Note: Many, MANY of the ideas in this article are taken from Ray Dalio’s, Principles. It’s a book that every human who wants to live life well, and to live it better everyday, should read. Enjoy the article.
When we are where we don’t want to be, we have to live as the man who is where we think we ought to be.
When tough times come we too often lower ourselves to the situation. We pity our situation, how things have gone, and our energy levels dip, our mood suffers, our perspective dims unnecessarily. We’re sombre, sad, and unmotivated because what’s there to be motivated about? This is tough!
The point of life is to struggle well, not to not struggle. As Ray Dalio alluded to in his book, Principles, even if you try to avoid struggles, they’ll find you.
And when we’re in the struggles – which we always are if we’re trying to improve, that’s the nature of improvement, to incur more struggle, not less – and if we’re in tough times where we’ve had a few failures, where we find ourselves in uncomfortable situations, we cannot bring ourselves down to the bad situation but rather have to act as if we are – and be – the guy who is worthy and actively achieving the things we want to achieve on the grandest scale possible.
We cannot act as failures even if, by our perspective, we are failures. To do so is pity, it is weakness, and by God it’s far better to be strong than it is to be weak, and not just for us and individuals, but for everyone around us as well.
And we really have no other choice.
And this acting better than our situation doesn’t end.
While the goal of life is to struggle well because struggles are a constant and we may as well do it well than to fail at it, the objective is also to improve, and improvement demands that we act better than where we are and even better than who we are.
I am not where I want to be.
The business is not where I want it to be. I want to improve nearly every situation in my life save for my lady who needs no improving, nor my pup, nor my family, friends, and well, I could go on. But I want to be better. Simple.
I want more success, more of life, more adventure, hell, more land.
Man, am I unsatisfied. I’ve dug myself holes, I’ve climbed out of them and dug deeper ones and climbed out of those. I’ve created good habits and lost them, developed great habits on top of those.
Regardless of all of that, I’m not close to being content, and when I think about where I’d rather be, when I settle into that comparison mindset, it’s painful, it’s a true struggle.
To act to my situation would be a sin. But I’ve done it. I’ve eased into mediocre efforts and habits and then awoken to that fact, the pain that I’ve wasted time by simply doing the minimum, and I’ve realized that I cannot go on like that.
I cannot live to the situation if I want to improve it.
To improve it, I have to act better than where I am.
Success is won by working effectively.
You can be efficient, but still be efficiently unsuccessful.
Efficiency is better than inefficiency, but it’s still not the best way to work.
The best way to work is effectively, to have your time spent doing good work efficiently, but also having that work yield a good result.
Results are all that matters. It’s nice to work your ass off, but if your work doesn’t yield the result you want, and you don’t learn from the failure and improve your work, you’re going to be left disappointed and unfulfilled.
We need to win, and to win we need to work effectively, and to work effectively we have to, in part, act the part not only of the good worker, but the great planner.
In our lives we’re not only the one doing the work, we’re also the one planning what work should be done and when it should be done.
On some level we’re the boss and the worker. Few act the part of the boss, they simply put their head down and work, but if they were to step back and strategically plan what work should be done, the work would be correct more often than it is if it’s reactive.
I spend far too much time acting reactively, and far too little time reflecting on whether those actions have yielded the result I wanted them to. I’m busy being the worker without thinking like the boss.
I’m acting down to my current situation instead of acting up to the situation I’d like to next end up living in.
How to Act Above Your Situation
This is a problem I’ve had to – and am still – think about solving. I’ve had to reflect, detach, look at my situation and my reality without the veil of emotion.
There are a few truths that we have to come to grips with:
- What has gotten us here won’t get us ‘there’. That is, we cannot continue to do the same things every day and expect to improve. We have to shift, adjust, change what we’re doing, do things bigger, better, and often radically different.
- At the same time, doing ‘different’ for the sake of it being different is wrong. Persistence is key, and quite often we’re changing plans and adjusting our course too often that we don’t let our work realize its potential.
- We can act however we want to act. We do not have to act like a fella making 6 figures if we want to make 7 or 8. We do not have to act like a fat person if we want to be ripped. We are not relegated to acting as our upbringing dictated we act, nor are we stuck acting as we’ve always acted.
Too often we act as we think we’re supposed to act rather than how we’d like to act.
We’d all like to act more successful, but only a minority among us know that this choice is ours. Thus, we improve, but far too slowly.
We don’t aim high enough, and that isn’t necessarily in our goal-setting (though this is almost always true), but in how we carry ourselves.
Our opinion of who we are betrays who we want to become.
We can stop worrying. We can stop fearing. We can stop being lazy, envious, and ineffective. We can start acting with courage, discipline, and focus.
There are so many choices in our lives that we’re unaware of. We have more power than we realize, and this is especially true when we feel powerless, when we feel beat up, distraught, as if life won’t turn in the direction we’d like it to turn. We ignore that we’re the catalyst and the vehicle for change. So we don’t change, and neither does our circumstance.
Every struggle is an opportunity to learn, grow, and evolve, and if we evolve enough, we will become who we need to be to deserve what we want to deserve.
It begins with a choice, but also an understanding that there are choices.
Spend time and define two things:
- Define who you are.
Identify your strengths, what you’re good at or can be the best at, and what you love to do.
Understand, also, where you are weak. I can be hard-headed, even defensive. I have a natural instinct to fight that doesn’t have to be my instinct. I need to be more open to criticism, and to seeing things from outside, often more correct, perspectives.
- Equally important is it to define who you want to become.
Not just what, but who.
What principles and values and virtues would you like to embody?
Who would you like people to see you as?
What thoughts do you want to dominate your mind?
Understanding the truth about who we are allows us to move forward from a position of truth in a world, existence, and society of image and delusion. If you understand the truth, you can use it to set you free to accomplish great things. If you want to ignore reality and remain blind to both your limitations and strengths, you’ll remain reactive, working on things that won’t get you to the level you want to be at.
In short, act to the standard you want to rise to, don’t continue acting down to the situation you’re struggling through right now.
Get after it.