Past is gone. Future will never come. Live in the moment or you’ll keep reciting same stories of the past that you lived in first two decades of your life.
Procrastination, overthinking, self-doubt and action paralysis are all very familiar to us that we experience while taking our first step at anything whether we're starting to learn a new musical instrument, planning a new trip, or heck even trying something new in your career which will help you in the long run. They are not the actual problems, instead those are the symptoms of the prison that we lock ourselves into. Well, the good news is you hold the key to that prison.
Have you ever witnessed a baby trying to learn to walk? What is that baby's current goal? It's to walk. And what's the lifetime goal of that baby going to be for that effort? It could be running, dancing, swimming, jujitsu or whatever. But what's the first step that the baby takes to accomplish the current goal? Well, the baby doesn't care about that goal. Baby tries to crawl one day, soon the baby is trying to push the floor with both the arms but failing to lift the body. Then after few days, the baby lifts the arms few inches above the ground and falls again. And you get it. Then one day after so many small but consistent efforts the baby starts to walk.
We, humans, are so good at successfully accomplishing small tasks multiple times that even a new born can successfully do that but as we reach teenage or adulthood we start to treat our lifetime goal as our current goal and our current goal as our first step. Well, you are bound to avoid taking that first step. Procrastination, overthinking, self-doubt and action paralysis are imminent because of that behaviour.
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How to unlock that prison?
Consistency is the key, pun intended. We already know that from our guru, the baby. But how to bring that consistency if I'm unable to take that first step? Make a change in your first step. Make it so easy that you cannot not do it.
Make it so easy that you cannot not do it.
I'm going to use "maybe" a lot in next paragraph. Not that I'm not confident about my method. I'm extremely confident that it'll work for you. It's just that whatever I'm going to suggest is subjective and you're the one who knows the exact answers.
Let me explain. So, you've been wanting to hit the gym at least 4 days a week to loose those extra pounds of fat or gain some of those muscles but you're consistently failing to do that? Why? Maybe you don't have time or it is too tiring or whatever the reasons are. Try making it so easy that you cannot not do it. Maybe not 4 days but 2 days a week or maybe just one day a week? And the workout session doesn't need to be of 45 or 60 mins, maybe just 10-15 mins? Just do the bare minimum you cannot not do. Think about it, when you targeted 4-6 days a week but didn't go to the gym at all, you've done "zero" workout in a year. But even if you do it once a week, then you end up doing workout for 52 days in a year. Almost two months in a year. How crazy is that?
In March, I met a college friend after a long time. Long story short, I asked him to try this and a guy who never in 23 years of his life, ever read a complete book except the textbooks, ended up reading one in just a few weeks. Just make it easy. One page, one paragraph or one sentence. That's it!
You might think going to gym once a week or reading a complete book in few weeks is not enough, right? Well, that's just the bare minimum that we were targeting as our first step and in fact, now the ball has started rolling. After few weeks of consistently completing those small tasks, you'll want to do more. Start pushing yourself. Start increasing the length of the gym session or the frequency. Start reading a whole page of the book or maybe a few. And enjoy that process. Treat your goals as the compass instead of thinking of them as something which will make you happy once achieved. It might give you a short term dopamine hit and in some cases not even that.
Want to journal everyday? Start writing one line everyday. Want to learn guitar? Start strumming one bar everyday. But why do we call such over-ambitious milestones as our first step which makes us fail over and over again? Short answer is comparison. Well, stay tuned as I'll be explaining that soon.
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That's it for this blog post and if you feel that you've something to add to this or you have a different perspective then share it and discuss it on r/StoicHuman or go to the Reddit discussion post for this blog post linked down below.
Stay healthy, Stay safe!
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