In This Post
- Why you should stop preparing and start doing
- What is ‘productive’ procrastination and why is it killing your progress
- The need to tolerate discomfort
- It’s time to take responsibility – even for things you can’t control
- You cannot change in your current environment
- You have the time, so stop making excuses
The self development space overall is very positive, supportive and motivating. Today we might rustle a few feathers with some of our best, but controversial, self development tips. These tips are controversial because they’re harsh truths that many people find difficult to accept. If you benefit from a little tough love, you’re going to like these, but if you’re not feeling like having a quick reality check, proceed with caution!
1. Stop Planning and Do the Damn Task
If you’re anything like me, you’ve mastered what I call ‘productive procrastination’. This isn’t procrastination in the form of scrolling on your phone, watching TV, or going out with friends, but things that you can argue to be ‘productive’. Whether that’s cleaning, planning and updating your calendar, or working out. All of these things are important, but if you’re only doing them to avoid doing a more important task, that’s no good.
Of course, you should plan and schedule those important tasks, but doing them to avoid your main goal for the day is not as ‘productive’ as you might like to think. If you’re spending an hour or so before work scheduling just for the sake of it, you might be better of just dropping the scheduling routine and going straight into the task.
How Does Productive Procrastination Ruin Your Progress?
‘Productive procrastination’ happens when we know exactly what we need to do. Writing a 10-step bullet point checklist outlining how to complete the task isn’t actually useful for this task, but you do it to avoid starting the actual task. I used to do this a lot for writing and research tasks, but you could do it for any type of task that doesn’t need extensive planning beforehand. This type of procrastination is dangerous because it can give you a false sense of accomplishment. Once you’ve done your ‘easy’ productive things you’re more likely to be satisfied and stop without doing the main task.
To get out of the ‘productive procrastination’ spiral, I recommend you complete your planning and scheduling, but make sure you prioritise the order of tasks. That way, you can’t do your cleaning before your more important work to avoid it, and you’re more likely to complete the important jobs. If you want to learn more about procrastination (productive and non-productive) see here.
2. You Don’t Actually Want to Change
Ouch! Seems offensive I know, but it might be true. Changing your life and the way you behave, think, and feel is a mammoth task. You might like the idea of being a 5am wake up, productive, healthy girl-boss, but the reality of what that looks like day to day might actually not be something you can achieve.
If you want to be above average, you have to act in ways that average people don’t.
Lots of people say they want to build new habits, make changes, go to the gym, stop smoking, etc. But there’s a reason so few people actually stick to their new ideals. Making substantial lifestyle changes is hard, which is why they are simultaneously so rewarding. This is why if you don’t actually want to change, or have a compelling enough reason, you won’t survive the first few times when you’re struggling. You have to really want to be different in order to push through the growing pains.
Learn to Tolerate Discomfort
Likewise, you have to be willing to tolerate a level of discomfort in life. We live relatively easy lives compared to several hundred years ago (of course those people didn’t know the pains of slow wifi, but you know what I mean). Discomfort in life is avoided at all costs (thanks evolutionary biology) so when you’re faced with it, it can be hard to push through.
Unfortunately, discomfort is essentially guaranteed when you’re trying to make big changes in your life. Whether it’s emotional, physical, or psychological challenges, you will struggle if you are improving. Going to the gym and working out is physically uncomfortable, similarly is eating in a calorie deficit, or doing nerve-wracking things to expand your comfort zone.
Once you can understand that pain, discomfort and a general sense of unpleasantness are part of the process of self development, you can learn to see it as a sign of growth, rather than something to be avoided. Until you accept that there will always be pain in your life, you will continue to hide away from it, and reduce your chances of making lasting changes.
3. You Make Excuses and Avoid Responsibility
Life is unfair. We all know this, and if you don’t know this, let me remind you that this is one of the most essential and uncomfortable truths to grasp. As people, we like the idea that everything is fair. We all have a go at life starting out on the same level playing field. However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
There are so many things in life that are beyond our control which are unfair and drastically impact our life chances. Where you’re born, who you’re born to, the language you speak, etc. The point here is that you need to learn to accept that the game of life is probably not rigged in your favour and that life isn’t fair. But, regardless of where you start, you can still decide to live in a way that makes the most of your life.
Take Responsibility for Things You Cannot Control
Learning to accept responsibility in life for things you cannot control is equally important. We all seem to have a good understanding of when we actively fail to do the right thing or make the wrong choices, but you can revolutionise your life when you accept responsibility for things that are not in your control.
For a long time, I would make excuses for myself because I have type 1 diabetes, which significantly impacts my life, my physical health, my diet, and my ability to exercise. Type 1 diabetes is a genetic condition with no known cause, that essentially starts spontaneously. I used to view it as a factor that held me back from making progress in my health, my hobbies, and overall performance. When I learned to accept it as a challenge that not everyone had, but I had, it made it easier to cope with.
Not everyone’s journey will be as easy, and mine isn’t as easy as someone without diabetes, but that’s okay. I have no control over it, but I can still take responsibility for it. When it impacts my diet, my ability to exercise and to sleep, I try to relax and focus on doing the right thing in the moment. It is not fair, but life isn’t. Everyone is on their own journey, so do not compare your journey to anyone else.
4. You Cannot Succeed in Your Current Environment
It’s a little harsh to suggest the people in your life are toxic, because they might actually be super supportive, but the chances are you’ve met people who don’t help you along your self development journey. Whether they doubt your abilities to improve, constantly have negative comments to say, or just don’t uplift and support you in your efforts to improve yourself, it’s likely that they aren’t going to be a useful asset to you.
You don’t have to cut people off who are like this, but it might be wise to only share things with them that are not close to your heart, or significantly important to you. The whole idea of not sharing your goals before you’ve achieved them is important here. If someone is going to shoot down your aspirations to improve, it’s better to not let them know what your plans are in the first place.
If it’s not the people in your life, it might be your environment. When you are surrounded by things, cultures, behaviours, foods, lifestyles, etc. that do not encourage you to be your best self, then it might be time for you to switch to your environment. The idea of ‘free will’ is a controversial topic itself, and I would argue that your environment is incredibly influential in determining your behaviour and your chances of making meaningful changes in your life. If you want to learn more about how to design your current environment so that it best supports the type of person you’d like to be, you can read about environment design here.
5. You Have All the Time You Need
For me, this is the most important harsh truth of them all. We all have limits on our time – whether it’s a long commute, working hours, or family and caring responsibilities. The difference between people who get things done during their set time and those that claim they “don’t have enough time” is simply how they manage themselves.
Your efficiency, prioritisation of tasks, time management and expectations you set for yourself all impact how effectively you can use the time that you do have. You might genuinely struggle to fit everything in, in which case, you need to reduce the amount of work and time you need, by adapting and making your life more efficient.
Still, I would argue that for most people, we do have enough time, but what we lack instead is energy, motivation and discipline. If you haven’t tried getting up earlier to get the really important things done before you go to work or school, I suggest you try doing that before you claim you don’t have enough time.
You Have to Choose to Find the Time
I promise this isn’t a humble brag, but my life really did change when I started getting up earlier. When I wake up around 5 am before my work or university studies to work out and do things like meditate, journal and take my supplements, not only do I start every day doing the things that make me feel good, but I also actually get them done. I have never been more consistent with habits that improve my mental and physical health. For me, and maybe for you, simply getting up earlier is the solution to the “I have no time” problem.
The goal is really to adjust your mindset, so you no longer think ‘I don’t have time for this’, because you know how to shift your schedule around, get up early and focus on doing the most with the time you have, and if necessary, changing your priorities so that you don’t have to do it all. Getting up early probably won’t change your life, but it can seriously help you on your self development journey.
Harsh Truths Help You Face Reality – Don’t Be Discouraged!
If you’ve made it through this list of harsh truths and controversial self development tips, I have a feeling that you’re going to do well out there. Coming to terms with the unfair reality in which we live is a liberating feeling. You can go out into the world feeling confident in your ability to handle everything, even the unfair things. Good luck!
To Put it Minimally
- You need to stop planning and preparing as an avoidance technique, and just start the tasks at hand
- By doing ‘productive’ things as a form of procrastination, you are likely to reduce your energy and over time, reduce your progress
- Pain = growth. You cannot achieve big things in life by staying in your comfort zone
- Taking responsibility and owning the situations, even when they’re not 100% in your control, allows you to take charge of your life and stop shying away from challenges
- Your current environment is hindering your progress, you need to surround yourself with things that are likely to inspire, support and encourage your new habits and behaviours
- If you feel like you don’t have enough time, you need to re-prioritise and master your time-management skills