Today’s post is about self-improvement.
But more specifically, it’s about marginal improvement. Small improvements. Progressive stuff; the kind you can actually see yourself doing.
It’s about forgetting about the big picture, “someday” goals you have, and forgetting about becoming the end-all, be-all as you go through your daily life.
Not forgetting them entirely, but forgetting them day-to-day, as you work and play and live.
Meaning: forget for just a moment about being great. Instead, let’s focus on getting better.
Why ambition is annoying
I’m still not where I want to be. Not ultimately.
And the thing is, I don’t actually think it’s possible to be one hundred percent, without question, indubitably satisfied where you are if you ever have a shot at being a whole and fully actualized person. Because an actualized person always strives, always looks for what could be better.
If your relationship with your spouse is good, you want to make it great. If it’s great, you want to make it outstanding.
If you’re in shape, you wish you were just a bit leaner, faster, stronger, whatever. You wish your ass was smaller. You wish your ass was bigger. Big guys want to be lean enough to have a six-pack and curse their slow metabolisms. Skinny guys want to pack on bulk and curse their fast metabolisms.
No matter where we are in just about any area of our lives, we wish that area of our lives was better. It’s human nature. So you’re at 98 out of a hundred? Well, what would it take to get to 99?
And if you don’t want to improve X area of your life, you want to improve Y. In fact, maybe you’d let X slide a bit in order to focus more on making Y better. And of course, once you do that, you’d want X better again, because settling for a trade-off is a crock of shit. Why can’t both X and Y be excellent?
Whether you’re a go-getter or a couch potato who pretends to want nothing, the truth is that we all wish we had more, or had it better. Things are never, across-the-board good enough.
So when I say I’m still not where I want to be, I mean it… but I think that nobody ultimately is. Everybody is always looking to improve something, which means that they’re trying to get somewhere else. (And this isn’t the same thing as not liking where you are, by the way. It’s about aspiring.)
Even people who are big on practicing acceptance and “going with the flow” ultimately always want to accept more, go with the flow better. Remember: silence, deliberate poverty, nonjudgment, and nonresistance are disciplines too. If you think they’re not something you have to work very hard at, try asking a monk.
For me, I’m trying very hard to move south, and it’s a lot harder than I’d hoped, so it’s taking longer than I wanted it to. I have a great lifestyle right now, but there are things about it I’d like to change that are taking some time to change. I haven’t gotten that six-pack back yet. And while my plan is to unschool my son next year for first grade, we still haven’t ironed out how that could work yet, either.
So no, I’m not where I want to be, and I doubt I’ll ever get to a stage where I say, “Okay, I’m finished. Nothing needs work here.”
Once you stop having a reason to strive for something, you’re kind of “done” in life and really don’t have much reason to keep on existing.
How to deal
So, try this:
- Forgive yourself for wanting more than you currently have. Go ahead and be okay with wanting more money, better relationships with your kids, or to fit into those pants. It’s okay to want those things. It doesn’t mean you’re ungrateful for what you have now, or that the status quo necessarily sucks. It just means you’re human, and will always want more as long as you keep being human.
- After giving yourself permission to be greedy and want more (I’m being facetious. It’s cool; be greedy), go ahead and start forgetting about the end result you want. Only: “forget” in a specific way. Make note of the goal, but then stop worrying about getting or having the goal and start worrying about moving closer to it.
- Repeat. Forever.
I once heard about a Japanese concept called “kaizen,” which Tony Robbins, in his imminently cheesy style (a style I like, by the way) bastardized into “CANI,” which stands for Constant And Neverending Improvement. And of course, “CANI” is a play on “I CAN,” which is so hokey that I’d rather not use it and would prefer to use “kaizen” instead, but “CANI” really sums it up better and we can all understand it.
So your objective each and every day is to Constantly And Neverendingly Improve. To, in some small way, get further down the path toward that idealized, fully and totally perfect version of your life and yourself.
Don’t worry about having the perfect business. Instead, concentrate on making your business BETTER — even if it’s just in some tiny way.
Stop worrying about being rich. If you want to be rich, begin working on ways to become RICHER — which, by the way, may mean doing things that won’t pay off for a while, but which are necessary to make cashflow BETTER in the long run.
Me, I want to move to North Carolina. There’s a lot of things that need to happen before we can make that move, but a few are preparing the house to sell, finding a house to buy (both of those are hard, by the way. We have unique needs on both ends of the move), and making a shitload of money or finding a loan workaround on the buy end because my credit totally sucks thanks to my real estate foibles of a few years ago.
So I can let it bother me that we’re not there yet or that it’s taking too long, or I can start heading down the road that will ultimately, eventually lead there. Robin’s halfway through painting the kitchen, which helps make the house more sellable. I’m working on new income streams. My in-laws are scouting properties, and every once in a while I make some calls, talk to a mortgage broker, or do other research.
Are we there yet? No. But we’re heading in that direction.
And that’s how I think you should approach everything. Find out where you want to be. Get a picture of it, and do some thinking on what it will take to get there. And then start moving in that direction. Forget arriving at the destination, because the destination is a mirage. By the time you get there, you’ll have thought of other things you want to do, other ways in which you wish life was better, and what used to be the finish line will disappear before you cross it.
Instead, ask yourself: Am I closer to my ideal life or goal than I was last year? Last month? Last week? Hell: yesterday?
And if the answer is “yes” most of the time, then you’re doing well.
The saying goes, “Life is a journey, not a destination,” so let’s plan and act accordingly. Stop beating yourself up over not arriving at the destination, and instead start making sure you’re making the right journey.