree that you become what you repeatedly do, that we cannot change the past, and that we cannot control the future, that leaves us with this exact moment to focus on and use to our advantage. Have you ever heard that depression is driven by focusing on the past, and anxiety is driven by focusing on the future? We know that those states of mind are unproductive in general, but especially when you consider that there's literally nothing you can do to change the past or control your future. It doesn't mean that you shouldn't learn from your past or plan for your future, because you should. It's a question of where you focus your mind, your thoughts and your energy.
So that leaves us to focus on the present moment. If you want to change something, now is the time to do it. Want to lose weight? Take the first step in this exact moment. Decide that you're going to do it, go throw out all the junk food in your house, buy some great books or magazines to read on your couch at night instead of sitting in front of the TV where you're tempted to snack. Want to have a better relationship with your husband? Take action in this exact moment. Text him right now that you love him, or do something for him that he'll appreciate later. Want to make more money? Use this moment to update your resume, schedule a meeting with your boss for the end of the week, and make a list of where you can take on more responsibility or add more value to share with the person who oversees your work and can help you get to the next level.
Whatever it is, do it now. Thinking about it, planning it, or dreaming about it doesn't get you results. Only taking action does. Using the present moment to make decisions and take immediate action builds momentum. Once you've got momentum, it compounds to get you the results you want. It's easier said than done, because it take a lot of energy to get started, requires you to get past your fears and insecurities, and necessitates some risk. But remember that there's no standing still. What you do with this exact moment might as well be helping you get what you want.
To end this post, I'm going to leave you with a question and a quote to think about (both have been top of mind for me):
Think about yourself at this time last year. What did you think would be different about your life today?
"For what it's worth: it's never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you're proud of, and if you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength to start over." - F. Scott Fitzgerald
Ok, that's all I've got for you. Please let me know what you think of these ideas in the comments!
*Reading through the contents of entire USPS boxes filled with Amazon books delivered to my door two days after one stressful, sleepless night where the only thing that would console me was Googling "how to be less neurotic," asking my friends, colleagues and strangers mildly intrusive questions about their lives and deepest desires, and watching enlightening documentaries such as Iris.
**I don't even really know what this means, but it sounds nice, doesn't it? There's actually not much to discover. I think it's more like, "self-assessment" but that sounds too sterile.