When the World Falls Apart

 

When things aren’t going your way, it’s not pleasant. You start to feel weak. You start to feel ineffective. You start to feel powerless to change anything in your life.

 

So what happens? You get angry. You get bitter. You get resentful. You get to the point where any little thing could set you off. Sometimes it gets so bad that spilling a cup of coffee in the morning can ruin your entire day. Spill your coffee on the kitchen table in the morning and you can end up grinding your teeth all day long.

 

Well, why is that? I think it’s because spilling the coffee feels like adding insult to injury. Here you are, pushing yourself so hard but still feeling like you have no control over your life, and what happens? You can’t even hold a lousy cup of coffee right!

 

No wonder you get angry. Your whole world is falling apart around you, and now that stream of black liquid dripping slowly onto the floor proves that even your own hand won’t obey your will.

 

So that’s when you start feeling about a million different emotions all at once. You feel annoyed that the coffee spilled.  But beyond that you feel humiliated because apparently now you’re the type of person who can’t even hold a cup of coffee right. But beyond that you feel resentful because on top of everything else in your life, you now have to worry about cleaning up that stupid little cup of coffee. But beyond that you feel absolutely terrified because there’s a part of you that thinks, “I’m getting worse and worse. If I can’t even control this, there’s no way I’ll ever get the rest of my life together.”

 

There you are by the table, with annoyance, embarrassment, resentment, and black terror cycling through your mind—which is probably what we mean by anxiety.

 

It’s a hopeless feeling. At the bottom of it all there’s the feeling that things are going to get worse. And not only that: it’s a feeling that things are only going to get worse for the rest of your life, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

 

This is where things get dangerous. Because when you’re wrapped up in a feeling of utter hopelessness, and powerlessness, you’ll do anything to alleviate that feeling. There are a few things you can try, and it’s worth taking some time to talk about them.

 

You can take that feeling and turn it into anger. You can decide, “No, I’m not powerless, because I can lash out in anger against people who have nothing to do with my real problems.” Hurt people. Be cruel to animals. Treat everybody who cares about you so badly they stop caring, and do your best to alienate everybody you meet.

 

Go ahead and try that, if you want. See how well it works.

 

On the other hand, you could take that feeling and try to find immediate relief from it. You could go get so drunk you forget how bad you feel when you’re sober. You could go gamble away all your money on the hope that you’ll find a sudden windfall. You could go spend more money than you can afford buying things you don’t need and don’t really want.

 

You could try that too, if you like. See how well that works.

 

Another thing you could try: decide everyone’s out to get you. Decide the world doesn’t like you, doesn’t want you, and is for some perverse reason actively opposed to your happiness. Make up your mind to be a passive victim, and do your best to stop caring.

 

That’s another thing you could try. (Just as a side note: taken on its own terms, this one works extremely well. If you decide to live like a victim, the world is only too happy to play along.)

 

If you’re looking for an immediate solution, those three are just about the only options you’ve got. You can get angry, you can get intoxicated, or you can get depressed.

 

(You can also try suicide, but it’s not recommended.)

 

So you spilled your coffee. You’re feeling hopeless. You’re feeling like you’ll never get your life in order. You’re feeling desperate, and you’re getting close to the point where you’re willing to do anything to put a stop to the pain you’re feeling. What should you do to escape this pain?

 

My advice: don’t try to escape. Not immediately, at least. The short-sighted hope to escape the pain instantly can lead you to make rash decisions that lead you right back to where you started. Like the way they say drinking alcohol is “borrowing happiness from tomorrow.” Sure, for a couple hours all your problems go away. But tomorrow morning they’re all still there, and you’ve got a wicked hangover too.

 

You have to be able to put up with the pain. You’re not getting away from it immediately. Accept that. Don’t resign yourself to it—that’s being a victim—but accept that you’re going to be in pain for a while.

 

Now, look rationally into what’s causing your distress. Ask yourself, “Am I angry because I spilled my coffee, or am I angry because I’ve been hunting for work for months without making any progress?”

 

Keep digging into those causes until you can’t dig any deeper. This can be a painful process. It’s not easy to look at yourself and your problems objectively. Usually you end up finding out that most of your problems are your own doing, and that you’re going to have to make some major changes in order to fix it.

 

If you’re anything like me, hearing the word “change” is enough to get your hackles up. We like to keep our actions stable and constant. Our habits are the way we know ourselves.

 

But here’s the truth: no matter what’s bothering you, there is a solution. And no matter what the solution, it’s going to take some change on your part. It’s going to be unpleasant, it’s going to be painful, and you’re going to hate every minute of it. But it’s going to be worth it.

 

It’s worth it to get to that day when you can spill your cup of coffee and shrug it off. You’ll have control of the parts of your life that matter most, so you’ll be secure enough that spilling a cup of coffee won’t threaten you. You won’t have to be so sensitive to every little slight that the world feels like it’s out to get you.

 

That can happen. That will happen. But only if you make it happen.

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Why Do You Keep Losing?

 

Monday sets the tone for the rest of the week. A good Monday gets your week off to a great start, and a lousy Monday can set you up for a week-long game of catch-up. So the problem is: how to make sure you have a great Monday?

 

The answer is so simple you’ll probably want to slap me: the way to make sure you have a great Monday is to want to have a great Monday.

 

“Well, obviously,” you say. “What, do you think I want to have a lousy Monday?”

 

No, I don’t think you want to have a lousy Monday. But the really important thing is that you need to allow yourself to have a great Monday. And that’s where the whole thing gets hard.

 

Because you’ve already decided that what you’ve got to get done this Monday is not what you’d like to get done this Monday. You’d like to spend this Monday morning lying on a beach, sipping your favorite cocktail, and listening to the rolling surf. But instead you’ve got sales to make, accounts to file, meetings to attend, and decisions to make.

 

No wonder there’s a part of you that resists it.

 

So when I say that you need to choose to have a great Monday, it takes some doing. It means you’ve got to say to yourself, “No, I don’t want to be out enjoying myself. I want to be here, now, working on the things that will make a better future.”

 

It’s hard to do that. It’s hard to do that because there’s a part of your mind that hates anything to do with long-term planning or discipline. It’s that part of you that craves instant gratification and wants to see the world burn. It’s the part of you that wants to sleep, eat, mate, and cause chaos.

 

You know how it is, when you wake up on Monday morning and your first thought is something like, “Gee, I wonder if civilization has finally crumbled so now I can do all the things I wanted to do but couldn’t do because they were illegal.”

 

Then you turn on the TV and there’s the weatherman going on about a warm front and the morning commute, and you think, “Not today, then. I must be civilized today.”

 

So no wonder it’s a little tough to motivate yourself on a Monday morning. But you figure it out by the time you start sipping that first cup of coffee. You remember, “Oh right… the whole point of this career is so I can turn my antisocial urges into planning and productivity. And the whole point of planning and productivity is so I can do better than everybody else around me. Sure, it might be illegal to destroy my enemies and drink their blood out of their skulls, but the free market economy allows me to outcompete them and thus symbolically kill them in an entirely legal way.”

 

Because that’s the real wonder of civilization. It manages to turn the drive to chaos and destruction into a force for creation and order. The fact that you want nothing more than to take most of the people you meet and squish them into jelly is turned (by the logic of the market) into a beneficial force for the community.

 

So if you’re feeling unmotivated on a Monday morning, you just need to hone your killing instinct. I want you to think of everybody you’ve known who ever made you feel small, or weak, or helpless. I want you to feel as angry as possible at that person. I want you to imagine taking a club and using it to beat their face in while they scream and they scream, “Oh, for the love of God, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean it, I swear I didn’t mean—”

 

But you’re not listening because the blood lust has taken hold by now, and anyways you really disliked them to begin with.

 

Imagine all the people who have ever hurt you. Everyone who ever insulted you. Everyone who ever made you feel insignificant. You want motivation? Just imagine how tiny and insignificant they’ll feel after they see how massively successful you’ve become.

 

Granted, if you’re one of those people who generally likes the human race and doesn’t have any problem with other people, this isn’t going to be the best method for you. You can go imagine gumdrops and teddy bears and making the world a better place, if that’s what floats your boat.

 

Otherwise, you just need to cultivate as much negative emotion as possible. People always talk bad about negative emotion, but here’s the thing: you don’t accomplish great things because you have great intentions. You accomplish great things because you have cruel, subterranean, and generally antisocial intentions.

 

You just need to think of all the people you’re going to beat and how devastated they’re going to feel when they lose. If you motivate yourself with the need to beat others, you may never be happy, but you’ll have a ton of energy and you’ll be able to keep going till you die of your heart attack at fifty.

 

So maybe you can’t go to the beach today. But you can get a heck of a lot of stuff done, and that will set you up for a great day tomorrow. And if you can have a great day tomorrow, you’re on track to have an amazingly productive week. Have enough amazingly productive weeks, and eventually you’ll be able to conquer the known universe and have all the human worms in the universe bow down before your awesome power.

 

Because that’s what life is all about, right? It’s all about making sure everybody knows that if they step as much as a single toe out of line you’ve got the legal and moral right to have them vaporized. Everything else is a bunch of sentimental hogwash that has nothing to do with how you can keep yourself motivated on a Monday morning.

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Procrastination: Turn Around and Face It

 

Procrastination. If there’s one problem in the world that’s harder to get rid of, I don’t know what it is. There’s nothing worse than the feeling of having some huge task hanging over your head, is there? But what do we do?

 

We let ourselves get distracted. We work on something easier, “because it’s really just as important.” We end up reorganizing our desks for the third time this week.

 

Now, I don’t want to make you feel bad here. Everybody procrastinates sometimes. It’s a pretty common failing. But the thing about procrastination is that it sneaks up on you.

 

What do I mean by that? I just mean that you never deliberately set out to procrastinate. It’s always that something distracts you. Maybe it’s a YouTube video that’s just too good to pass up, or maybe it’s that you need to check and see if any of your friends have posted anything life-changing on Facebook in the last five minutes.

 

That’s the real problem with procrastination: it happens when we allow things in the world around us to distract us from what we know we should really be doing. When we procrastinate, there’s always a little piece of us that’s okay with that. Sure, maybe avoiding work right now might come back and bite you in the future, but hey, that’s the future, right? So we smooth it away and allow ourselves to take it easy, “just this once.”

 

Somebody once described drinking alcohol as “borrowing happiness from tomorrow.” That’s pretty much what we’re doing when we procrastinate. In the moment, it’s great. You get to look at cat pictures and sharpen all your pencils so they’re exactly the same length (which is just so satisfying, isn’t it?).

 

But after you’ve wasted an hour, or two hours, or a whole week procrastinating, it’s as if all the unpleasantness you’ve been avoiding suddenly falls on your head. You realize it’s noon and you haven’t even started on everything you were supposed to do today. You realize it’s the last week of the month and you’re not even halfway done with your goals for the month. In short, you’ve procrastinated to the point that you’ve created a crisis for yourself, and you don’t know how to get through it.

 

Of course, now is the time that you might be saying, “Well, I do my best work under pressure, so it’s not really procrastinating. It’s just the way I get my best results.”

 

And maybe you’re right about that. But I think most of us get our best results and feel our best when we take care of what we need to take care of now and enjoy ourselves later.

 

When we procrastinate, we form the habit of avoiding anything painful or unpleasant. That’s understandable, isn’t it? Painful things are painful and unpleasant things are unpleasant. In a perfect world, neither one of them would exist. But this isn’t a perfect world. In fact, it’s a world where painful and unpleasant things generally get worse the longer we leave them to fester.

 

So the cure for procrastination is to break the habit of hiding unpleasant things from ourselves. I know it’s no fun to hear it, but that’s what procrastination really is: it’s a habit of turning away from anything painful and unpleasant.

 

If you’re going to break the procrastination habit, you’ve got to build up your ability to tolerate discomfort and unpleasantness. At the heart of the procrastination habit there lies this senseless demand that the universe should be absolutely good, absolutely fair, and absolutely free of pain. In procrastination, there’s an unspoken demand that living in the world really ought to be constant absolute enjoyment all the time. It’s utopian at its core.

 

But—as you’ve probably noticed if you’ve got a pair of eyes and a working central nervous system—this world is very far from perfect. If our society had the good of its children at heart, it would teach them from day one that life is suffering.

 

Go at life with the attitude that it’s fundamentally suffering and something paradoxical happens: you don’t suffer as much. And I’m not talking in the trivial sense of the old joke that says you should be a pessimist because you won’t be disappointed that way.

 

I’m saying that if you train yourself to believe that life is fundamentally suffering, you won’t be surprised by suffering. You’ll expect it, and you’ll be ready and willing to face it when it comes. But more importantly, you’ll be able to willingly put yourself through unpleasant situations.

 

Procrastination is based on a fundamentally wrong premise: it assumes that suffering is bad and ought to be avoided at all costs. The fact is, suffering is an unfortunate necessity. In the end, it’s a choice between willingly taking your medicine and having it shoved down your throat. The basic truth remains: you’re going to swallow the bitter pill. Remember: the suffering you undergo willingly is always less than the suffering that’s imposed on you.

 

Choose it.

 

I hope this shows you how much is at stake when you choose to procrastinate. The only thing that can end procrastination is the conscious awareness of what’s at stake. It takes constant vigilance and constant effort to overcome procrastination, but it’s worth it in the end.

 

It’s worth it because you grow stronger day by day. It’s worth it because you learn to see yourself and the world around you with more freedom and honesty. It’s worth it because when you take care of your business, you can live with the clear conscience that comes from not having a ton of tasks hanging over you.

 

Breaking the procrastination habit isn’t something that happens all at once, and it isn’t something you’re ever entirely finished with. You always have to watch out for potential sources of slovenliness and procrastination. The unpleasant things you force yourself to face are never going to become pleasant. But with effort and discipline, you’ll be able to face them day by day.

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How to Motivate Yourself When Existence is Pain

 

Let me put this as delicately as I can: if you’re trying to motivate yourself, you’re working on the wrong problem!

 

Now why do I say that?

 

Put it this way: if you’re worrying about how to motivate yourself, you’ve already admitted you’re unmotivated. And what do you do when you’re unmotivated? You waffle around and find distractions that keep you from working on the real problem.

 

That’s all this motivation talk boils down to: it’s another distraction.

 

Am I saying it’s a waste of time to write down your goals? No, of course not.

 

Am I saying you shouldn’t envision what it’s going to be like once you’ve reached your goals? Not at all.

 

Am I saying you should just give up when you hit those moments where you just want to drop to the ground and groan, “It’s too much, I’ll never make it!”? Nope.

 

I’m saying that if you get into the habit of looking for motivation, you’re using your motivational material in an unmotivating way. This happens all the time. We’re human beings, right? We form habits.

 

But if you make a habit out of hunting for motivation, you’re using it in the wrong way. You’re using the motivational information as a crutch when you should really be internalizing the advice you’re receiving.

 

If that sounds like you, you might have a real problem on your hands.

 

So what do you do to get over the hump?

 

First off, you’ve got to look into why you’re feeling so unmotivated in the first place. Are you bored? Do you have doubts that you can reach your goal? Are there some serious problems you’re trying to avoid?

 

Now, a lot of people won’t want to dig into these questions because they’ve got a feeling that if they think too deeply about them they’ll have to make a change. If you’re like me, you hate change more than anything else in the world and you seriously wish things would just stop happening.

 

Everything. Absolutely everything. Everything should stop happening.

 

But until the world ends we’re unfortunately going to have to deal with the fact that things change. That means learning to fit into the universe and change with the change that’s already going on.

 

If that sounds at all woo-woo or vague, I promise it’s not. No matter how woo-woo it sounds, when you cash those words out into actual everyday practice you’re not talking about anything exotic. Because mostly it means turning away from the motivation problem and applying all that energy to solving the problem you’re facing.

 

Because at bottom, all this “motivation” stuff is just another way for you to act like you’re making meaningful progress on a real problem, when what you’re really doing is distracting yourself.

 

I’m going to say something now. It’s something you’re probably not going to like hearing, but if you’re here you probably need to hear it: motivation is almost never the problem.

 

The problem is that you’ve got a real problem you’re trying to avoid. You’ve got a real problem festering somewhere in the back of your mind, and there’s something about it you’re trying to avoid. There’s some aspect of this problem that you’ve built up in your mind to the point where it feels like the SUPREME AND ULTIMATE EVIL OF THE UNIVERSE.

 

You don’t have a motivation problem. You’ve got an avoidance problem.

 

And guess what? I don’t blame you.

 

Maybe you’re afraid you’ll seem pushy and obnoxious. Maybe you’re afraid the whole world will discover what a horrible faker you are. Maybe you’re afraid some minor weakness in your character will suddenly grow into a black hole that will suck you in and rip your bones apart while everyone you’ve ever known laughs at you, loudly and clearly.

 

Whatever it is, you’ve got a real fear. And even though that fear is different for each and every one of us, we’d all rather peel our own skin off with a rusty saw than face that awful, awful fear.

 

So I want you to take a pen and paper, and I want you to write that fear down. What’s the thing that absolutely terrifies you?

 

Seriously, I want you to write it down. Write it down like “I am afraid of ____,” or “I am afraid that ____.”

 

If it makes you feel any better, here’s my fear: I’m am absolutely terrified every time I reach out to contact potential prospects, because I’m afraid they’ll say no, and if they say no that means I’m a failure and I’ll always be a failure and that means I’m a waste of time and energy that’s only polluting the gene pool.

 

It’s an irrational fear, and it’s an excessive fear. But just try telling me that when I go to talk to prospects! We’re talking sweating buckets and thoughts of jumping in front of the next bus. It’s an irrational fear, but it’s real!

 

But here’s the thing: identifying the fear is the first step toward overcoming it. So that’s why I say you need to get out a pen and paper and write the thing down. (Come on, I told you mine. That means you have to tell me yours!)

 

When you write down that fear, you externalize it. You make it something other than yourself. Because as long as you leave the fear vague and sort of amorphous, you can’t look at it. Once you write it down, you’ve pinned it down and you can come up with strategies for getting through the fear.

 

Because that’s what kills you with the fear: not facing it. Facing your fear means identifying it and finding ways to overcome it.

 

There’s nothing shameful about being afraid. The shameful thing is when you hide your fear away so you don’t have to face it and overcome it. I know it’s an old cliché, but it’s true: being brave doesn’t mean never feeling afraid. It means refusing to allow your fear to stop you.

 

So: what are you afraid of? Write it down, and let me know what it is if you want!

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Why You Shouldn’t Blow Your Brains Out

 

Motivation is a problem for all of us.

 

Now, I’m not saying you’re one of those who wakes up every morning with a groan and a crushing feeling of disappointment that you didn’t die in your sleep. I’m not even saying I’m one of those people.

 

You may not force yourself through a set of physical exercises that really feel like a perverse kind of self-torture. Heck, maybe you don’t even get so angry when you’re exercising that you’d like to get your hands on the person nearest you, rip their head off, and spit down their neck.

 

It’s very possible you work a job that doesn’t make you want to stick a fork in the electrical outlet.

 

So if you happen to be one of those intolerable “well-adjusted human beings,” kindly do us all a favor and swallow a revolver.

 

For the rest of us, I’m going to try to dig through a few reasons why you might want to consider going on living. Now trust me, I’m not going to say life’s all sunshine and rainbows. I’m not even going to try to convince you that life’s not a nightmare. All I’m saying is that you should see your particular nightmare through to the end.

 

So here you go: four good reasons to go on living.

 

  1. Climate Change is Probably Real

Now, I know what you’re thinking: if climate change is real, doesn’t that mean you might as well hook your water hose up to your tailpipe and start gulping down the carbon monoxide?

 

Heck no. We live in the very best time to be alive: the last time to be alive. If you’re young and relatively healthy, you’ve got good odds of being alive for the end of the world.

 

Think about that, why don’t you? You’ve got a decent chance of seeing the whole world go to waste. You might even witness the greatest mass extinction in the history of the earth!

 

Now believe me, believe me, I see the downside here: living till the end of the world means taking care of yourself and keeping good enough relations with the neighbors that they don’t decide to murder you between now and then. It’s a tall order, I know.

 

But think about it: isn’t it worth it to see the last days of the human race? Isn’t it worth it to see everyone you’ve ever known and loved perish miserably? Isn’t it worth it to see everything you’ve worked and toiled a lifetime for fade into nothingness, as if it had never existed?

 

Now, just hold that thought close to your heart and it should keep your spirits up.

 

  1. If You’re Dead, You Can’t Make Life Unpleasant for Others

“Good and well for all those youngsters who might live that long,” you think, “but what about old farts like me?”

 

Well, here’s what I’ve noticed about life: the greatest joy in life is the joy of being able to make things unpleasant for others. Raise their taxes. Make them fill out complicated forms. Tell them they have to work late—because if they don’t do it they’ll lose their home and their families will starve!

 

Now, I don’t want to prejudge anything here, but if you’re an old fart who’s about to kick the bucket, odds are you’ve got the power to make things really awful for at least a few people out there.

 

There’s no joy in life to compare with the joy of plotting revenge against people who have wronged you. But if you can’t get revenge on them, there’s always the (slightly lesser) joy of plotting revenge against people who have never bothered you in the slightest.

 

Cut somebody off in traffic. Make your waitress work really hard for that 50 cent tip you’re going to leave her. Become a magazine editor.

 

So as you’re sobbing to yourself at night and wondering why nobody loves you, remember there’s no need to buy a packet of rat poison to put in your milkshake. You can just outsource the pain of your existence onto people weak enough to let you do it.

 

And that’s what makes it all worthwhile.

 

  1. Physical Pleasure is Pretty Nice

Now, this is a complicated one. Pleasure is nice. Pleasure is really nice.

 

But—and this is probably the single most infuriating thing in the whole mess we call human life—pleasure has this nasty habit of being addictive.

 

It’s not enough to eat one lollipop. You have to have two.

 

It’s not enough to get pleasantly buzzed every once in a while. You’ve got to go on a raving bender for a month every time you so much as think about alcohol.

 

It’s not enough to murder one prostitute in a back-alley and turn her into whoreburgers. You’ve got to go whole hog Jack the Ripper and start experimenting till you get your recipe just right.

 

You know how it is. You start enjoying something, and pretty soon it gets to the point where you have to enjoy it all the time. It starts to get physically painful not to have it. But if you can live responsibly and enjoy your pleasures moderately, you can have a pretty good life.

 

Of course the downside of that is that you have to exercise responsibility and moderation. So it’s not all roses. But if you can manage that, you can have a pretty good, fulfilling life where you have to exercise self-restraint and experience stress all the time.

 

And that’s the best you can hope for in this life. So it’s well worth living!

 

  1. Let’s Be Honest: You’re too Scared to do Yourself In

This is the clincher. I mean, if I haven’t sold you on the whole “Let’s not take a Solo cup full of sleeping pills” idea by now… well, this should pretty well win you over.

 

Let’s be honest: life is pretty rough. You have to wake up early, you have to put up with stuff you don’t like, and you have to die.

 

No matter what else you can say, you’ve got to agree: you made a mistake when you went and got yourself born. But you’re in for the duration now, and you might as well make the best of it.

 

That’s not the real reason, though. The real reason is that everybody wants to be dead, but nobody wants to die.

 

Being dead—God, that must be wonderful. Talk about stress-free! You don’t have to worry about anything when you’re dead. You don’t even have to pay taxes anymore. It’s like going to sleep with an alarm clock that never goes off.

 

But dying. Dying!?! That sounds like pretty rough stuff, hombre. What if it hurts? What if it takes a long time? What if it turns out there really is a God and you end up burning for all eternity?

 

Yikes. Maybe it’s not so bad to stick around and put up with what’s going on here…

 

It’s creepy stuff, this whole “dying” thing. So best you avoid it. Best you and me both avoid it!

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Friday Musings: When Life Gets You Down

Life’s rough sometimes.

 

Sometimes there’s a good reason for it. There’s a death in the family. There’s a sudden emergency. Whatever the reason, something massive changes in your life and you end up having to deal with chaos for a while.

 

Sometimes there’s no good reason. You wake up in the morning with an empty feeling in your gut that you can’t get rid of. All the stories you told yourself yesterday don’t make sense anymore. If your life used to be a matter of pushing a rock up a hill, things are different now. Now it’s like the rock is on top of you, crushing out your last gasp of air.

 

I think that’s a feeling we all feel pretty often, and most of the time we’re pretty good at shaking it off. We just tell ourselves “Get up and get moving,” and pretty soon we’re off and running.

 

But sometimes it’s not so easy. Sometimes that gray mood hangs around for days, or weeks, or months. I guess if it sticks around long enough that’s probably what they call “depression.”

 

So, bearing in mind that I’m not a psychologist and you shouldn’t take this as professional advice, here are a few ways I’ve found of getting rid of that nagging helpless feeling before it gets too severe.

 

  1. Action Kills Anxiety: Get up and Do Something!

The awful thing about slipping into these ruts is that if you’re in one long enough, it starts to feel like you’ll never get out.

 

Does that make sense? Maybe it would be better if I put it this way: say you have one day when you’re off your game. No big deal, you think. Just put in some extra effort tomorrow and you’ll make up the difference in no time.

 

But when tomorrow comes, you do even worse. Now you’re almost two full days behind.

 

If you’re anything like me, it’s around this point that you’re starting to get into the danger zone. This voice shows up in the back of your head, and it tells you something like, “See? You’re slipping, at that means you’re going to keep slipping. And that means life is pointless, and nothing you do matters, and you’re probably going to be dead this time next week anyways. So give up now.”

 

Crazy as that voice is, it gets easier and easier to believe, the longer you go without taking action. Waiting till you feel like getting started is a surefire way to make sure you never get started.

 

When you’re down in the dumps, it’s always going to feel like the wrong time to take action. Which is exactly why you need to get back on top of things and take action now!

 

  1. Learn From Your Failures

Just like when a slip in your performance leads to a drop in your productivity, trying and trying without success is bound to make you doubt you can reach your goals.

 

Nobody likes to fail. There’s nothing more disheartening than working on a project for weeks or months without making a dent in your long-term goals.

 

But the sad fact of the matter is that if you’re going to get anything great done in your life, you’re going to have to fail a lot. Failure isn’t the problem. It’s your attitude that’s the problem.

 

How’s that old saying go? “The master has failed more times than the beginner has ever tried.”

 

That’s a good saying. I like that saying. I like that saying because it tells you to quit whining and try it again.

 

So you failed. Welcome to the club. What have you learned from your failure? What are you going to do next time, to make sure you don’t fail in the same way? How will you improve?

 

There’s no time to worry about failure. Failure isn’t remarkable. Taking that failure and learning how to succeed, though… that’s remarkable!

 

  1. Take Time to Feel Grateful

Just in case you think I’m being too harsh—be sure to take time to feel grateful. No matter who you are, you’ve got a lot to feel grateful for.

 

I think the quickest path to happiness is to be grateful for what you’ve got. And I know sometimes that’s not easy. I know I’m usually caught up in thinking about wanting something I don’t have, so I miss the fact that I’ve been given so much.

 

But if you can take a little time out of your day to practice gratitude, you can change that. You don’t have to spend a lot of time. I mean, if you can spare a couple of minutes for a set of sit ups you can spare a couple of minutes to feel grateful, can’t you?

 

Think of it as exercise, and commit to it as a daily practice. Take time to feel grateful for anything and everything. Be grateful for the air you breathe. Be grateful for the sunshine. Be grateful for your partner, or your family, or the good luck to be single!

 

It can feel like a game sometimes, thinking of things to feel grateful for. But if you stick with it, you’ll find you’ve got more to be grateful for than you ever thought you could.

 

  1. Remember You Can Make it if You’re True to Your Goal

When life gets tough, it’s tempting to give in to the part of yourself that wants to sit around watching MASH reruns and eating Froot Loops straight out of the box. But for the sake of your self-respect you need to get up and take action.

 

When in doubt, remember your goal. I know it’s hard to believe in your goal when you halfway want to give up, but it’s times like these that you need to remember your goal more than ever.

 

When you’re running, you’re going to wipe out every once in a while. When you’re trying to accomplish something, you’re going to slip sometimes. But you don’t finish the race by lying there and waiting till you feel ready to start moving again.

 

You finish the race by getting right back up and moving.

 

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Monday Motivation: Do You Want it Enough?

 

It’s Monday. What’s that mean?

 

It means a new week’s starting, and it’s time for you to get up and conquer the world. This is your week. This is your time to hit it out of the park.

 

It’s Monday morning. That means you need to be thinking about everything you’re going to get done this week. If you don’t already have a list of weekly goals, you’d better get one. You’ll need it.

 

Don’t think about what you did over the weekend. Don’t think about what you’ve got planned for this coming weekend. Don’t listen to anybody complaining about Mondays.

 

Sure, we all feel it. Nobody loves Mondays. But it’s your job to get yourself over that hump. You need to clean out all that reluctance. It’s infectious.

 

I’m serious: negativity is infectious. You’ve got to protect yourself from it.

 

There’s a saying that racecar drivers have: look at the road, not at the wall. It means you should focus on where you want to be and what you want to do. Because guess what? If you look at the wall too long, you hit the wall.

 

So you’d better focus on the road.

 

That’s why I’m not going to talk anymore about negativity. Avoiding negativity is a great thing to do—but when you talk about avoiding negativity, it sounds awfully negative.

 

Because the words we use make a big difference. Most of the challenges we face in life take place in our own heads.

 

Sure, we all face challenges in our everyday lives. But the real challenge is to keep our minds ready to go. It’s bringing ourselves up to our peak mental state.

 

Now, I know that sounds like a lot of weird woo-woo talk, but these things are real.

 

Seriously. Think about it: where do you run into your biggest problems? Is it in getting things to work, or is it in keeping yourself working productively?

 

Motivation is a real problem. I’d go as far as to say that motivation is the problem.

 

Because if you don’t have motivation, you’ll give up eventually. Will power can only take you so far. I don’t care what your goal is or what you’re going after: without proper motivation, you’re going to hit a wall.

 

And when you hit that wall you might not even realize it. You could give up without quite realizing it. What’s that look like?

 

It looks like giving yourself a ton of busy work so you never get around to the major tasks that would help you reach your goal. It looks like wasting time on social media instead of making progress. It looks like focusing on made-up problems instead of clearly identifying the ones that block your progress.

 

So one of the major tasks you’ve got to set yourself is to make sure you’ve got the motivation to keep you going. That means keeping that desire alive.

 

Put it this way: do you think anybody in this world ever achieved anything great without really wanting it? Do you think Thomas Edison tried a thousand different lightbulb designs before he got one to work because he thought, “Meh. Maybe I’ll get one to work eventually.”

 

There’s no way he thought that. Sure, he might have felt discouraged from time to time. I mean, who wouldn’t?

 

But he kept on going. He kept trying, he kept refining his approach, and he kept testing to find out what worked.

 

Why did he do that? Because he was motivated. Because he knew he would find the way to get it done.

 

Thomas Edison was a man on a mission, and he wasn’t about to fail. Every failure in his path was just another step to his ultimate success. He knew he was going to make it, and he knew he wanted it enough to see it through.

 

That’s how you keep motivated: you have to build up a sense of inner certainty that you want to reach your goal and you can reach your goal. Because if you decide you’ll either reach your goal or die trying, you’ll make it.

 

You’ve got to care enough to see it through. That means you can’t wait around in the back of your mind, waffling over whether or not it will work. You have to do it, test it, and be ready to try the whole thing again tomorrow.

 

Because here’s the thing: when you’re old and wrinkled, it won’t matter if you failed a thousand times along the way. The only thing you’ll remember is the moment you finally built the lightbulb that worked.

 

Motivation isn’t a matter of crossing your fingers and hoping for the best. It’s a matter of wanting to reach your goal so badly you’ll be willing to take risks and try things you’d never have tried if you were going to play it safe.

 

Answer me this: do you want to live an extraordinary life?

 

Now answer me again—do you want to live an extraordinary life?

 

Say it to yourself. Feel the words in your mouth.

 

Go ahead and say “I want to live an extraordinary life.” Say it out loud. I dare you to say it loud enough that the people near you start giving you funny looks!

 

People think of motivation as something behind them, like it’s a motor driving them forward.

 

That’s not the best way to think of it. The best way to think about it is that motivation is like a magnet that pulls you forward. But if you’re going to make that work, you’ve got to desire to reach your goal enough to feel it pulling you forward.

 

That takes action. Desire is a product of action.

 

What do I mean by that? Simple. Which tastes better: the glass of water you pull out of the fridge, or the bottle of water you open after you’ve hiked ten miles?

 

We value what we’ve worked to achieve. And what I’m saying is that you can train yourself to want things enough to work for them. How?

 

I’ll tell you tomorrow.

 

As always, thanks for reading and best of luck to you and your endeavors. Feel free to get in touch if you’ve got any questions. You can reach me in my comment section, or if you like you can email me at geofreycrow@crowcopywriting.com.

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3 Tricks to Kick-start Your Motivation

 

That’s right, it’s Monday. I’ll say a little about motivation in just a minute, but first off I want to tell you what happened to me this morning.

 

I’m a runner. Maybe I’m not the best runner, and maybe I’m not the most dedicated runner, but I’ll run six mornings a week for about eight months out of the year.

 

(So I take the winters off. Is that so bad? It’s freezing out there!)

 

Anyways, it’s been getting warmer lately, so this morning I planned on getting up bright and early and going for my first run of the year.

 

But guess what? Up I get this morning, and I find out it’s raining. Great big globs of rain, too. So, given the rain, I took a rain check. The first run of the year has officially been postponed until tomorrow.

 

I always feel slightly guilty about skipping my morning run when it rains. (Heck, I also feel slightly guilty about not running in the winter.)

 

Part of me thinks I should power through the rain, and the wet, and the cold. What’s a little rain? It’s more efficient, after all. I mean, doesn’t running in the rain save you the trouble of showering afterwards?

 

So that’s how my morning has been. And now I’m here to talk about motivation.

 

Here’s the thing: it’s easy to talk about motivation. It’s easy to talk too much about motivation. Now, what do I mean by that?

 

I mean it’s easy to talk about motivation and spend so much time trying to keep yourself motivated that you end up not getting anything done. There’s a real law of diminishing returns when it comes to motivation, is what I’m saying here.

 

So I’m going to give you three concrete ideas on how to keep yourself motivated even when it gets tough, and we can get to work that way. Sounds good? Let’s go.

 

  1. Keep Your Goals in Front of You

It can be hard to keep the big picture in mind. Especially on a Monday morning. That’s why it pays to keep the thing you’re striving for clearly in mind.

 

Write it down and tape it to the wall in front of you. Put it in that place your eyes always drift when you find yourself starting to feel unmotivated.

 

Because here’s the thing: when you’re unmotivated, sometimes the best solution is simply to notice that you’re getting unmotivated and distracted. I know that sounds weird, so let me explain.

 

You know how it’ll happen sometimes that you’ll start getting distracted in the middle of something, and before you know it you’ve been scrolling down Facebook for ten minutes? Why does that happen?

 

It happens because you didn’t notice it happening. Part of your brain just drifts off on autopilot, and you’ve shared a dozen cat pictures before you notice yourself making the change.

 

Remember: your mind isn’t just the part of you that you call “I.” It’s also the part of you that wants to eat everything it sees, sleep with all the attractive people in the universe, and settle in for a long nap when it’s not busy experiencing pleasure.

 

You may be an adult, but there’s still a two-year-old at work in all of us.

 

So “you” need to put up precautions, otherwise “you” will drift off while “you” aren’t paying attention. Surround yourself with words and pictures that remind you of your goals. That way, when you drift off you’ll look at them.

 

And when you look at them, you’ll notice yourself getting distracted.

 

And noticing is half the battle.

 

  1. Reward Yourself When You Accomplish a Goal

It doesn’t have to be a big goal. In fact, it works best if you celebrate the small victories.

 

Get up in the morning? That’s a win!

 

Make it to the office without dying? Chalk one up in the “W” column!

 

Finish your morning run? Celebrate with a nice, steaming cup of coffee.

 

The point is this: if you learn to associate doing good with feeling good, you’ll find it easier to be motivated to do good. That’s operant conditioning at its finest.

 

Because here’s the thing: if you’re going to make yourself into a motivated, work-producing machine, you have to think of yourself as a well-intentioned, semi-civilized idiot. Your heart’s in the right place, but without a guiding hand you’ll start picking your nose and trying to eat your laptop.

 

The idiot part of your brain can’t see any clear connection between working hard and having a good future. It thinks something like this:

 

Work=hard.

 

Hard=bad.

 

Therefore, work=bad.

 

And by its own lights, the idiot part of your brain has a fair point, doesn’t it? Work’s not the easiest thing in the world, and you have to do a lot of it before it pays off in a big way.

 

But if you consistently reward yourself for a job well done, you can get the idiot part of your brain thinking straight. Just remember to lead it with patience and understanding, and it will figure out what’s good for it.

 

  1. Feeling Unmotivated? Break the Job Into Smaller Parts

All this being said, there are going to be times when you’ll feel a resistance pushing back against you when you try to get something done.

 

No matter how well you train yourself, you’re going to feel unmotivated sometimes. But here’s the thing: over time, you’ll learn what that self-resistance means.

 

More often than not, it means you’re feeling overwhelmed. You’ve given yourself a task that’s too big to do right now.

 

How do you deal with this? Simple. Analyze it into its component parts. Divide the problem into steps. Take those steps and make them happen, one by one.

 

Put it this way: imagine you’re faced with a block of marble and somebody tells you to carve it into Michelangelo’s David. What are you going to do?

 

Now, I’m no expert on the sculpting process, so this is just my speculation. But I’d imagine you’d start out by drawing a few designs of what the end product is meant to look like. You’d cover it from several angles.

 

Then you’d take the block and remove large chunks of it. And as the process goes on, you’d take off smaller and smaller pieces. Soon you’ll be chipping away little shards to make the hair. And soon you’ll be polishing away any imperfections in the skin.

 

The point is: you start out with a plain block, but by dividing it into steps you can make it into something beautiful.

 

Every task is like that. If it’s overwhelming, it’s just because you’re trying to do too much all at once.

 

So if you want one final motivational tip, here you go: don’t rush.

 

How about you? What are some strategies you’ve used to keep yourself motivated and productive? I’m always drifting off more than I should, so I’d be happy to hear any tips!

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You’ve Got Problems: Now What?

 

Problems happen. It’s so obvious it almost sounds silly to say it, but it’s true: problems happen.

 

No matter what you’re trying to do, you’re going to have problems along the way.

 

If you’re starting a website, you’re going to have idiot spammers filling your blog posts with comments that are irrelevant at best.

 

If you’re starting a business, you’re going to have too many customers making too many unreasonable demands, or you’re going to have too few customers making any demands whatsoever.

 

If you’ve been running a business for a while, you’ll start running into the infinite variety of lovely problems that come with scaling up.

 

In short: problems aren’t going away.

 

When it comes to problems, you’ve got three options:

 

  1. Give Up

This is a bad option. Don’t choose this option.

  1. Pick the Wrong Problem to Work On

This is also a bad option, but it’s an easy one to find yourself getting stuck in.

 

This is the situation where you want to train to run a marathon, but you’ve spent so long trying to pick out the right pair of running shoes that you can’t quite remember why you started.

 

If you’re ever tempted to give up, or if you ever catch yourself going around in circles, double check that you’re not working on the wrong problem.

 

It’s an easy mistake to make, and it’s important to catch yourself as soon as possible.

  1. Pick the Right Problem to Work On

This is what you want to be doing all the time if you can. If you can identify the right problem and zero in on it, you can apply all your energies to solving it.

 

That’s how you knock out problems. You identify them, you try solutions, and then you find the next problem.

 

So you should always, always, always be aware of the process you take in choosing which problem to work on. It’s too easy to get stuck working on the wrong one.

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How Do You Motivate Yourself?

 

People are always asking me, “Geofrey, how do you keep yourself productive when your motivation’s shot?”

 

It’s a good question. Now, I know, you’re probably expecting me to say something about how it’s just an excuse to say “I don’t have the motivation,” but I’m not going to say that.

 

Motivation is an important problem.

 

Because let’s face it: if you’re not motivated, you’re not going anywhere.

 

It can be tough to keep motivated when you’ve been trying and trying, but nothing seems to work. It can be tough to keep motivated when you keep chipping away at your problems, but you can’t seem to make any progress.

 

I’ll be honest with you: motivation isn’t easy. But I’ve got a simple answer for you.

 

Now listen: I want you to take a pen and write some stuff down.

 

First, I want you to write a little bit about how you’ll feel once you reach your long-term goals. It doesn’t have to be long. Just take ten minutes or so and write a paragraph or two about how things will be once you break through.

 

And second, I want you to write about how bad it will be if you don’t reach that long-term goal. I want you to imagine how terrible you’ll feel if you wake up one morning and realize you’re a complete and utter failure.

 

Be detailed with both of these! Imagine it in detail, and I’ll promise you you’ll feel much more motivated.

 

Let yourself go with this. Get creative. Remember: the more detail you go into, the stronger the effect is going to be.

 

And once you’re done, let me know about your results. What does success look like for you? What does failure look like?

 

And most importantly: are you feeling motivated now?

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