How to Turn Self-Help From a Pipe Dream to a Concrete Reality
Some of the outcomes you’ve seen people get from self-improvement just seem too good to be true, surreal, impossible.
On the one hand, you can kinda sorta maybe picture yourself doing something amazing with your life. Daydreaming about it feels good. But reality sets in and all that daydream confidence is replaced with cold hard self-doubt because the road ahead just seems too long.
Say you’re like me and you want to be a writer. You have to start putting your work out there but no one knows who you are, the tech stuff on its own is enough to frustrate you into quitting, and you have to learn marketing on top of having writing skills to be successful.
Most writers never get to 100 subscribers on their email list, let alone 1,000, let alone 10,000, and definitely let alone 100,000 plus, which is the type of list you usually need to have to push your book to the top of the New York Times list. It’s a lot of work.
Take any other “outside of the box” profession that self-help people talk about and the process is more or less the same. Somehow, you, as a tiny fish in the open ocean, are supposed to figure this out.
How is it even possible?
The Mindset that Gives you the Best Chance to Pull it Off
You just don’t know.
You can’t know how to pull any of this off upfront. There’s that saying “If I knew everything I’d have to do to get where I am today, I never would’ve started.”
If I were to back in time five years and tell my old self to try and replicate what I’m doing now, I probably would’ve quit too.
You can’t look at someone with years to decades of experience and try to map out how you’d be able to do that. Just can’t. You don’t have enough experience to even try to wrap your head around it, so don’t.
People don’t talk about this often enough. To be successful, you have to calibrate your level of ambition. There is definitely such a thing as being too ambitious, being too positive, and having too few limiting beliefs.
You want to reach a level of aspiration that’s just enough to compel you to do the work, but not so much that anything less than stellar results upfront demotivates you.
And, like I always say, just start.
I go back to my own past and try to tell the honest truth about it without smoothing out the edges. The main advantage I had in the beginning? I didn’t know any better than to just start and keep going.
When I first started writing, I was naive enough to just keep doing it without questioning myself too much. I didn’t know that most writers failed or that building a blog was super hard or that even the ones who do sort of well didn’t make that much money. I started with blissful ignorance.
Over time, I learned the rules of the game and understood the hoops I’d need to jump through, but by then I already had the right habits.
I know you want to know the answers upfront, but you can’t find them out by speculation.
People ask to pick my brain all the time. You could sit down with me for ten hours and ask me every question on your mind and I could give you the most detailed answer possible, but it probably wouldn’t help all that much because I’d give you answers to scenarios you’re not ready to handle yet because you haven’t done anything. Advanced knowledge without experience is useless to a beginner.
You can only learn certain lessons by implementing information. To continue implementing, use this next technique along the way.
Again, looking back on how all of this happened, I remember that I made it a point to be super happy about any little milestone I achieved. I remember when I wrote my first blog post. I felt so proud of myself just for writing it.
Then I published it and a few dozen people liked it. Those few dozen likes on Facebook seeded my entire career, I swear — that was enough.
When I got my first 100 subscribers I made a big deal out of it. When I published my first post on, what I thought was, a major website, I made a big deal about it. The post received a number of views that wouldn’t even register on my radar now, which is exactly how the process should work.
This sounds so trite and cliche. I’m barfing in my mouth a little bit as I’m about to type this but, for real, celebrate the journey.
Go through the periods I talk about often and celebrate as you make it past each checkpoint:
- 90 days — Focusing on a project, without stopping at all, for 90 days, will make you feel so good about yourself. You’ve probably experienced this with working out. Apply that same philosophy to that meaningful project.
- 1–2 years — After a few years in, you’re in. No more worrying about quitting.
- 5 years — Fully transformed. You won’t even believe your past self existed.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m going to spend the rest of my life chasing my ambitions, but getting what you want doesn’t make you all that happy. You do get adjusted very fast. You think getting that outcome will solve your problems and make you feel whole and validated. It won’t. So why do it?
Jim Rohn said it best:
“Success is something you attract by the person you become.”
You can only gain a certain type of understanding about the world by trying to conquer it.
I know things about life at a deep emotional level that most people don’t because I’ve done what most people never do — commit a long period of time to get good at something meaningful. People have their cops outs, “I don’t care about money!” Yet they post on social media about saving the coral reef. Go make the money to go save the reef, then.
Everyone is so modest, humble, and generous when it comes to things that don’t involve them having to actually do anything at all. And people live in this loop, pretending they have these values, knowing they use these values as coping mechanisms, silently beating themselves up about their failure to chase their real dreams and values, silencing that voice with the coping, and doing it all over again.
Chasing a dream, at minimum, gets you out of that loop. You have confidence at your core that no one can take away from you because you’ve earned it.
I know you want that, but it scares you to go and get it.
This all sounds good. Everything I write…sounds good.
For now, it’s still a pipe dream.
But, there are enough examples to show you that it can become a concrete reality. And once you start to make it happen, here’s what will happen.
Reshape Your Reality *Then* Become Content
There’s no getting over the ‘implementation gap,’ but the minute you start to implement information at an even slightly above average level, your definition of normal will constantly change and you’ll always realize you shot well short.
You’ll continue to aim a little higher and work a little harder, thinking you’re ambitious, but then you’ll achieve the next milestone and realize you still shot short.
Eventually, you will realize that most things are actually possible.
You won’t look at any goal as too big, but rather you’ll know that each goal in life requires a specific amount of time and effort.
From there, knowing that you’re motivated, you can decide whether or not you want to pursue certain goals. And you’ll probably come to realize that you don’t need entire world domination to be happy.
You’ll know that you can make 100 million dollars, but you might decide you just don’t want to sacrifice that much of your life to do it.
You’ll know that you could have a ten pack, but you’ll decide you just want to be in decent shape.
Overall, you’ll be happier with what you have due to the fact that you know deep down in your heart that you could have more if you really felt like it. Abundance doesn’t come from thought, it comes from your actual reality.
See, that’s the thing, you don’t want to live the pipe dream all the way necessarily — Lambos, yachts, giant mansions, etc, but you’ll never know what your real appetite is until you push yourself. Better to overshoot and realize it wasn’t what you really wanted than to have to wonder for the rest of your life.
That’s what kills you…the wondering.
You can say all these little statements to yourself about how you’re content, but unless the way you’re currently living your life is optional, you can’t say that to yourself in an honest way. It’s easy to say you don’t want a lot of money when you don’t know how to get more.
It’s easy to say you don’t want to build a business when you’ve never tried. Anyone can claim contentment if they don’t really have much say in how their life turns out and can’t exert any real will over their reality.
Go see for yourself — patiently, slowly, gradually. Live your life like a video game where you only see what’s in front of you, but as you move forward new parts of the territory appear instantaneously.
There’s that saying “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” And it’s so true,
Start with 90 days. Reverse engineer the goals for 90 days down to 30 and finally down to today and the present moment.
Then you start. And after the first time, you complete a session of ‘doing your thing’ and realize it isn’t going to kill you, you do it again, and again, and again.
It’s just that simple.
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Originally published at http://ayotheauthor.com on March 25, 2020.