Quick disclaimer: I’ll certainly end up ramblings here and there but hold on with me. There’s often a reason for me to do so.
It’s incredible how time flies by. On this day, one year ago, I woke up at 2:30 a.m., fully jetlagged and couldn’t sleep for 45 minutes.
At that precise time during which my brain was very malleable, I fell upon a self-improvement video talking about the importance of small daily improvements and suddenly went on a quest to find a whole lot of applications which could help in that regard.
I downloaded about 30 different apps and deleted 90% of those the next day.
However, the ones I didn’t delete stuck around and are still being used daily. One of them was simply called “Habits” (now changed its name to “Loop”, only available on Android) and could leave widgets to click on to check a certain habit for the day.
This has become the very basis of my journey and has allowed me to stay on track even when things got tough, reminding me instantly, as I would pick up my phone, all the things I had to do.
Well. This is not a “How to” article so let’s keep this for another day. Let’s dive right in What I have learned in the past year and which could be useful to anybody who wishes to start his own journey.
I’ve already written extensively on many of those aspects so don’t hesitate to dig in whatever topic you want to. You’ll find links in each part.
It’s the details that count
Let’s start again with the first idea put forth: small actions compound into bigger results.
We’ve all come to want everything right now.
We want the results to come quickly so, naturally, we believe we need some big, sudden, actions to actually those.
After all, the world shows us everybody else’s results and not the hard work they’ve put over years and years. If you wanted the same right away, you’d need to act fast.
Learning that, no matter where you are in life, you will need to be patient and start taking small steps is the first thing to accept.
Results won’t change if you don’t
If you do today what you did yesterday, you will get the same results tomorrow as you got today.
You can’t expect things to be different if you don’t change anything. If you want tomorrow to be better than today, then you’ll need to change how you live your life today.
In the end, no matter how hard things can get, the most difficult step is actually starting. Get your mind right and stop pushing it away.
You’ll get some pushback
You might want to start changing today, but the world you’ve grown accustomed to usually doesn’t have the same ideas in mind.
All the changes you will start in your life will get you some “Why would you do that?” types of responses at a certain point.
When I first decided I wanted to write online, I got quite a bit of support from everybody but a few months in, seeing me waking up early to write, canceling plans to do so, arranging holidays so I’d have the time to write, many started asking me “Is this worth it for you? What do you get out of it? Can’t you rest one single day?”.
You know what? It’s mostly disappeared now. Why, you ask?
Because after so much time, people have finally realized this is now part of me. It was simply a matter of time.
Time won’t come back
I just heard yesterday a great analogy about time.
What if I were to tell you that you could have 86,400 dollars every single day but that all which wasn’t used by the end of the day would be taken away. Would you not do your best to use it all before then? Well, that’s how many seconds we have per day.
Every second you don’t use will disappear in front of your eyes. They will never come back to you. Wouldn’t it be a shame not to use them appropriately?
It’s not always going to be easy
You might be thinking that using your time doing small actions every single day wouldn’t be that hard. After all, doing 5 or 10 pushups every day seems easy in itself.
However, what starts showing after a while is the difficulty of keeping things going.
Two weeks ago, I got my left arm blocked. I couldn’t bend it without screaming. Did I stop doing pushups? No. I found a way to leave my arm straight and do my pushups only using my right arm.
Life will get in the way. Holidays, work, sickness, parties, all of this can make you think “Hey, I’ve done it for months already. I could take a break today.”
But again, that time won’t come back. Finding the strength to push through, to keep yourself accountable, to keep you from wasting one of those precious seconds will not only allow one more second to compound but also create confidence.
After all, you’ll have just overcome laziness!
Why are you doing this for?
It’s great to work tirelessly to improve your life. Spending each second willfully is a crucial aspect of tomorrow being better than today.
But you can’t just do anything.
If you don’t know why you are doing your actions, you will find more challenges along the way.
Why would you be disciplined if you have no reason to be after all!
You need to first find where you want to go and why that is important to you. Without this, you’ll just roam around, trying a whole lot of things and never doing actions which can compound each other.
You gotta dig within
Finding a goal is a piece of advice given everywhere online. As discussed just above, it makes sense.
But you cannot find your goals and why they are important until you have dug within yourself.
You have to know who you are, your personality, your skills, and drawbacks. Where do you shine? Where do you overreact? Why do you think in that way?
Use some of that precious time to discover and understand who you are. Only then will your goals truly be aligned with yourself.
Don’t wander too much
Using seconds to work on your goals is great. Well. Let’s be more precise: It’s crucial.
But you know what else is? Focusing.
If your mind is thinking of Facebook, that conversation you’re dreading, the problem you haven’t solved yet at work, or even what you plan on doing next, you can stop doing that action right now. It’s a waste of your time.
Yes. Please stop.
What you are trying to learn, produce, assimilate, etc. will not be done properly if your mind is not 100% on the task.
Now, luckily, you don’t need to focus all the time!
Our brains are more creative when we let it wander. It allows us to create connections between all the things we have experienced and learned when we were indeed focusing. This is what author Chris Bailey calls “Scatterfocus”.
You just won’t be perfect
We’re only humans. We make mistakes and live through them. They just happen and we can’t do anything about it.
You might have the greatest idea of all time and have a very specific plan to accomplish it, but you will fail.
Learn to accept your failures.
There are some which will be harder to overcome. But if you’re still alive, that means you can get back up and do better next time.
Analyze your mistakes, learn from them, and don’t repeat them.
You might think you’re the only one doing those mistakes but I promise you: someone else has done it or will do it too soon enough.
Read and learn
Finally, a great way to improve is to read. People have put decades of their knowledge into books so it’d be a shame not to use those!
Yes, videos are more convenient. Yes, they are also more entertaining.
But it is much easier to have your mind wander while watching them and the time spent on watching them isn’t long enough to really assimilate the knowledge.
I used to read a lot of heroic fantasy books when I was a child and then stopped reading entirely. Before 2019, in the past 10 years, I had read about 10 books, most of them in a foreign language with the sole purpose of improving my target language’s skills.
In the past 3 months, I’ve read 5 books which have started to compound and give me a better understanding of my own life and mind. Yes, that’s not a lot of books. But the knowledge is starting to become engrained in me.
Now, let me be honest once more: I don’t have all the answers! And you know what? You don’t either.
Becoming a better version of ourselves is not specific enough to have an end. You can also get even better. No matter what you’ve done in the past, you can learn to do better.
It’s a journey. A journey to be happy. Not for others, but not for yourself alone either. It’s for both.
And who wouldn’t be happy to see you contribute to everybody’s happiness? No one.
One year is still extremely short when you think about a lifetime. I’ve learned a lot but I know I’ll be laughing at how little I know today when I’ll think about it in one more year, or ten, or twenty.
In the meantime, I’ll keep on living. And improving.