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 -
Hello again - kind of a small follow up to my overanxiety and such posts. I was resting earlier and trying to do a half meditation regarding what is the source of negative overanxious thoughts. I think a lot of people suffer from bad idle thoughts during downtime or periods of unfocused thinking. Anyway it'd be nice to get these to stop as they generate all sorts of unwarranted negativity that will likely never come true.
The process: I was just letting my thoughts run wild and then in the middle of it just grab a sudden burst of consciousness and try to figure out where that train of thinking originated. I couldn't find it most of the time. For reference this same process is how one trains themselves to be lucid dreamers (waking up consciously while still sleeping/dreaming with the added bonus of being able to control the dream consciously). Anyway I just realized a lot of my thinking was automatic and while I could trace the train of thought I could not originate it most of the time. Scary stuff huh - most of our thoughts are spawned from some sort of nothingness without our conscious input.
That's when it hit me. Maybe negative thoughts are just reptilian brain autopilot. It is like we are born with microcomputers embedded inside us which play an infinite sort of paranoia loop regarding things we need to do to survive. If it's not eat / drink / sleep / shelter it's pay the bills or I hope x,y,z doesn't happen etc... Basically it's an automated task you can't really quit that runs in the background if you idle your thoughts enough to peek behind the hood. Given that maybe it's best not to take it too seriously then as it's original intent is to keep our physical bodies intact. With that goal maybe it is better we have these reptilian brains lest we aim our thoughts too high then forget to tend to ourselves for a couple days and fall ill or die.
Anyway to conclude: there's a delicate balance at hand here. We should check on it every so often like a task calendar but not become so obsessed with it to the point of actually just staring at it and ruminating at the contents for hours. It's there to keep you alive and it's there to give you information - and that's it. When you're driving you keep your eyes on the road and what's in front of you. You should not be staring at the speed gauge obsessively all the way down the road as that is a sure-fire recipe for an accident. The reptilian paranoia brain is a point of reference and a survival tool but given the amount of attention you give it in your life it should remain solely as a reference. Check the speed every so often but keep your focus and drive on your destination.