I remember when I was young, I pursued anything and everything with boundless energy and joy.
My life felt easy and everything was a game.
There were nights that I would lie awake in bed, unable to sleep because I was so excited for what the morning might hold.
But then it all changed.
Life suddenly became more serious.
My days weren’t filled with games anymore.
Now everything that I did was measured, it could be a grade, a deadline, or some milestone at work.
The joy and energy I used to feel each day was gone, and in its place I felt only uncertainty and stress.
I fought through my days.
I put things off so I wouldn’t have to do them.
I no longer enjoyed life like I used to.
The worst part was that I couldn’t get rid of the idea that there was something seriously wrong with me.
Could it be that I was lazy?
Maybe I was too stupid to even understand?
Did I not have the motivation I needed to succeed?
All these questions led me on the pursuit of something that would rid me of my doubts and replace them with confidence and drive.
And I found answers to these questions everywhere I turned. It was like everyone had some solution that would fix all my problems.
Tony Robbins, Tim Ferriss, Zig Ziglar, Dale Carnegie and a hundred more were all ready and willing to give me all the advice I could handle.
And this is when I got hooked on self-improvement.
I spent tens of thousands of dollars and wasted years of my life trying to change in to the person I thought I should be.
But at the end of the day, I had put in all this effort and had no real results.
After all the work I had put in, I felt less and less like myself and more like a holographic image of some person I was trying to be.
I still fought through each day.
I still put everything off.
Then one afternoon, as I was trying to figure out what to do with my life for the hundredth time, it occurred to me:
I was so entrenched in other people’s ideas and opinions that I had stopped listening to myself.
That was when I realized that so much of the advice and self-help solutions, we get from other people goes to waste, because how much of that information are we actually using?
The root of the problem was a lack of action.
It’s a fact that almost anyone knows what they should be doing, and the problem is that they just aren’t doing anything about it.
What hurt the most was how true it was, even for me.
But I was lucky, and in my musings I could hear my mind tell me:
“Rob, why is it that you aren’t enjoying yourself? You would feel better if you did, don’t you tbink?”
It’s not easy to verbalize exactly how much those two questions changed my life. I could suddenly see through the lies of productivity and backwards goals that the world tells us to have.
I began thinking of new questions. I no longer asked how I could become more intelligent, stop putting things off, or make better goals, I now wanted to know how we replaced the joy and excitement of childhood with anxiety, uncertainty, and monotony.
And I kept finding the answer again and again. The answer that I told myself was that at some time in my life, I had lost that childlike perspective and replaced it with the lies that society was telling me about the importance of end goals.
When I started listening to society, that’s when I stopped listening to my own ideas and following my intuition.
Instead, I became obsessed with the end goal, as if that was the only thing that mattered in life.
And that perspective made me act as if I had something to lose – and that I had to achieve success NO MATTER THE COST.
When I look back, it’s very obvious to me that this is an incorrect way of thinking, but when I first realized it, I was in shock.
When we allow the outcome power over our own well-being or life satisfaction, we lock up.
We begin playing the game in fear.
We no longer see the joy that used to drive us ahead each day.
We begin to run from the possibility of mistakes.
We avoid challenges and take the easy route
We put things off out of fear of fucking up.
You can meet plenty of people each day that think that this level of investment in end goals is what is needed for us to do our best. They think that the stress and anxiety is what pushes us to the next level.
I say that’s BS.
When we force ourselves to do anything or when we think we are risking something critical, we stop working organically. Our decisions and actions aren’t effortless anymore. We stress out and second guess our every move. We aren’t in tune with ourselves.
This is when I learned the difference between physical investment (effort, work) and emotional investment (needing some outcome to happen).
I found out that the more time I put in to actual work, and the less time I spent stressing over the result, the easier and more naturally everything flowed from me.
This is when I produced new solutions to problems that had plagued me for years.
I miraculously stopped putting things off.
Everything in my life exceeded expectations.
When I stopped thinking about my end goals, and lived in the moment, I started to enjoy myself and produce quality work.
If I occasionally lost my focus, and when I did, that stress and doubt would return full-force. My results would drop, I started putting things off again, and the fun that I had would vanish.
So how is it that you can tell yourself that there is nothing to lose, even when the stakes are high?
If you think about it, you don’t really have to.
You don’t have to think what I’m saying is right or wrong.
You don’t need to listen to what I say or go against it.
What I really want is for you to find the answer for yourself.
In the end, that’s what is really important.
All my words are meaningless if they can’t guide you to find the answer for yourself.
You probably have bills to pay and a job to go to, and problems that seem very real.
And really, everybody knows that happiness is the result of success, and security comes from wealth, and that our experience is controlled by our circumstances.
But what if that’s all wrong?
What if happiness creates our success, security brings us to wealth, and our experience is generated by our thoughts?
When you can see for yourself how important this is, it will be clear that any of your problems are internal.
And all your efforts to solve your problems are internal as well.
You’re competing one thought, (“Do something!”) up against a different thought (“I don’t want to!”).
Both of these thoughts come from yourself, and whenever you feed in to one, you are increasing your will to resist the other thought.
But no matter how stubborn you are, it’s a battle that you can’t win.
Once you step away and look at it from a different perspective, that’s when you start to see that it’s all a game of the mind.
If I were to go back and send this advice to my past self, this is what I would say:
It’s ok to slow down.
You’re going to be fine.
Stop worrying so much.
Don’t doubt yourself like you do.
Quit pushing to be more than you are.
The person you are is enough.
This planet needs YOU, not what you’re trying to become.
Your head is filled with so much anxiety and self-doubt that you can’t even hear your own thoughts anymore.
Anyone in your shoes would be putting things off.
Anyone would make bad choices.
Anyone would not be able to enjoy their life.
This whole thing isn’t a “you problem”; it’s a side effect of being a person.
Just like plants grow, people think about things. We’re thinkers, and it’s so easy to get lost in our thoughts that we totally lose sight of reality.
Anybody could get trapped in the cycle of endlessly thinking of the end goal.
Make sure to give yourself a chance to rest.
Let you mind be silent, and it will return you to a state of calm.
Spending more time being hard on yourself isn’t the answer.
It’s the exact opposite of the answer.
Accept the person that you are.
Remove the tall tales that you have told yourself about success and expectations from your mind.
They’re exactly that – tall tales.
Just allow everything to exist as it is.
And as you relax a little, you’ll notice some changes:
You will see that you are enjoying life again and finding joy and energy in everything you do.
Exactly like those days when you were a child.
The childlike love of life never actually went away.
You never turned in to someone who was too boring, or lazy.
You only thought that you did.
This is your time to wake up and change everything.