After reading How To Fail At Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams, I found some insights that fit in really well as an add-on to my first article about learning to value the process. The premise of that article is that while goals are important to us because they provide direction and motivation, they do not hold the happiness we seek in life. When we accomplish goals, we end up losing a sense of direction. So, we keep setting new goals and we find ourselves in a cycle of searching for a future happiness. In reality, there is never a time in our lives where we want to have accomplished everything and be finished. Thus, to combat this cycle, I mentioned that we should have goals but that we need to have faith that we are heading in the right direction and faith that we will be able to get there in order to fully be able to stop and appreciate your grind right now.
What I’ve developed is a deeper framework for how we can be more present and fulfilled in our daily lives without sacrificing direction for the future. One of the famous quotes from the book is that “Goals are for losers”. I don’t agree with this fully, but I appreciate the sentiment it elicits about how to avoid this post-achievement depression that comes with goals. While I definitely think broad and meaningful goals are critical for being intentional, we do need to avoid more specific, numerical goals such as losing ten pounds because once we achieve these sorts of objectives, we are proud, but we don’t know what to do next.
To address this balance between ambition and current satisfaction, we need to implement systems in our daily lives.
Let’s say you’ve always wanted to be an author so you set out to write your first book. You are ambitious and highly motivated so you create a plan to get this book finished: 50 pages a week. This way, within a couple of months, you will have accomplished what you desire. You get started and are extremely pumped up about the idea of finishing a book and write 25 pages the first day. Then, you take a few days off because important things come up. Your drive hasn’t gone anywhere and you get next 25 pages done in the last couple days of the week, 15 one day and 10 the other. Hooray! You completed an important objective that is going to help you move toward finishing that book. Now, you keep repeating that process until that book is finished and you can finally relax and feel satisfied. I am sure that when that book gets finished, you will be very proud of yourself and you should be, but I think there is a better way to approach such a situation. The book is something that you are getting done in order to start your journey as an author, not something you are working on as part of already being someone that writes. Let’s say instead of setting a weekly page goal in the hopes of eventually finishing a book, you decided to write for a certain amount of time each day. That’s focusing on being an author today, rather than being a book away. We are what we repeatedly do. It’s not about the work you can get finished, but the act of living each day doing the things you want to be doing. You are still moving toward finishing books and getting published etc, but you are not waiting for those things to start enjoying writing. Focusing so narrowly on the goal of a finished book will lead to a lack of present happiness and a cycle of goal-climbing. This is the premise behind why we need to install systems to our daily lives.
To drive this home further, try to think about what your ideal life ten years down the line would look like. What would an average day look like? For me, it is definitely not sitting on a beach all day doing nothing. While that might be enjoyable at first, I would get bored quickly. I need to be working on the things that matter to me to be happy. This means spending time working on a creative, impactful project, meditating, journaling, laughing with other people, exercising, and doing new things. In 10 years, I don’t expect to be doing all these things in the same context that I am in now, meaning I am sure my location, the projects I am working on, and the people I am with will all change. By that time, I will certainly have way more accomplishments and things to be proud of, but that doesn’t mean I would want to be finished in any way. No matter how much we improve and accomplish, we will still value the same grind. The context doesn’t matter. Once we accept and embrace this, we lose the need to wait to experience our ideal days. Once we think about what our key ‘buckets’ are, we just need to fill each of them up every single day. Not fill up a few somedays and the rest other days. This is too future-focused. If we fill up each of our buckets each and every day, we not only live a great life day in, day out, but we are also moving in a direction that is in line with our future aims. You don’t have to sacrifice ambition to be happy with today.
The next key idea that can help us design better days for ourselves is how to derive energy. In his book, Adams argues that energy is the most important factor in anyone’s personal success. The key is that your energy is actually the source of your emotions as opposed to the other way around. With energy comes a passion and a drive to get things done, experience new things, and, simply put, do things that make us happy and fulfilled. Thus, when we focus our attention on fostering energy, positive emotions will ensue. When we tend to each of our own buckets each and every day, we will be in a better state to approach everything else in our life that matters. While it may sound slightly counterintuitive, making sure that you exercise, spend time with friends and family, take care of your mind, and pursue things that matter to you every day will allow you to have more success in everything else you do. Adding on to this, the self-confidence we derive from knowing that we are working on things that we care about allows us to feel more secure and removes a need to be validated by others. And all of this energy starts right when we wake up in the morning:
How many of us are waking up every day actually excited for what’s ahead of us?
It’s a little dark, I know. But, I think it’s crazy that so often when I would wake up, I dreaded getting out of bed and completing my daily routine even though I usually had so much to look forward to every day. Once I actually got moving and into a groove, I was able to feel more appreciative, motivated, and excited. It was almost like that morning person was not the real me; That those lazy and unmotivated feelings were not the feelings I had 95% of my life. Those were just the feelings of some disoriented, irrational version of myself. I wanted to get rid of this. So, applying information from How To Fail At Almost Everything and Still Win Big and Matt D’Avella’s Guide to Waking Up, I decided to try to implement my own system to boost my energy and happiness. I wanted to share with you what I learned and hopefully, you will be able to apply some of these practices for yourself.
Firstly, I stopped giving myself choices. We do not have the mental energy or capability to make proper decisions right when we wake up. When we have a lot of things to figure out right in the morning, we can feel overwhelmed and not feel prepared to start the day. We might feel like we are in a position to decide whether a snooze is a good decision or not. What you need to do is remove any need to make decisions right when your eyes open. All these important decisions must be determined by the rational you from the night before. This means preparing when you will get up, what your routine will be, and everything needed for you to complete that routine (for me: putting water next to my alarm and light switch away from my bed, laying out a mat for abs, and picking out clothing). This way, you can transform getting your day started right from a decision into a habit. Here’s what that looks like:
*Alarm goes off*
- Jump out of my bed to turn my alarm off in less than 3 seconds.
- Drink a full cup of water that I set out the night before.
- Turn on the lights.
Boom. And you’re up. There was no need to think about it. It’s a reaction to the sound of your alarm. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to wake up at 5 AM every morning. Sometimes that is just not possible or healthy. What matters is that your alarm time is set strategically for how much sleep you need to get and the things you want to have time to work on in the morning. Then, in the morning you just trust what you set and go. After I am up, I know I have to fill up three of my buckets: meditation/journaling, exercise, and working on a creative/impact project. That’s why each morning will include at least 20 minutes of meditation and journaling, 8 minutes of an ab workout, and 20 minutes of working on such a project (right now this). Then, of course, there are other things like making your bed, eating breakfast, getting ready in the bathroom, and putting clothes on that I also incorporate into my routine. Plus, there are obviously a lot of other important things I have to get done in the rest of my day. However, by hitting on those three buckets before I really get going, I have an unbelievable energy and excitement for the rest of my day that gives me the ability to succeed in those other tasks. I also feel joy jumping out of bed the next morning when I start again. As long as you maintain consistency, you can achieve this cycle of energy that lets you enjoy the essence of each day’s opportunity and just take advantage. In my mind, consistently waking up happy and excited is simply one of the most valuable states a person can achieve.
So, I encourage you to try to optimize your life by designing a system that works for you. First, figure out what your own buckets are that will make you happy and energized every day and wouldn’t change with more achievement and success. Then, try some of these techniques to master your mornings and work to fill up these buckets each day to start living your ideal life without waiting. You will amaze yourself at how much you can make your own happiness a habit.
To learn more:
How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life
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