Change is hard. Self-improvement is the most difficult thing you will undertake, but it is the only thing that makes life worthwhile.
This was recently driven home to me while I was talking to a close friend. He was in several long term relationships with different girls but each girl had the same flaw. My friend realized that he was always falling for a particular type of girl so he took a year long hiatus from dating to work on himself.
I was really impressed by his decision to take a break from dating. It takes a lot to admit that you might have a problem. Unfortunately, in our conversation he confessed to me that he had begun dating another girl—one who has the same problem that the women from his previous failed relationships had.
My friend knows that he is repeating the same bad pattern, yet he is doing it anyway. It only goes to prove a point that real change is extremely difficult.
Most of us can never exceed our natural set point
Becoming a father has made me realize how much of our personality is set at birth. My first son was a very happy baby but I notice that he doesn’t like to do things until he is reasonably certain that he can do them. He’s a natural perfectionist.
This meant that he didn’t like to practice rolling as a baby. He didn’t crawl. One day he just started to stand up on his own and then he started walking.
He’s still like this today. I took him to a playground to try some climbing. He had no interest. I couldn’t even get him to try. A few months later, he just started doing it on his own.
I can already see how his perfectionist attitude could be a problem later in life. At some point he is going to encounter a skill that he will not be able to master easily. At that point he will have to make a choice: Will he exceed his natural aversion to practicing a difficult skill or will he let inertia keep him from achieving?
My second son is only five months old, but he is already showing lots of personality differences. He spent a lot of time practicing how to roll over. It is already obvious that he is going to be willing to put in the practice necessary to make himself successful.
All of us are born with natural inclinations—a set point for how we will behave in life. If your natural inclinations are very good, you will be a success in life naturally. If your inclinations are not so good, you will be a mediocrity—unless you can do something to exceed your natural set point.
The bad news is that 99.9% of people never change. They end their lives with the same weaknesses that they began with. The reason is that fighting inertia is very difficult. If you can conquer inertia, you have accomplished a task that is more difficult than the seven labors of Hercules.
Why not just throw in the towel?
If it is so difficult to change, why even bother trying? Why not just throw in the towel?
Mastering yourself will make you a better husband and father. If you are single, you’ll be able to find a higher value spouse. You will be able to demand more money from employers or successfully start your own business. Yes, you will be stronger and healthier and better looking.
But I don’t think this is enough to motivate most people, at least not in the long term. If your life is “good enough” why go through the trouble of fighting inertia?
Ultimately, the only reason to fight inertia is because you will know if you were successful in conquering yourself.
There is no secret
Making a temporary change is easy. Sticking to your change is hard. Losing weight is easy. Keeping it off is hard.
There are some systems that can help. Self help guru Tony Robbins recommends using affirmations for 30 minutes every morning to remind yourself to stick to your goals. Mike Cernovich and Dilbert creator Scott Adams also use daily affirmations to program themselves for success. Based on their example, I just started to affirmations. After a couple of months, I will add another blog post with the results of my use of affirmations.
Roosh has a great article on becoming a man of excellence that I think you will find helpful.
Lastly, I recommend that you also do an examination of conscience at the end of the day to check your progress.
An examination of conscience only takes two or three minutes at the end of the day. You simply review how you did on things you are working on. Here is my current examination of conscience:
- Did I stick to my diet today?
- Did I cultivate the awareness that I am a son of God?
- Did I complete my workout?
- Was I cheerful in every circumstance?
- Did I tackle each task with uncompromising energy?
- Did I do my affirmations (I just added this one)
It is important that your examination of conscience be written down. I use a notebook that I look at while I am doing the examination. If you do it from memory, the effect will not be as good.
It seems simple, but doing a nightly examination of conscience is a great way of reminding yourself of what is important to you.
Use these tools in your long term battle against inertia.
What systems or tools have you found to be successful in achieving self-mastery?