I once listened to an interview with an entrepreneur and author named Derek Sivers. In the interview, he said something that has stuck with me for quite a while.
He said, “If information was all we needed, we’d all be billionaires with six-pack abs.”
It’s funny. We all have a tendency to discard available evidence for our own theories about life.
We’ll say things like, “I have no business experience.” “I have no connections.” “I don’t know the right workout routine.”
The reality? You have more than enough information to do pretty much anything you want in life.
Want to learn how to run a business? There is no foolproof recipe for starting one, but there is a mountain of information on how to start and countless examples of what has worked for others.
Want to get in shape? Pick your poison — Cross fit, traditional bodybuilding, running, yoga, cycling, whole 30, paleo, juicing, Atkins, weight watchers, [insert 9700 other different routines and programs].
With all the available information out there, why don’t we all get the most we possibly can from it and live these extraordinary lives? That’s the question many have been trying to solve for a long time. There’s no single answer for this, which is why people like me pose as many questions as possible to get to the heart of the situation for each individual.
Here on some of my thoughts on why it’s so hard to thrive and succeed even though we have all the answers on how to do both and what you can do about it.
At a deep level, we all have a tendency to feel unworthy. Since we know every single little thing about ourselves, we have mountains of evidence for why we can’t do something. You know how many times you’ve tried and failed before. You know all of the situations you’ve been in that confirm the self-doubt you feel. You know the thoughts running through your mind — the thoughts you wouldn’t want anyone else in the world but you to know.
That’s a lot of weight to carry. How do you counteract it?
Here’s a little trick I use — I build a mental case for my competence and confidence.
Imagine you’re a defense lawyer having to make the case for why you deserve to succeed. Maybe, like a real lawyer, you know your client is ‘guilty’ but your job as their counsel is to put them in the best possible light in front of the judge and jury.
Go ahead and take a piece of paper out and start documenting your evidence.
Find the answers to questions like:
When have you shown confidence?
When have you accomplished something and received a compliment for it?
What do people tell you you’re good at that you have a tendency to ‘brush off’?
The point isn’t to navel gaze. The point is that the world has been showing you signs of your worth. When you ignore those signs, you feel unworthy of success.
Personally, I feel a lot of self-doubt, but it doesn’t paralyze me. Why? Because I remind myself of what I’ve done — from reading 100+ books to better myself, writing two of my own, taking chances and steps toward my dream, being scared and acting anyway.
So the process works like this — → remind yourself of what you’ve done (even if it seems insignificant) — → use the reminder as fuel to do something new — → remind yourself again — -> do something new again. This creates a positive feedback loop and you can build a mental staircase to many of your ultimate end goals.
I am not a psychologist and none of what I’m about to say is clinical advice. I’ve read up a little bit on cognitive behavior therapy and I’ve used a form of it to help overcome my doubt and follow through with goals I’ve set for myself.
Whenever you set a new goal for yourself doubt immediately sets in and you start to think of all the reasons why you can’t do it.
With CBT, you basically walk yourself through your thoughts, analyze where they’re coming from, and focus on whether or not they’re actually valid.
I’ll use business as an example since I know many of you are entrepreneurial. Let’s say you want to start a business and the doubt comes flooding in. Analyze every thought you have and then provide a counter thought.
“I don’t have enough business experience.” Is this really true? Is there some sort of quota required to become an entrepreneur? Are there no other entrepreneurs with your experience level? Can you find examples of people building experience while they build businesses? How do you build business experience without starting a business?
After this investigation, you’ll come to find that you’re making up reasons with no validity. You’ll realize counter-thoughts like the fact you’ve been an employee means you know something about how a business works, you can learn skills of any kind including business, you can set a small goal of finding one customer, etc.
Intuitively you know this, but walking through the process over and over again works.
I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s hard! But over time you can learn how to exert some control over your mind and follow through in spite of your doubt.
I talk about habits a lot because… habits make or break your life. Period. They just do.
You get six-pack abs or a beer gut from habits. You make wealth or struggle financially because of habits. You create good and bad habits that move the direction of your relationships with other people.
I won’t write a book about habits in this message (maybe I’ll write an actual one in the future…would you want to read it?) I’ll just leave you with the best trick I know — the keystone habit.
One habit can change your life entirely. The keystone habit is the habit that begets other habits.
For me, reading was my keystone habit. I can no longer count the number I’ve books I’ve read, I just keep reading. The reading habit led to a writing habit — two books and about a million words later, I’m still writing, and it doesn’t feel like some arduous hill I’ve climbed because it’s a habit instead of an uphill climb.
I attend a weekly public speaking club, work out three times a week, and write a Monday Motivation message every morning….out of habit.
You can’t shift your habits right away. Just pick one. Pick one that you can use to leverage into other useful habits and watch new ones fall into place.
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Originally published at medium.com