I’ve read a lot of the self improvement books over the past several years, books that instruct us on how to manage our time, our money, and how to cultivate the characteristics within our beings that will bring us ever-lasting success and happiness.
It all gets old after a while.
At first, those little kernels of wisdom found between the book covers excited me, and I soaked up every bit I could. Looking back at the period of time that I first began to discover this genre, I must have seemed like an eager, naïve kid, thinking that all I have to do is read this stuff and internalize the lessons and that would be that, I would be on my way.
Now don’t get me wrong, 90% of the stuff found in these books is helpful advice, things that people are much better off with than without, but there is a danger in relying on it all too heavily.
For example, until just recently, I had actually begun to use these books as a type of crutch, thinking that I needed to learn just a bit more, and then I would finally apply that knowledge to whatever various goal I had at the time.
Basically I was waiting for this magical moment where everything would click and I would be able to accomplish my goals within an amazingly short amount of time and with incredible results.
Truth is, that “magical moment” is magically non-existent.
I went even further past this point of paralysis though, to a point where I ended up making all of these lessons a part of me, without actually applying any of these lessons in a practical way. I would deprive myself of anything throughout my daily life that would detract from any of my goals, be it the goal of saving money or making my mile-and-a-half run time in under 9:00 minutes (yeah, yeah, I’m an over-achiever even among military folks…).
I became almost hardened in a way, and I was beginning to look upon others whose behavior was “counter-successful” with disgust.
I’m not really sure what made me snap out of this rut, but eventually I came to my senses and realized that something wasn’t working. Thinking about it now, it was probably the realization that I wasn’t actually accomplishing anything, and that I was increasingly unhappy.
The more I thought about it, the more I started to visualize success like this:
Removing behavior that inhibits success
Actively pursuing your goals
Take a wild guess as to which part of the equation I wasn’t doing at all (hint-it’s the actively pursuing your goals part).
Then the question became why.
I think the answer for me was that I felt that if I let up on trying to prevent unsuccessful behavior, I would slip back into old habits of laziness and other unproductive acts. I think I was afraid to let up a bit and focus on both parts of the equation because I didn’t trust myself to stick to what I’ve learned.
There was only one way to get over this… I simply chose to get over it. I chose to lighten up a bit, while at the same time taking specific action towards some of my goals. I discovered that many of the things I had learned through these self-improvement books I really had internalized and made a part of myself, meaning that when I relaxed a bit I didn’t slip back into old bad habits, and I didn’t have to keep an iron grip on every aspect of my daily life.
Not only did this improve my mood and make me generally happier, but it made me more productive and efficient, and oddly enough my newfound, more relaxed attitude seemed to leave me with more energy at the end of the day.
I guess the moral of the post can be summed up by saying that you’ve just got to get out there and try something… anything…everything… regardless of risk, regardless of the possibility of failure.
Essentially, you have to have some blind faith in yourself.
So consider this your call to action (the pic makes sense now, right?), because If you never get around to taking any action whatsoever, then failure is no longer a possibility, but a certainty.