- December 3, 2020
There’s one skill you need to master to improve your life. It’s a skill you’ll never fully master, but the rewards you’ll get from mastering it even a tiny bit will set you far ahead of the pack. Without this skill, you’ll always feel conflicted, feel hesitant, and never be able to make solid decisions because you won’t feel certain enough to do so.
So what’s this magical skill I’m talking about?
It’s the ability to hold conflicting ideas in your head, deal with the paradoxes of self-improvement, and understand the counterintuitive aspects of what it takes to change your life.
Black and white thinking causes mediocre results. We live in a world of black and white thinking. The media teaches you to think this way. Often, so do the people you looked up to as authority figures growing up — teachers, other adults, and even your own parents.
So many people in society are rigid, repressed, mentally stiff.
You need to be fluid. You need to be able to adapt your mindset, beliefs, and actions to the circumstances at hand.
This quote from Bruce Lee says it well:
“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.
Let’s take a look at some examples to show you what I mean:
Care but don’t care
To get optimal results in something you’re trying to accomplish, you need to simultaneously put your all into your efforts but not care that much about the outcome at all. Here’s the trick to it. You don’t care about success or failure with each task or moment, but you do care about the long term results and the lessons you learn from the cumulative knowledge those moments give you. I care about my writing career as a whole, but if I fretted about every individual blog post or email I sent out, I’d never get anything done. I put the same level of effort in my pieces — some take off, most don’t, but overall I become a better writer.
Combine two opposite self-images
Business expert Sam Ovens had this to say about successful people “[On what makes people successful] The first is a superiority complex — a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality. The second appears to be the opposite — insecurity, a feeling that you or what you’ve done isn’t good enough. The third is impulse control.” On the one hand, you want to look and the mirror and tell yourself “I’m the shit!” but you also want to fill the gaps in your life that you need to reach your goals. Insecurity and confidence are both misunderstood. You never feel either belief one hundred per cent. And they have a symbiotic relationship with each other, meaning they both feed into each other when used the right way.
Become patiently impatient
This reminds me of another quote – “Live as if you were to die tomorrow, learn as if you will live forever.” In the short term, you want to be impatient and active. In the short-term hesitation kills your progress. But you also want to be patient in the long term and have this idea in your mind that everything will work out eventually. You have to have this belief that the universe is going to catch up to your results. Far too many people are impatient about the long-term results and patient with the short-term results, which is a fancy way of saying they procrastinate.
Don’t aim at success
You ever notice that if you really want something and have needy desperation for it to happen, it eludes you? If you’re entirely motivated by money, it’s harder to make money. If you’re entirely motivated by status and admiration, it’s harder to get people to like you. If instead, things like money, status, and people are attracted to you because of who you are, then you end up getting what you want as a bi-product of your efforts to work on yourself, do the things you enjoy, and work on goals that satisfy your curiosity.
Live unbalanced to create balance
Treating everything as equally important ironically throws you out of whack, e.g, someone who’s always running errands, has no boundaries, will say yes to any request, and wears themselves thin. If instead, you live an unbalanced life by prioritizing more time to the things that matter to you most, you’ll feel more balanced internally because you’re aligned closer to your values. You care about some things more than others. Some tasks are more important. Some people are more important. Your mission is always more important than pretty much everything else. Feed the right areas first and when your cup runneth over, pour that energy into other areas.
Make money, but don’t care about money
Again, this speaks to your motivations for why you’re choosing to do what you do. Focus on making a good living so that you can have freedom, flexibility, and control over your time. But don’t let money become your master. Too many people have deep-seated negative beliefs about money. Don’t look at money as the end goal, look at it as a source, as fuel.
Be accepting and judgmental
On the one hand, you want to give every single person you meet a fair shake when you first interact with them. Never judge a book by its cover alone, be open and inviting, never become jaded in your relationships whether they’re romantic, platonic, or business-related. At the same time, you want to understand human nature, especially the dark parts of it, and learn to navigate the subtle social rules that dictate human interaction. Even the taboo ones, especially the taboo ones. Some people miss the point of books like the 48 Laws of Power and call them immoral or amoral. The point isn’t to become Machiavelli. The point is to understand how people work so you don’t put yourself in counterproductive and harmful situations. You can be simultaneously optimistic, open, careful, and discerning.
I could go on here, but you get the point. Learn to embrace the tension in your thoughts. It’s never going to go away. Rid yourself of this idea that you’re ever going to feel fully comfortable and have a bullet point set of answers for exactly how to live your life. You won’t.
But you will start to learn to dance and play with the situations in your life, with your emotions, with your goals, and with the entire story, you tell yourself about your existence.
You’re always shifting up and down depending on what’s needed.
You’re not trying to be right, you’re trying to be less wrong.
You’re not trying to be perfect, you’re trying to be better.
Embrace ambiguity and always move forward.