Accept yourself and keep struggling

Accept yourself and keep struggling

“You are already perfect as you are, yet you can always be better.” – Buddhist saying

Over the last few weeks, my perspective on life changed radically and it all started with a couple of Internet articles. Let me tell you my story:

As someone very interested in self-development, I have been changing my life slowly. This included pushing myself to overcome my fears and trying new things that I might love.

I went to a writer’s meetup. I have weekly salsa classes. I love both of these things, and I know that I would have never done them without conscious effort.

Besides that, I’m also working on my willpower muscles: I try to workout regularly, and am studying more than before.

I’m really happy about my progress, but this strong focus on improvement came at a heavy price: I was having less fun than before. I had forgotten how to just live and enjoy the simple things. I was putting a huge pressure on myself, which had the opposite effect that I expected: it made my life worse.

Every time I failed, I felt guilty and wasn’t satisfied. I felt stressed and tense. Even when I was enjoying my free time, my goals were in the back of my mind and a voice nagged me “Shouldn’t you be doing something productive?”

Instead of making my life better, my efforts were slowly becoming a prison of guilt and worry and worsening my quality of life. My system was a failure.

What helped me realize this was this trio of articles by Mark Manson:

These 3 articles are really powerful because they completely reshaped my perspective of life. Here are the key ideas:

(1) Mediocrity, as a goal, sucks. But mediocrity, as a result, is OK. 

(2) We’re okay. We can be better. But we’re okay.

(3) Live, man. Just live. Stop trying to be happy and just be.

This lifts off all the pressure of “being exceptional” and allowed me to accept myself. You’re always be average in most of the things, and that’s normal. Being average is normal. Even failing is normal.

Sucking at things doesn’t matter, as long as I keep working on it. This doesn’t mean it’s always enjoyable, but I don’t beat myself up like I did before, and that makes a huge difference.

Since failure is unavoidable, we should learn to accept and manage it better.

With this new perspective, it seemed like I woke up from a strange dream and landed back in good old reality. It allowed me to enjoy the mundane things again, and transformed improvement from a chore back into a pleasure.

This doesn’t mean that I feel great every time I push myself. A lot of it is hard and not very enjoyable. When I took my first salsa class, I was scared shitless and obviously that wasn’t enjoyable.

Even now, after months of classes, I still feel a little fear. Once in a while, I catch myself thinking that the others dance a lot better and I’ll look like a fool. I know that that voice will probably always be there. And I accept it.

However, I learned that once I get there, I usually have a great time. I made friends and dance a lot better than before. Even on the days I don’t go, I’m OK about it, because I know that failure is normal. As long as I don’t use that as an excuse to be a slob and sleep on the couch all day, and keep trying, I’m OK.

There’s no pressure anymore. Just the will to improve and the pleasure of the struggle. I learned that what’s important is the attempt, not the result.

What do you think about this perspective? Do you suffer from the same problems?

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How to build a new habit and make it stick

Let me tell a harsh truth: we suck at changing our habits. A 2-year study found that more than 80% of New Year’s resolution fail (and that’s a generous estimate).

Besides that, people want to change but rarely do it.  Only around 30% of change in your behavior can be explained by your intentions ¹. There is a huge difference between what we want to do and what we actually do.

The remaining 70% are the secret to making habits stick, because we can control them and set things up for success. You need to be prepared. You need to have a plan. You need to learn how to change habits.

If you change habits smartly, and you’ll win two times: you’ll succeed more often and you’ll avoid wasting your time and energy.

Continue reading “How to build a new habit and make it stick”

How to know what to improve in your life

Did you know that most people (probably including you) are bad at estimating how happy something will make them? ¹ This startling discovery, made by Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert, means that you’re probably focusing on the wrong things, and spending lots of efforts on things that won’t make you happier.

One of my core beliefs is that we can make our lives better and happier, by taking actions to improve the different parts of our lives (such as friendships or health) ². As I worked on that, I had two questions at the back of my mind bothering me:

  • How did I know if I’m working on the right thing?
  • How did I know if I’m making progress?

Continue reading “How to know what to improve in your life”

How to beat your fears and try new things

Let me tell you a story.

Last year, I wanted to go to a guided meditation in a Buddhism center in my hometown. Since I can be shy and I didn’t know anybody there, it made me uncomfortable. For over a week, I tried to convince myself to go: a teacher would help immensely and I’d be surrounded with interesting people.

The day before, I was motivated and excited. An hour before it started I got ready, but here’s what happened: I couldn’t go.

I stared at the door for a long time but didn’t move an inch. I was simply too afraid. My family saw me getting ready for something and then staring at the door for a couple of minutes, and they asked what was going on. ‘Nothing’ I said, feeling shameful at my weakness, and I got back to my room.

Continue reading “How to beat your fears and try new things”

How To Master The 4 Fundamentals Of A Good Life

Like everyone else, I had problems in my life. When I was young, shyness was a big one. Among the list, I didn’t have confidence, I considered myself too skinny, and I spent a lot of time at home and wished I had more friends.

These things worsened my life and made me unhappy. I felt alone, not particularly beautiful nor great. Over time, with the social pressure of adolescence and college, they had a stronger effect, and could often make me feel really bad.

One day, it reached a point where I felt bad enough to change: the situation couldn’t continue. I looked at my life and examined everything that made me unhappy, and realized hat my current attitude and world view was only perpetuating the cycle. Change was needed.

That change required a huge effort. A HUGE effort. I have slowly been improving all these aspects. To improve my health and look better, I started lifting weights. To improve my confidence and shyness, I started going to salsa classes and meeting more people in my daily life. To feel more connected, I started talking more with my friends. All of these have helped me, but a much more important lesson came from this experience.

I noticed that some changes had a very big impact on my life, while others were less important. It allowed me to get a slightly clearer view on what improved my well being and happiness. Four areas of life stand out: friends & love, body & mind, well-being and time & energy. (For the pedants, I know that’s 7 things, but some of them are linked, so I count them as one.)

Continue reading “How To Master The 4 Fundamentals Of A Good Life”

The Life books: the best books to have a great life

When you want to get better at some part of your life, few things are better than reading a good book than teaches you the fundamentals. Here I’ll try to list the best books on each big area of life and knowledge. I’ll try to only mention books I’ve read. Because I’m still reading or planning to read many books on this list, I can’t give feedback about all of them. I’ve taken the precaution of reading reviews about those books, to select the ones that have the potential to very interesting and beneficial.

How to change:

Changeology: 5 Steps to Realizing Your Goals and Resolutions by John Norcross

The best book I’ve ever read on self-change. It’s really good. The author, John Norcross, reviewed and summarized everything that science has discovered about self-change, and used those insights to create a 5-step change program.

For each of the steps, John tells you what which mistakes lead people to failure, and 4 or 5 techniques to easily double your chances of success. If you want to start/stop doing something, following his (scientifically-tested) advice will radically improve your chances of succeeding. He also helps you persist, and teaches how to restart the habit even if you failed for a little time.

Read it, it’s great.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

This book isn’t a very practical book, contrarily to Changeology, but it introduces the idea of Resistance in a really clear and compelling way. Steven also shows us all of the places Resistance creeps up and makes us fail. After that, he gives a series of tips on how to win against Resistance. It’s a short read, but it’s useful.

Seduction:

Models: Attract Women Through Honesty  by Mark Manson
No More Mr Nice Guy by Robert Glover

The very apt title chosen by Robert Glover describes pretty accurately what the book is about. Have you problems saying no to others? Do you get walked over by others and always let other needs come before yours? Do you feel like others treat you badly or are ungrateful to you, despite everything you do for them?

If you answered yes or want to learn how to affirm yourself and take care of your need, read this book. The information isn’t science-quality, but it has come from the years of therapy given by Robert Glover, so there’s something useful to be taken there.

Sociability:

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
What Every Body is Saying by Joe Navarro [HAVEN’T READ]
How to Make Small Talk by the Art of Manliness [See their books sources]
Quiet by Susan Cain [HAVEN’T READ]

Well Being and Happiness:

A Guide to the Good Life by William Irvine

This book is basically an how-to guide to using Stoicism’s insights, with plenty of reasoning and practical philosophy to support those insights. William explains many of the psychological techniques used by the Stoics, such as Negative Visualization and the Trichotomy of Control.

Get Off Your ‘But’ by Sean Stephenson
10% Happier by Dan Harris

Dan Harris tells here how he started meditating, and all his surprises along the way. Contrarily to some meditation books, it doesn’t feel like it’s written by a mysterious, semi-incomprehensible and enlightened guru. Instead, he explains how he, a normal and everyday human, first learned about meditation and his experiences with it.

In the book, he shares with us his initial doubts, his first meditation experiences and the various problems and questions he had as he became more interested and benefited from his daily meditation sessions.
The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt [HAVEN’T READ]
Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana [HAVEN’T FINISHED]
Stumbling on Happiness by Dan Gilbert [HAVEN’T READ, DEBATABLE, MAKES YOU THINK]

Continue reading “The Life books: the best books to have a great life”

The new contents

Lately, I have decided to start with fewer topics and reduce the scope of my projects. My original topic list was very long, with more than a dozen topics, which is too much.

My goal is to ship fast, so that people can have something useful the soonest possible. My new list is the following:

  • Friendship & Romantic Love
  • Happiness and well-being
  • The Body: Health and Feeling Good
  • Time & Energy

I’m going to cover these topics in that order, because they are the ones that could help me and others the most currently. The topics I have postponed are the following:

  • Family
  • Purpose and fulfillment
  • Work
  • The mind: health, education and the inner landscape
  • Self-improvement
  • Spirituality
  • Fun & Recreation
  • A philosophy of live: how to best live it