When we hear stories of success, whether business or personal, it’s easier to say there’s this one big moment. A flash of inspiration. A moment of decisive action.
But that’s just bullshit. It never actually happens like that.
We click on an advert with some absurd claim, such as ‘Lose 100kg in 5 days!!!’, without even questioning it.
We read stories of the entrepreneur who seemingly clicked his fingers & magic-ed a $1b company into existence.
We see an interview of a recovering addict & assume that one sunny day he just decided to stop.
And we believe in these catalytic moments because that’s the myth society promulgates.
‘From rags to riches in 2 weeks!’ is a better headline than ‘This guy worked really hard for 10 years on various failed businesses building up the skills & insights to make his final one profitable, etc., etc.’
The second one is the reality, but it’s boring. It doesn’t sell. And most people ain’t gonna put the work in to make it happen.
They like dreaming about one day snapping their fingers & shitting out a few million dollars, but they don’t get the same sense of excitement about ten years of hard, hard work with no guarantee of success.
And, sadly, this societal myth is one we tell ourselves in our personal lives:
We procrastinate by kicking decisions down the road into the distant, not-quite-sure-when future:
We’ll start that diet in January.
We’ll find happiness after moving job in 2–3 years.
We’ll just stick it out at our stressful corporate job for 30 more years to enjoy 15 sitting on a beach in our old age.
In essence, we wait for lightning to strike — for that one big thing to transform our lives overnight — in vain.
And, tragically, we stay overweight, we stay unhappy, we stay searching for something more from life.
We happily invest time & money into material things, such as a new car or in the pursuit of our next promotion, but we rarely invest in ourselves.
It’s a lot harder. There’s a lot of uncertainty. It’s unclear what, exactly, you’re aiming for when focusing on self-improvement.
Furthermore, society doesn’t value it. Society shuns it, in fact, with self-reflection — and most certainly mental health — a subject so laden with social stigma that many people are too scared of even mentioning the word (in fact The Association for Psychological Science suggests stigma causes 40% of Americans to seek help)
With such obstacles, it’s understandably hard to even get started putting in the work on yourself, whether to lose weight or to find greater fulfilment in your life.
If you’re willing to start out on your own personal quest to a more fulfilling life, however, here’s how you lay the foundations:
- Change your mindset
As stated above, we are so used to quick wins that when something takes time & effort, when something has no clear reward early on in the process, we give up.
Yet the real benefits of self-improvement lie just beyond that point of giving up. (If you’re looking for a little motivation, have a read of Seth Godin’s blog posts on on this subject).
Change your mindset from thinking of this as a transaction — a quick investment in time & money in exchange for ‘happiness’ or ‘fulfilment’ — and, instead, think of it as a process.
A journey if you will, with the ups & downs of any good story. To do so will mean you are far more likely to stick with it.
- Focus on systems rather than goals
A flash of inspiration or a moment of dramatic change, such as starting a new business or leaving an unhappy relationship, does not come from some unknown void. It comes from laying the foundations months & years before.
Therefore, rather than thinking a specific goal, such as ‘living a fulfilling life’, that is far off, vague & unquantifiable, focus on building the habits — what author James Clear terms ‘systems’ — that will ensure you eventually get there.
Focus on journaling every day, rather than writing a book. Focus on going to the gym every day, instead of losing 20kg.
Goals can in fact be harmful to your personal progress because of the fact that they can be too intimidating (and therefore demotivating), as well as making you fixate on the outcome, rather than enjoying the process.
It’s fine to have goals in life, but important to remember that life is a journey, that self-discover is a process, and you need to enjoy the journey.
Focusing on systems catalyses hundreds of small, imperceptible changes that all move you in the right direction making success in whatever you set out to achieve inevitable.
- Look Internally For Your Own Definition of Success
It’s easy to read an article & follow the steps word for word. But, at the end of the day, you are unique & what works for somebody else is unlikely to work for you.
Your progress curve will be different. Your experiences will be different. Your skills will be different.
Furthermore, your ambitions for life will be different. And there’s a danger that you conflate somebody else’s goals with your own. That you pursue wealth & status because people you respect do, rather than creating a fulfilling life of your own.
And because there’s so much noise — TV, adverts, books, articles, anecdotes you hear — it’s hard to separate the signal from the noise. To differentiate between what are your own thoughts & ambitions & what are someone else’s.
To focus on what truly constitutes fulfilment for you, cut out the noise by practicing one or all of the following:
Free-flow writing, coupled with insights from your writing, to create a calmer mind & to better understand your thoughts. Get started with Scribe’s Insights tool
Structured journaling with specific questions you ask yourself each day & some free-flow writing to explore your own thoughts (read this step-by-step guide I’ve written on how to get started)
10 minutes of meditation each day to create a calm mind. Get started with Headspace’s free starter packs
Self-reflection time: block out 10 minutes each day to go for a walk, without music or a podcast, to allow your mind to think — uninterrupted — for a few minutes each day
Try out our Beta app by visiting www.scribeapp.co
If you lay the foundations for success by changing your mindset to be more patient, by focusing on building those daily habits, by looking internally to define success, then success is inevitable.
Every day you build momentum. Every day you get closer to that big, tangible moment:
Maybe it’s finally finding happiness, or starting a new business, or discovering a sense of purpose in life.
Others will look at it as overnight success, as something that just happened with the click of your fingers.
But you will know that that was not the case.
You will know that, instead, success came from hard work & focus, over months & years. That you didn’t wait for lightning to strike, but went out in the storm to go find it yourself.