You know what gives you hope that you’ll be able to change your life, even though you haven’t done it yet?
You’ve had those waves of motivation.
You’ve had these times where you’ve risen to the occasion and followed through with one of your goals. It’s just the stringing-together-of-multiple-goals things you’re struggling with.
I’ve been there more times than I can count. One semester in college I had good enough grades to make the dean’s list and stayed sober the whole semester. The next semester, I kid you not, I got a 0.00 GPA, drank seven nights a week, and got suspended from school. I rode this rollercoaster ride for seven years, like a black Van Wilder.
After that came a dark time — working at a crappy electronics factory 12 hours a day for $10/hr, living in the tiniest residence known to man, selling weed to get by but never making any money.
Then, came the wave of motivation that I’ve been fortunate enough to ride for the past five years. Using the two sources of motivation I’m going to describe to you, I turned motivation into something much purer and useful.
That’s the end goal. Eventually, you’ll reach a point where you don’t need motivation anymore. You’ve worked so much and built such a solid foundation that you just go. You’re not perfect, but your routines, habits, and skills are firing on auto-pilot.
If you want to look forward to something, look forward to that. If you make it, you won’t have to ride that roller coaster of emotions anymore. It will get better. Until then, though, use these two sources to your advantage.
People get stuck in this particular trap. They don’t like their lives, but life isjust tolerable enough to stay stagnant.
You don’t outright hate your job. It’s just kinda crappy, sometimes. Or even maybe it’s pretty good, but the people there sort of annoy you. You don’t have financial freedom or flexibility over your time, but you’re not entirely destitute either. Your life is comfortable enough that you don’t want to lose it.
Actually, being at the bottom might be the most advantageous situation, if it doesn’t destroy you. You get to experience the rawest sense of one of the most useful emotions you can have.
Being fed up.
I’m weird and have conversations with myself a lot. Even when my life sucked, I was always mentally plotting. As I got into self-improvement more, I started drilling these thoughts into my mind and having these conversations.
“Seriously Ayo, what are you doing with your life? Look around, man. You’re flat broke. Your apartment is shit. Your job sucks. You’re smarter than this. You can’t live your life like this, dude. No. Absolutely not.”
These conversations didn’t cure me right away. Slowly but surely though, I reached a tipping point. I became viscerally angry at my situation. I’d say one of my biggest advantages in life is the fact that I’ve always known when I was settling. I never had those rationalizations.
How much are you rationalizing your situation?
I hear that the Buddhist hipsters from the peanut gallery already “be content.”
There’s a thin line between contentment and apathy.
Are you giving up?
Are you pretending to be content but really you’re just throwing in the towel?
Get fed up. Maybe save the positive emotions for later in life. Maybe you should beat yourself up some. We’re all in this roses and sunshine society where everyone is supposed to feel good and be coddled all the time. Not my style.
Negativity, when used correctly, can be a powerful motivator. Use it.
After getting fed up, I got fired up.
I remember a moment I had with my roommate the day after I published my first article online. I was bouncing off the walls. We talked about business ideas for hours straight. My eyes were beaming, wide open, like I was on crack.
I found that source of inspiration by stumbling onto something I liked, thought I could be good at, and had thought about doing for a while. Like I’ve said nine billion times before, a friend asked me to write for his website. I had secretly dreamed of being a writer for years.
If you want to get inspired, don’t wait for permission like I did. Go and do that thing. Finding a path for your life that fits is the key to everything. If you want an in-depth look at finding that thing and understanding what to do next, I just wrote a brand new book about that subject.
Anyway, I put inspiration second because it’s more fleeting than desperation and being fed up.
You can get high on the inspiration pipe for your whole life without ever doing anything about it. This happens to a lot of people.
Many people get stuck in the inspiration loop. They use self-help for entertainment, which is probably better than Netflix, but not all that much more effective.
There will come a point where you have to stop reading articles like this and start riding that wave. It’s okay to wait for that wave to come You can finally put your foot down after reading your 1076th self-improvement article.
I know from experience. I used to read articles from my favorite authors over and over and over again. YouTube videos, podcasts, audiobooks, you name it — anything to sustain that wave…while also doing the work.
I focused on my craft and shared my experiences of improving my own life with the world. And now I’m here.
I want you to graduate. I don’t need forever fans. Seeing people out in the world doing the things they love? That’s what I want.
Don’t give up. I know those jolts of inspiration fade very fast. Like I said, even if nothing ever pans out, focusing on self-improvement is better than many other activities. And things can pan out.
Find your way to work on a project you care about long enough, and they will pan out.
Then the Magic Happens
After you ride the wave of motivation, something cool happens…you no longer need it.
Not only that, but you start to stack a bunch of useful habits without even trying to.
Once I found a mission for my life, I started adopting these other habits to support it:
- Waking up at 5 a.m. — Not because I wanted to have a miracle morning, but because it was the only time to write without my infant child screaming.
- Meditating — This helps me have clarity and sustain longer periods of focus. I started meditating around the same time I started writing, so I’ve been doing it for five years.
- Cut down on TV time — Not on purpose, but because I just didn’t want to make it a priority anymore because working on my mission was more fun to me.
- Exercising — Yes, I exercise for vanity purposes, but also being out of shape made me mentally sluggish which harmed my writing
- Fasting and Not Eating Junk — Again, because eating a bunch of bad food, especially in the morning during my writing time, would cause a nasty glucose spike and crash, or I’d get the “itis” and want to fall asleep instead of write.
People get this backward.
They try to adopt all of these habits for the sake of having them. That doesn’t work so well. If you have a mission to focus on, adopting good habits just makes sense.
How do you find that mission in the first place?
Use that combo — inspiration, and desperation.
You know the thing you want to do that just scares the hell out of you. Get fed up that you’re too much of a chicken to take care of and nurture your own dreams. Beat it into your head how much of a wimp you are. A grown adult who can’t muster up some courage. Weenie.
Then, use the inspiration that comes from understanding how abundant the world really is. You have internet access — the ultimate equalizer. On top of that, you know, deep down, that you’re not a weenie. You know you’re strong. You know what you can really do if…you…just…pulled…the…damn…trigger.
I believe in you, homie. Not because you’re special, but because you’re a regular person just like me. We’re all ordinary and extraordinary at the same time.
We just choose which side to lean on.
This article first appeared on Medium.