“A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” — James 1:8
“Don’t think. You already know what you have to do, and you know how to do it. What’s stopping you?” — Tim Grover
Now, more than ever, your mind is being pulled in a million directions. Your ability to immediately filter the noise from the signal, and then to dispel the noise, is essential.
In order to become successful in the first place, you must have incredible focus.
Once you’ve developed a certain degree of success, your ability to focus will become more scattered than ever. People will want your time and attention. Countless “opportunities” will present themselves to you.
You will be highly swayed by these opportunities. People will sense that special spirit about you. They’ll want what you have. They’ll be persistent and relentless about getting your time and energy directed toward their goals.
You’ll have a hard time saying “no.” Given that you’ve learned how to be productive, you’ve developed amazing capabilities and confidence — you’ll try to extend yourself beyond harmonious limits.
You’ll try to satisfy people you shouldn’t satisfy. It will end up costing you a great deal — in emotions, time, and self-respect (and will also cost others their time as well).
You’ll try to justify in your head why you can and should help certain people, or take on various opportunities. In the book, Good to Great, Jim Collins said, “A ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ is irrelevant if it is the wrong opportunity.” Never forget that good is the enemy of great; and great is the enemy of best. As former law professor and justice of the Supreme Court, Dallin Oaks said, “We should be careful not to exhaust our available time on things that are merely good and leave little time for that which is better or best.”
If you want to get immediate progress in your life, you must get clear on what you want, and say “NO” immediately to everything else. The more “successful” you become the harder this will be, unless you create an environment to shield you from everything distractive to your goals.
“Learn to keep the door shut. Keep out of your mind and out of your world every element that seeks admittance with no helpful end in view.” — George Matthew Adams
In the epic TED TALK, philosopher Ruth Chang explains how to make hard decisions.
Firstly, you must realize that hard decisions exist because there aren’t clear and compelling REASONS to select one or the other. Usually, hard decisions exist because you’re comparing apples and oranges. Very rarely are two decisions exactly the same.
So, instead of doing a cost/benefits analysis, a better approach is to:
Who do you want to become?
Every choice you make sets you on a path. Your identity is formed by your decisions. An essential component of true decisions is that you “cut-away” alternatives to that decision. You remove obstacles. You create an environment that triggers and constrains you to act in accordance with that decision.
You can’t act according to clear and big decisions without an environment that constrains you to act in accordance with those decisions. Who you are and what you can do is shaped by your situation. All behavior is outsourced to an environment. So if you’re serious about something, you need an environment to make it happen.
“We have a bias when it comes to non-essential activities as well as belongings. When we feel we own an activity it becomes harder to uncommit. Only when we admit we have made a mistake in committing to something, can we make a mistake a part of our past.” — Greg McKeown
When you’ve already committed to something, you’ve begun to tie your identity to that thing. Economists call this phenomena “sunk cost bias.”
This makes un-committing to things very difficult. People don’t like dealing with negative emotions. People also like being viewed as consistent. Hence, most people don’t un-commit, but continue pursuing things they aren’t 100% about. All the while, their internal conflict increases, their confidence decreases, and their ability to manifest desired goals drops to near nil.
The longer you pursue aims you aren’t 100% definite about, the less confidence you will have. Confidence and self-trust are the same thing. You can’t trust yourself if you have low standards for yourself. If you continue on paths you aren’t clear about, you demonstrate to yourself that you aren’t worth much, and that what you want isn’t something you should have. This demonstrates a small self-image. Confidence, then, comes from taking steps in the right direction — it is a byproduct of quality choices.
Making bold and compelling decisions is how you shatter your small self-image.
Shoot some texts right now, before you finish reading this article. Un-commit to things immediately which you shouldn’t have ever committed to in the first place. This will clear your conscious mind and upgrade your subconscious sense of what you can have.
Send some honest, kind, and apologetic texts. People will not be happy. But at least you’ll stop stringing them along.
You could say something like:
“I had a moment of clarity today. I realized I’m terrible at things I’m not 100% definite about. It’s clear that I’m not 100% definite about the work we’re doing together (or whatever the relationship represents). I’ve tried to force things to happen because I genuinely love and respect you, and what you do. But it’s become clear that I’m not 100% in this relationship, and probably never will be. I don’t want to waste any more of your time. I’m sorry I haven’t been upfront and honest with you or myself. I wish you the best.
The more non-essential things you can un-commit to, the more focused energy you can put into the things which truly matter. As you do this relentlessly, your confidence will surge. Your mind will become crystal, and your ability to come up with powerful ideas and creativity will expand. Your productivity will be off the charts.
Working memory is your short-term memory. And it’s very costly to try to keep ideas there. If you’re trying to remember something for a finite period of time (minutes, days, months, etc.), you might end up forgetting.
There’s a huge opportunity cost to having a clogged and cluttered mind. Because you’re fixated on holding the ideas you have in your head, you can’t let your mind wander and get new insights.
One of the key reasons you must un-commit immediately, and then create a systematic way of saying “No” to things that don’t matter, is that your working memory is finite and PRECIOUS.
People’s minds are becoming increasingly fragmented and cluttered.
In order to succeed big in today’s world, you need focus. You need to be able to engage in what Cal Newport calls, DEEP WORK, daily.
You can’t do deep work if you lack a clear conscious. You can’t have a clear conscious if you’re not honest with yourself and with others. You can’t have a clear conscious if you’re involved in too many things — especially things you’re not definite about.
In order for deep work to happen, you must have an environment that facilitates it. You must have systems in place to ensure you stay the course of your goals — as well as systems to ensure you don’t miss the opportunities which may be worth re-directing your course.
You may be able to handle the complexity of handling logistics, vision, and creativity for a while, but eventually, you need to outsource and automate everything that distracts your focus. As NYC Real Estate Queen and Shark Tank Shark, Barbara Corcoran has said, “You are really not in business until you hire your first person.”
You are the biggest bottleneck of your own growth. You’re trying to do too much. Your focus is shattered. You can’t go deep. You can’t focus on vision and radical growth, because you’re too busy putting out fires that someone else should be putting out for you. You’re too focused on the urgent and not the important.
Your conscious attention is focusing on a million things that should never be brought to its attention.
Want to make huge progress in 2018?
Un-commit immediately to anything you’ve erroneously committed to already. Clear your future of things that shouldn’t be there.
Then, create a system to shield yourself from making incorrect commitments in the future.
Only put your mind and energy toward things you’re definite about. If you don’t live with definiteness, your ability to achieve huge things becomes greatly diminished. Your conscious is unclear and inharmonious. Your thinking is fragmented and unproductive. Your environment (and the people in it) are keeping you stuck with a small self-image and low standards.
Don’t let this be you any longer.
I’ve created a cheat sheet for putting yourself into a peak state, immediately. If you follow this daily, you’ll be able to proactively create the life you want.
Originally published at journal.thriveglobal.com