It’s Not Getting Better Unless You Make It

I have just read an article that really made me think about what I am going to do with myself. The article is called “Five Reasons Why Your Life Isn’t Going to Get Better” by Harris O’Malley (AKA Dr Nerdlove). It sounds like a horrible article but it was meant as a slap in the face. So yeah, it was kind of horrible to read. This is one of those article that makes so much sense that you now absolutely hate the author. If you’re ready to get kicked in the ass by an internet articled give it a read here.

OK now that we are all thoroughly beaten up let’s talk about it.

1 – Time is Currency and You Have to Manage it IDIOT

The first big idea that Harris talks about is the fact that, a lot of the time, we add things to our routine without taking other things out. It’s the “Cost” of a new goal or activity that we don’t recognize. The fact is that, no matter how hard we try, there are still a limited number of hours in a day and you can’t even use all of them. I have a goal to start going to the gym on a weekly basis. After just reading the first part of Dr Nerdlove’s article, I now realize why I haven’t completed it. I “fart around on the internet,” play video games and generally do things that aren’t going to the gym. No matter what I tell myself, I have chosen to fail at my goal. There are no outside factors, the weather is not that bad, I am not too tired, and while I may still be recovering from my last trip to the gym, that doesn’t mean I can’t still go.

There! I just kicked myself in the nuts and that’s only the first of five points Dr Nerdlove makes. Reading his first point I know now that I need to manage my time like my boss does. Tracking what you do and creating a metrics system will be invaluable to accomplishing the goals I want to complete.

2 – Just Do It (Not Affiliated with Nike!)

Next up is a simple truth. If you are to accomplish that shiny goal you have set for yourself, you kind of need to actually work on that goal. If you say that to someone they are going to think you are treating them like a 4 year old. If you are to accomplish anything however, you need to put actions on the table. Wishes won’t do much and leaving the work to “future you” will do even less. As Dr NerdLove writes “The more you talk about how ‘someday, you’re going to be X’, without actually taking concrete steps towards getting there, then all you’re doing is mental masturbation.”

You need to dream to have goals but you also need actionable items to get those goals done. Completing those actionable items is the only way to get things finished. I think a good set of metrics might be the key to this. You can also gamify it if you are clever and competitive enough. To gamily is to create a set of metrics for your actions and assign a point system. Tally up your points and try to get better and better scores. If you don’t have a head for numbers and metrics you will have to find a more creative approach.

3 – Use a Sniper, Not a Shotgun

Harris’ third point is almost immediately obvious when you start a new self-improvement kick. There is so much to do that you have no idea where to start. You read all these articles and you get so much on your mind that you are overwhelmed. Well that happens to me, I don’t know what experience you have.

When you research or just jump into a new activity, hobby or regimen there is always so much you don’t know. It can become overwhelming, but with a little self-trickery you can defeat the paralysis. I break things down when I feel overwhelmed. Focusing on a few or even just one aspect of a problem or activity can be immensely helpful. After tackling a single part you can then add more and before you know it, you have started that gym routine or that helicopter building hobby you have always wanted.

4 – Damn You Brain… You Win Again!

Forth is the idea that your own brain is working against you. This is a hard one to describe because it is very subtle. Your brain likes to feel the same sensations all the time. Anything that threatens those sensations is “dangerous” and “scary” even if those changes are logically better. This is made worse by the fact that you can so easily get addicted to almost anything. It may not be a chemical addiction but the effects are similar.

Unfortunately there is no easy way to combat this. It takes shear will and a whole lot of it. The good part is that your will is just like any other skill. You can develop it and stretch it if you know where your limits are. The bad part is that your will is just like any other skill. When the going gets tough, sometimes you just want to lie down and eat a bowl of ice cream. Finding a balance between pushing yourself and allowing for rest is a difficult task but it take practice, just like any other skill.

5 – But Ma… I Don’t Wanna! (Insert Whiney Voice)

The final point in the article is that of motivation. No matter how many times you read about building that sweet helicopter, you won’t get very far if you don’t get off your couch and grab a wrench. Like Newton’s first law of motion, a couch potato tends to watch a ton of Netflix. Or something like that.

This is one of the hardest things to do for me. Self-motivating can be easy if you love what you do but if you are even slightly discouraged it can be difficult or even impossibly hard to generate some movement. This is another place where Gamification of your life can help out. Our brains are wired to work on a reward system. If you give yourself rewards for working towards your goals you will start to need less and less of a reward. Self-motivators are naturals at this. They can see rewards in things that other don’t.

Additionally, seeing a benefit for an activity is not the same as seeing a reward. Many benefits are logically obvious. If you start eating healthier you will start feeling more healthy. The problem comes when you actually attempt to start. Most people these days (including myself) are geared towards quick satisfaction. Unfortunately, most goals worthwhile take time for results to even show. Goals like higher education, eating healthy and learning new skills are all examples of this. This is why rewarding yourself is essential. Most diets incorporate a “cheat” day but I don’t like this idea. Your “reward” sets you back further on your path. I prefer a reward that has nothing to do with my goal. If I find myself going to the gym more often, I will find some fun to have. I won’t bail on a gym day because “I did good this month.” If you can find a reward for yourself, you can become self-motivating and totally build that helicopter.

Over the next few weeks I am going to develop and implement a “Game” for myself. This game will eventually include scores for eating healthy, going to the gym, talking to people, and all sorts of other things. I may have to break it up in to smaller parts until I get the hang of designing scorecards. I will also be publishing my cards here. I plan on using the game design process to improve my life and motivate myself to be better. Stay tuned kids, it’s going to be a slow and boring ride from here on out!

Wait… That’s not right.