One Of Life’s Most Important Questions

All of us know what we want in life that would make us happy – a great career, financial security, good looks, popularity, the list goes on. However, what we always fail to consider is how much are we willing to sacrifice for the things that we think would bring us happiness.

Mark Manson hits the nail squarely on the head when he wrote “… happiness requires struggle.”

“What pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for? Because that seems to be a greater determinant of how our lives turn out.”

When you want something, you need to realize that you need to want it enough that you are willing to go through the hard work, struggles, and risks of failure for it.

For example, if you want a great physique, you have to want the sweat, the soreness, the gym sessions over social outings, and the sacrifice of giving up junk food.

If you want the yacht, you have to also want the late nights, the risky business moves, and the possibility of pissing off a person or ten thousand.

In today’s world of instant gratification, we are conditioned to expect the reward without the struggle, the results without the process, instantaneously. But hey, life does not work that way.

The positive is the side effect of handling the negative. You can only avoid negative experiences for so long before they come roaring back to life. What we get out of life is not determined by the good feelings we desire but by what bad feelings we’re willing and able to sustain to get us to those good feelings.

If you find yourself wanting something for weeks, months, or even years yet nothing is happening, you better ask yourself if it is something that you really want. Better yet, is it something you want ENOUGH?

The answer to that question will help determine what are the struggles that you are willing to through to achieve things that will make you happy. If not, perhaps what you want is just a dream and not something that you truly want.

People who enjoys the daily struggles of a gym are the ones who get in good shape. People who enjoy the drudgery of long work-weeks and the politics of the corporate ladder are the ones who move up it. People who enjoy the stresses and uncertainty of the starving artist lifestyle are ultimately the ones who live it and make it.

They know their costs and are even willing to enjoy the struggle because they understand happiness requires struggle.

So ask yourself, “What are you willing to struggle for the happiness that you want today”?

This post was inspired by Mark Manson’s The Most Important Question Of Your Life. 

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.” – Amelia Earhart

The Art of NOT Procrastinating

It is the start of the day and I’m ready to rock and roll!

I get up with a full list of things I want to accomplish – get started on a work project, talk to a couple of clients about a new idea, get that presentation deck ready for an up coming meeting and etc.

Oh, there’s also a few emails that I need to send out from last week, and that other document that is pending for another project with a looming deadline, ugh, but those can still wait. right?

Before I know it, there’s this little voice saying perhaps some of the “more difficult” items can wait while I focus on the “easier” work so that I can get those done faster hence giving myself a bit more time later to focus on the harder tasks.

It becomes a vicious cycle of procrastination with plenty of stress, guilt, and frustration of not getting things done which does not seem to end!

After many procrastinating cycles and even more pending items later, I realised that there is actually a very simple way out of it – just get it done. Throw in a bit of discipline (and intentional focus), soon I was getting things completed – and that felt good!

Recently, I came across an interesting article by Heidi Grant on the Harvard Business Review which sheds light on why a person procrastinate and employing the right strategy to over come it.

In short, there are 3 reasons why we are more inclined to procrastinate. By recognising them and adopting the suggested solutions, it may actually help us be more effective getting things done.

Reason #1: We put things off because most of us are afraid of messing things up.

Solution: Try adopting a “prevention focus.”

There are two ways to look at any task. One, we can do something because we see it as a way to end up better off than we are now – as an achievement or accomplishment. This is what psychologists call promotion focused.

Or two, when we are driven by anxiety or doubt, and is afraid we might mess up a project or task. These fears and anxieties may actually paralyse us from taking any action at all.

So instead of thinking about how we can end up better off, we see the task as a way to hang on to what we have already got – to avoid loss. The author calls it prevention focus.

When we are focused on avoiding loss, it becomes clear that the only way to get out of danger is to take immediate action.

Overcoming our fear of messing up is a lot easier when we realise that there are more dire consequences if we do nothing at all.

Reason #2: Because we do not “feel” like doing it.

Solution: Ignore what our “feelings” and just do it.

Oliver Burkeman, author the book The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking points out that much of the time, when we say things like “I just can’t get out of bed early in the morning, ” or “I just can’t get myself to exercise,” what we really mean is that we cannot get ourselves to feel like doing these things.

To be honest, if you think about it, somehow we have been sold the idea that to be motivated and effective, we need to feel like we want to take action. To some degree, yes we need to be committed to what we are doing BUT we do not need to feel like doing it.

Afterall, successful people and top athletes get to where they are today because they rely on routines that forces them to put in a certain number of hours a day – rain or shine.

So what is stopping us? NOTHING! Because we really do not have to feel it to get things done.

Reason #3 We things off because it’s hard, boring, or otherwise unpleasant.

Solution: Use if-then planning.

We have to admit that our will power is limited and some days getting ourselves to do things we find tedious, boring, or awful can be a challenge.

This is where the if-then plan comes in handy.

Making an if-then plan helps us decide specific steps we need to take to complete a project and it also decides where and when we will take them.

For example, If I am unable to finish the report by 2pm, then I will stop what I am doing and work on the presentation that my colleague requested.

Deciding in advance what we are going to do, when and where we are going to do it, leaves us very little time to deliberate – reducing the demands placed on our willpower to decide at the critical moment because we have already made a decision way ahead.

So the next time you find yourself struggling with procrastination, take a step back to figure out why you are doing so and use one of the 3 strategies above to help you be more effective.