I have a question for you. And I'm not asking in a judgmental way whatsoever. I want you to think about the question, reflect on it, let it sink in a little bit, and answer it honestly.
How long have you spent thinking about what you're going to do with your life in the future? Another question. How much of that time spent thinking about your future is the type of visualization that's going to bring you closer to your goals vs. nothing more than run-of-the-mill daydreaming?
I've always been a big dreamer. I believe in the power of picturing a better future. But picturing a better future isn't enough. If it were enough, then everyone would have the outcomes they wanted in life. Who doesn't constantly think about what their life would be like if they were able to turn their potential into actual results?
That's what makes daydreaming so seductive. You understand that if you were somehow able to muster up the energy and courage to do what you really wanted to do, you'd have enough talent and intelligence to pull it off. There's a lot of talk about self-doubt in the self-improvement space, which is real. But, we do believe we have capabilities.
So, what gets in the way? Why do we get stuck daydreaming instead of taking the steps required to accomplish whatever it is we're trying to accomplish. There's a simple answer, but a difficult-to-follow process to get the job done.
Why it's so difficult to change
It's difficult to change because, in order to change, we have to let go of the idea that we have potential. We have to let go of the idea that potential matters. It doesn't. What matters? Reality, results, outcomes, and the actual process it takes to achieve all the above.
Part of that process involves dealing with a harsh reality most of us don't want to face. What reality? The reality that we are currently not the ideal person we visualize in our head.
Maybe you want to be more charismatic and network with more people, but right now you're socially awkward and you're going to have to struggle through awkward social interactions to become savvier.
Maybe you want to start a business and do all the hard work it takes to make money, but right now you have no results, no customers, and it's going to take you a while before you have either. Along the way, you'll face rejections, setbacks, and obstacles that will make you feel bad.
When it comes to any long-term objective, you're going to go through a period where the current version of you is going to have to go through some level of psychological pain to get what you want.
And that psychological pain comes from the fact that, in the beginning, there's just a mismatch between who you actually are right now and who you want to become in the future. This potential psychological pain is enough to keep most people from accomplishing their goals.
I'm supposed to be "motivational."
Well, a huge part of motivation comes from being as objective with yourself as possible. Until you're honest with yourself about your current reality, you're never going to change. Stop telling yourself all the white lies that we used to cope with our day-to-day existence.
"I'll do it eventually." No, you most likely won't. But pay attention to that word, likely, because to get what you want, you have to do the things most people won't likely do.
"Things will work themselves out." Maybe they will, maybe they won't. But, at least when you try to take control of your own life you have some influence over the results instead of letting your circumstances push you one way or the other.
"Everything is fine." Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. I don't know your personal situation and I'm not here to make anyone feel bad about their life. I just want you to look at your situation objectively. Is everything fine or are you wasting time thinking everything is fine because you have this delusion that something will just shift in your life on its own, somehow, maybe, someday?
Up to you to decide. If you reach the point where you tell yourself something along the lines of "Ok, I want to get better results in my life, but I'm not currently equipped to get them. I need to stop lying to myself and I need to start doing the work" you'll be on the right track.
A great analogy for transforming your life from having potential to getting results
So many long-term goals in life are like going to the gym when you're out of shape. There is nothing you can do to avoid the psychological equivalent of what it feels like to start working out after a long time away.
The first few workouts will suck. You will be very sore. And your body won't change at all. Usually, those first few workouts halt people's progress altogether. They extrapolate the few workouts they did do over the timespan they'd need to do them to get in shape, and they just don't see how they can keep going so they quit.
But that initial series of workouts are the hardest ones. Once you break through that wall, it gets easier. You don't feel sore after every workout. Your body does start to change after a few months. Then, you can reach a point where exercising is so normal that you don't need to make a decision to do it at all. You just go constantly without fail.
You have to go through this process regardless of what you're trying to accomplish. If you want to start a business, you'll go through that point where every tedious detail frustrates the hell out of you, but eventually, many of those skills become second nature to you. If you want to be like me and create content, in the beginning, no one will listen to you, but eventually, people will.
Insert any goal and the process is the same. Embrace the fact that you're going to suck, you're not going to feel good about yourself initially, and you will want to quit. But also embrace the fact that these feelings and obstacles are all temporary. Much more temporary than you'd think.
Again, reaching the point where you commit to change starts with being brutally honest about your current reality. I've used this story before, but a few years back I'd gained a bunch of weight and gotten really out of shape. I told myself convenient white lies. I told myself I'd do it eventually. I told myself that I just had a few pounds to lose no big deal. Instead of a vision to change my health, I had a daydream.
Then, one day, I looked in a full-length mirror totally naked and let reality sink in. I went to the gym the next day and I've been working out ever since. Do the equivalent of that right now. Look at your life, naked. Let go of the daydreams for a second and see where you actually are in life.
What are you going to do about it? A solid answer to that question backed by a decision can shift the trajectory of your entire life. Give it a try.