It’s not the box society puts us in that limits who we become, it’s the box we put ourselves in.
We are the primary authors of the thoughts, words and limitations that tend to do the most damage to our potential. It’s the stories we tell ourselves. The lies that stop us from taking action.
There is no mystery to success in any field. It’s a process of moving through The Thrash, honing direction, then acting consistently. Every. Single. Day.
Action, however, ain’t easy. Especially action that exposes you to judgment. Or to the unknown. Joseph Campbell’s abyss. We don’t like being in that place where we don’t know how things are going to turn out. So our “seemingly” rational brains conjure up all manner of reasons not to act. But, in doing so, they also keep us from what Campbell said lies deep inside that abyss. Our treasure.
This post is the first in 7-part series about the 7 lies we tell ourselves that keep us from success. With each new offering in the series, we’ll do a bit of myth-busting and box-breaking, then offer something to do.
I don’t have time.
There are people in this world for whom this claim is valid. If you’re a single parent working multiple jobs to keep a roof over your kids’ heads and put food on the table, that may be you. If you live in a developing country and spend every waking hour providing for your security and sustainability, that may be you.
If you have little access to education and no online or local access to tools, mentors and resources, you likely qualify. If you’ve eliminated all non-productive activities like TV, web-surfing, social-media, passive non-learning media consumption, drinking, smoking, killing time, then you’re probably that rare individual who gets a pass.
But, simply by the fact that you’re here, reading this now, makes it unlikely that you are that person. For the rest of us (#raiseshand), the “I don’t have time” lie simply doesn’t apply.
Because, with the exception of the above, time is never really about time, it’s about:
- Prioritization, and
In order to change your behavior, become a master of time and an action-investor, you first need to become aware of how you’re spending your time. Awareness is the precursor of deliberate change. Most of us have no idea how much time we’re really wasting on a daily basis. Especially because an increasing volume is being lost to the digital divide in hundreds or thousands of micro-bursts. A few seconds texting or status-updating here and a few minutes surfing there add up to hours a day, without you being even remotely aware of cumulative attention sinkhole you’re digging.
Three ideas to build awareness…
One, install RescueTime on your computer. It tracks where you’re spending your time in the background all day long. If you use an Android-based mobile-device, you can install it there and track track mobile time-obliteration, too. iPhone users are out of luck, at least for now.
Two, assess end-of-day time-allocation. Before you go to bed for 7-days, walk through your day and write down your RescueTime data, time on the phone that was non-growth-oriented, time consuming non-growth-oriented screen or other entertainment (videos, games, TV, etc.). Then count the total number of text/sms messages sent and received and multiply by 1-minute. Why one minute? Because, even though it only took you 5-10 seconds to compose or read each text, there is also a cognitive “ramping cost” for every single interruption. Meaning, it takes you time for your brain to get back to where it was and refocus again. Add up all the time and record the total number for each day.
Three, build a meditation practice. More specifically, a mindfulness practice. This is not an instant solution, but over time, it trains you to more easily notice where you are placing your attention. The best way to learn is live instruction. If you don’t have access to a mindfulness teacher locally, check out the Headspace app. It’s a great way to ease into the practice with guided instruction, starting only 10-minutes a day. And, by the way, those 10-minutes count as growth-oriented and awareness-building. So no need to note them on your daily time-sink journal.
All these awareness increasing processes set you up to be better able to…
2. Be More Intentional and Prioritize.
Once you start to become more aware (and, all too often horrified) at how you’re really spending your time, you also tend to awaken to the possibility of redirecting your efforts in a way that fuels the outcomes you truly want, rather than outcomes that come from a reactive and distracted approach to life.
Awareness creates both the inspiration and the space to become more intentional about how you invest your time and prioritize what matters most.
Write down what truly matters to you. Write down what success looks like to you. In all areas of life. Then, deconstruct it. What are the steps along the way that would bring you closer? And what are the actions you’d need to take to make each step happen?
Write it all down. Take time, this is hard work.
Then, before you go to bed each night, write down the 1 to 3 actions you can take the next day that will move the needle most in the direction of your most meaningful outcomes. Only write down what can be accomplished with assurance in a single day. If it’s part of a longer-term process, that’s fine. But for this exercise, chunk the action down to a single-day task. Do not wait until the morning to do this. If you do, it will rarely ever happen.
3. Take High-Leverage Action BEFORE Anything Else.
When you arise the next day, re-examine your short list of actions. Your willpower is always at its highest levels in the morning. As the day unfolds, your self-regulation tank runs pretty close to dry. So, do these high-leverage actions as early in the day as possible.
So, if your action is to meditate or exercise, do it first thing in the morning. Even if it means waking up earlier and going to sleep earlier to make it happen.
We’ve got someone on our Good Life Project team, Kristoffer Carter, whose unofficial title is “Time Bender.” He works a full-time job with a fair amount of travel. He has a wife and three little kids. He spends a lot of time with all. Not just face-time, quality-time. He runs and exercises nearly every day and meditates another hour to two hours a day.
He writes and performs music. He’s building his own outside-brand as a mindfulness-in-business evangelist, trainer and speaker. And that full-time job, it’s not with GLP. He works for us “on the side” and gets more accomplished in the time he gives us than any human I’ve ever seen.
A full-time, high-level job with travel, a wife and 3 kiddies and mantaining a home would be enough for your average bear to say “that’s it, I simply don’t have time for more.” No time for exercise, or meditation, or music, or friends or a future business side-hustle or a second-job with a completely different venture. He has every reason in the world to justify inaction beyond his core commitments. But, instead, he gets up every morning at 5:30 and optimizes nearly every minute of every day on a level that allows him to do what no one else does.
Notice, I didn’t say what no one else “can,” because, with rare exception YOU can. He does all this because he has cultivated a fierce awareness practice, he chooses every day, even when it’s brutally hard, to focus entirely on what matters. On high-leverage action. Or what he’d call “Right Action.”
Are you ready to take the challenge? To do the work to move through the first big lie that keeps you from success? As always, if you have more ideas, strategies, tips or tools, feel free to share them in the comments below.
P.S. – Be sure to subscribe if you haven’t already, so you don’t miss the next 6 self-lies that may be keeping you small and how to release yourself from their grip.
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