Self Improvement Part 1: Mindset and Logic

  • Exercise: Describe yourself honestly.  Great, now go through the list, and begin working on the ones you want to, one by one.  Beware, there is no simple answer to anything–you must make a judgment call based on the context.
    • Bad traits to have: unorganized, unfocused, uncommitted, inconsistent.
  • Mindset and Logic
    • Excuses only have power if you give it to them. It is a defeatist mentality, and a denial of the reality that you can do something about it. Find out what you can do about it and do it.  Something you can’t do anything about isn’t an excuse, it’s an obstacle to overcome.
    • Blame: I used to place blame on external forces outside of my control, since if I didn’t play a part in causing them, what responsibility do I have over it?  However, I have since learned that it is to my advantage to learn how to predict, respond to and manage external forces.  Furthermore, I have learned that some external forces, I can actually make them go away by ignoring or denying their influence because for some, it’s my choice to let them in.  Figuring out which you can do that for, takes life experience.  Try saying no, and if the external factor forces its way back in, then you know you can’t ignore it.
    • If you always make an exception, then it’s no longer an exception but a habit.
    • “First thing tomorrow” never works unless you are actually someone who is productive in the morning.  Do it now, or schedule it for when you personally are most productive–afternoon, evening, night, etc.
    • Teamwork
      • Learning this is going to be one of the most important lessons of your life: When and how to delegate and ask for help, so you have a team support you rather than go solo.  “If you want to go quickly, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.”
        • Practice.  Resources to be written later.
    • Patience
      • Sometimes we become frustrated when we see ourselves repeating a bad habit we want to change.  However, it is important to understand that even if you make the same decision as before, being aware of it is the first step towards fixing the problem.  Being aware in the moment of the decision is the next step.  Then being aware, and sometimes making the right decision is the next step.  Then, with continued focus and experience, you build the habit that you want to have. The key to it all is to be conscious of your reality, and what you can do about it. That is what this section is about. Once you become self aware, then you can choose to change or stay the same.  (The Stages of Correcting a Bad Habit)
      • You also need to realize that the world changes slowly, and no matter how hard you try, or how much time and resources you spend on something in the short term, there are many things that can only achieved over a long period of time, so you must wait and be patient.
    • Corrections
      • When you make corrections, do so at the schedule level.  You should be thinking about commitments and habits within the long term, not about each particular incident of a commitment or habit–that’s inaccurate.  From statistics, we know that anecdotal evidence can skew reality and having too few data points makes the data unreliable and our decisions made on that unreliable data, risky.
      • When you do think about each particular incident, be sure to include sufficient context: what were all the events and factors leading up to the incident that might have played a role?  If you’re good at tennis in the afternoon, but bad at it in the evening, it might be because you get drunk during dinner, not because you’re not good in the evening.
      • Again: don’t mistake an individual event for a cause of a particular outcome: it was the entire process leading up to it.  So deal with chunks, a schedule, and make revisions to the whole schedule when appropriate.
    • Quality
      • Quality does not necessarily go up with [investment of] time.  A professional chef or tennis player can do something extremely difficult, very quickly.  Quality goes up with a combination of skill and time.  Don’t fall into the trap of throwing time at a problem or task, thinking that will increase the quality: if you don’t have the skills, you could take forever and never finish.  Instead, know when you’ve reached your limit, and move on to another task to get more experience and practice, which translates into greater skill.
      • Sprints – Burst based investments strategy of time and energy
        • Pro: You get a lot of work done in a short amount of time.  Con: you miss out on compound interest if you space it out too far.  A little bit every week for 10 weeks pays dividends with less effort, headache, and stress than 1 week of overkill work.
        • Skills decay.  Unlike in stocks, where compound interest can grow without your input, skills must be maintained and kept sharp–you must feed it like a plant.  Neglect will kill it.  After the 1 week of overkill, your skills will decay over the next 9 weeks so that when you start again on the 11th week, you won’t be as good as someone who worked weekly.
    • Focus
      • The reality is, you can’t have everything.  Trying to fit 20 ounces into a 16 ounce bottle is futile: you’re playing a game that you’re guaranteed to lose.  Don’t waste your life.  Instead, pick a focus, and you’ll at least get that one thing done.
      • On quantity: From a strategy point of view: Strategy A is to try to get too many things, say 10 things, done and fail.  Strategy B is to try to do a reasonable amount of things, say 5, and succeed.  Repeating Strategy A will be repeating failure.  Repeat Strategy B twice and you will have achieved the 10 things.
      • On Quality: Don’t get distracted by other things–you need to get all your frequent flier miles on the same airline.  If you practice a year of tennis, a year of violin, a year of science, you probably won’t achieve the quality of someone who put all three years into one activity.

This post is part of AttemptedLiving’s Life Education Curriculum, a collection of core knowledge everyone should have.

Self Improvement:  Part 2: Planning and Part 3: Decision Making

To find out when those posts, and other life education writing, are released, subscribe on the side! Follow on Twitter, on Facebook, on Google+, on Tumblr.

Subscribe to receive more advice to improve your life! Follow on Twitter, on Facebook, on Tumblr.