Email from a reader having a tough time. Ambitious, but in a rut. Here's an edited excerpt, my thoughts afterwards -
I had some thoughts as a part of trying to get myself out of a rut. The rut is from a bad combination [...] and a lack of drive and motivation. I'm not sure I can ever fully get out of it. I've been in it in some form or another for as long as I can remember. The following isn't an epiphany. Maybe the rut is something we can never escape, though some do better than others at trying. But I'll keep trying, I think. I've failed to many times in the past to be sure, but I will try. Maybe one day I'll escape it.
It goes on that way for a while - tough times, stuck in a rut, and thinking about it repeatedly. My take -
Okay, you're "ruminating" a lot. Google the term, read something about it.
There's pros and cons of ruminating. It helps you clear up whatever issues you have eventually, but makes you miserable in the process. The answer isn't to just stop ruminating, it's to get solved whatever you want solved and also cut back on ruminating at the same time.
A couple thoughts:
*Focus less on the goal and more on the process and especially enjoying the process. If you want, say, a social circle of 30 extremely high caliber people, stop thinking so much about what it'll be like once you get there, and more time thinking about doing nice things for people, reaching out to people, etc. Fantasize about the process, not the results. If you want to build a stone wall, spend less time thinking about the built wall and more time thinking about getting stones and laying them down. Then lay the stones. Think about the process, enjoy the process, do the process.
*I forget the exact term, but basically all-or-nothing thinking is extremely dangerously conducive to quitting and neurosis and bad feelings. I know, since I can be way guilty of it. One stumble and you're ready to give up, or whatever. Again, less time thinking on the goal, more on the process.
*Try to improve your self-talk. "Worthless... maybe I'll never get out of the rut..." etc, etc... is not helpful. Just use brute force willpower to cut back on doing it. When you find yourself doing it, replace it with something else. Say something like, "I'm taking action and trending upwards" - whatever. Seriously, I'm not big into new agey stuf, but re-read your email here. Look at the language. It ain't good man. Use willpower to modify it when you catch yourself doing it (it'll take a while - again, trend upwards).
*Worth remembering: Perfection doesn't exist on Earth.
Good luck. If you keep moving forwards, you keep moving forwards.
This is (as usual) absolutely true. Focusing on the end goal often brings nothing but frustration at the speed of progress towards it (we always want something sooner than it wants to come) or depression at the thought it may never be achieved. Loving the process, the incremental steps and improvements on the way towards the goal, is the only way to stay motivated. Besides, the goal is subject to several changes along the way.
Fighting rumination by participating in engaging activities and practicing mindfulness meditation is also a good way of dealing with anger. I wrote about the topic further in this post:
Hello Sebastian and Hello to the person who wrote you that message :)
Seb, this is a great way to approach is problem. Love it. Focusing on the process and ENJOYING the process is key. If you really don't like the process, are you SURE that you are doing what you love? Good question to ponder.
I'd like to throw 2 more things in there.
1) Has this reader read your magnificient post called Good Times Bad Times ?
Here's the link: http://www.sebastianmarshall.com/good-times-bad-times
Maybe he forgot all about the fundamentals (healthy diet, exercise that you enjoy, sleep enough, go walk outside). It pretty much saved me. When I get back from home, I go running/biking/rollerblading and it pumps me up. When I get home, shower, dinner, then sit down and get to work immediately.
2) In such a rut, one may wonder: does this person even ENJOY what he does? It's a super pre-requisite to actually getting shit done. Do you LOVE what you do? Is this truly your passion, do you work from your STRENGTHS everyday? (look to buy a new copy of StrengthsFinder 2.0 on amazon, take 25 mins to read the beginning of the book, 35 mins for the online test, and you will have a SUPER insight on your key talents that could become strengths if you apply the action things they give you for each of your 5 strengths.
Sometimes, you got to find the courage to stop what you're doing wrong, start fresh and move on to doing what you love (your passion), working from your strengths and providing value to people.
Watcha think, Seb?
Just my 2 cents there! :D
>Fantasize about the process, not the results.
According to 59 Seconds, , this is most effective when done in the third person. Here's an article if anyone's interested: http://sourcesofinsight.com/2011/01/04/how-to-visualize-with-skill/
Been in a bit of this myself lately, found this very helpful. It's strange, I find that when I fall away from the process, my mind CRAVES to be back in that state. Oftentimes if my mind can't find it in work, it will go to any activity that requires little thought - gaming, television as sort of a "sub-par" refuge while it waits for me to find my way back.
Thanks for the post.
I received a thought-provoking email from a reader about the nature of the internet. Here's the key quote that I think many people with empathize with:
I feel like a big luddite for saying this, but I hate the internet for what it brings out in me.
... I am trying to deal with what can only be described as an addiction.
Addiction to high-stimulation-distraction is quite common for intelligent people in the modern era. Surfing the internet, video games, things like that. There's sort of a natural selection websites go through, where the more addicting sites win out and spread and take marketshare and mindshare away from less addicting sites. Paul Graham wrote about this in, "The Acceleration of Addictiveness."
Three key thoughts for you, and then I'll share some of my experience with it -
It seems like almost high achiever I know finds the time to meditate and lift weights. Those are two fairly different activities which are usually associated with disparate stereotypes, but tons of high achievers do both. Not only do they do both of these things, but they ascribe some of their success to them.
Because of this observation, I've tried to meditate several times in my life. I went to a Vipassana retreat and left after two days. For a month I meditated for twenty minutes every night. The habit never seemed to stick, probably because I didn't know why I was doing it and didn't see any results.
Then I read a book called the Willpower Instinct. It said that both exercise and meditation increased will power. Further, it said that five minutes of meditation a day was enough, and that it would take two months for it to pay any dividends. Okay, I thought, I'll meditate every day for five minutes, and not quit for at least three months.
My technique, as outlined by the book, is to close my eyes, focus on my breath, and think "breathe in.... breathe out...". After a minute or two I stop the silent breathe in, breathe out chant and try to just focus on my breath. I used to find this process very frustrating, because I thought that if I strayed from thinking about my breath, that meant that I wasn't getting the benefits of meditation. It turns out the opposite is true-- meditation is supposed to be difficult, and it's this very straying and regrouping process that builds willpower.