5 Guiding Principles Of Life You Will See Again And Again If You Love Self-Improvement
“I’ve seen some s*it”.
I would say I started getting into self-improvement 3 years ago. Back then I was extremely neurotic, anxious, unhappy, and lost.
I guess I’m still a bit of those, we all are. But I definitely have gone through a lot of experiences and things that have taught me well. I’ve gotten a lot of my life a lot more “together” when it comes to dating, fitness, health, and business. I’m much happier.
In getting over a lot of my own anxiety and depression, I have seen some pattens repeat themselves in myself and others when it comes to life.
And most importantly, I’ve found out about things that just don’t work or are actually harmful.
I wanted to share these things with you so that hopefully you can keep them in your mind too as you move forward and work on improving yourself.
1. Comparison to others is completely unfair. Compare present you to past you.
We live in a society based on comparison and living up to some arbitrary standard: get this car, your significant other has one freckle, you need to learn faster…
But what is this arbitrary standard? Is it ever attainable?
As humans, we look to others to gauge our results and progress. It’s normal. But if you always do this you’ll constantly be in a race of “keeping up with the Joneses” whether it’s in whom we date, what we own, or our abilities.
You and everyone else is on their own personal journey. Some are worse at certain things, some are better. While you are busy wishing you had Person X’s intelligence, they are wishing they had your flair for adventure.
Someone may have gone through a lot of trauma as a kid and is scared of talking to people. That may be you. So you say, “Why is my friend so easily able to talk to people and I can’t? I suck”.
Everyone is improving. Everyone has a different past.
Only compare yourself to whom you were in your own past.
Have YOU gotten smarter? More confident? Made more money? Become happier?
Your comparison to whom you were in the past is all that matters and is the only way you can judge your life accurately.
2. Life is 20% the actual events that occur to you, and 80% your interpretation of those events.
Why is it that the same event can happen to different people, but they react totally differently?
One person gets rejected by someone when they try to kiss them and feels worthless. The other laughs it off, assuming the person is nervous and is not ready yet.
One person loses their job and goes into a tailspin of depression. The other says “Good riddance”, and looks to start finding a job that is better and makes them happier.
Reality is malleable. You can bend it. In fact, you can teach yourself to always be optimistic by searching for the good in every situation. It might sound airy-fairy, but there’s always a positive.
You don’t want to completely ignore negative situations or emotions, that’s unhealthy and unrealistic… but many times we drown in negativity for no good reason.
For example: Yes being sick sucks and being unproductive is annoying, but you can use the time to relax, read, and catch up with a friend over Skype.
Yes being rejected in dating sucks, but you can use it as a signal flare to say that maybe you didn’t present yourself well enough, maybe that person wasn’t right for you, and maybe you’re going to find someone even better.
This is one of the cornerstone techniques in the philosophy of Stoicism. You can learn more about it in William B. Irvine’s book, A Guide To The Good Life.
So while I fully support acknowledging negative emotions (as repressing them is HORRIBLE for you), many times we let negative thoughts over take us for no reason, when there is a whole side of the story that is positive and that we are missing.
Try it for 2 weeks: Always look for the positive interpretation of the situation. How does your mood or outlook on life change?
Just make sure you don’t make this common mistake when it comes to positive thinking (read about it here).
3. Connection is everything and gives you anything. Humans were put on the Earth to connect.
This is a strong statement made in Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly, but I whole heartedly believe it. She mentioned it in the context of people only, but I want to expand on that.
Usually we think more about our goals this way:
I want to make money.
I want to have sex.
I want to get built, and so on…
Some of your goals are absolutely independent of others. But most will involve other people in some way.
E.g., you want to make money. Let’s assume you want to get a job at a great company. Someone will hire you because of your qualifications, absolutely. But first and foremost, people ask do they like you? Do they trust you? Is there some kind of common ground? Nobody will want you if you are just a jerk to everyone.
And the same with sex and dating – emotional connection drives us together. If we think the other person cares about us, portrays themselves confidently, and expresses what they want to us… attraction happens and fireworks fly.
But what about the gym? That’s pretty much just on you, right?
True, I wouldn’t say it relies on other people, really. But there are other forms of connection going on…
You connect to your burning desires to grow strong, to be better, and to your self-discipline… something deep inside propels you forward. You connect with the floor, ball, muscles, or barbell.
Our emotions fuel us forward, just as they do to learn an instrument, write a book, compose a language, and more.
Connection – whether with others or within yourself will give you everything you need and is necessary to survive. Don’t cast it aside and don’t underestimate it.
4. Quick fixes don’t exist. There are no magic pills.
A lot of slimey marketing plays on the emotions of people in self-improvement.
Sure, as I mentioned, selling and connecting with people is one thing. Presenting a product or solution to help people feel better or solve a problem is the ONLY way to sell and is great.
But using the fact that many people are fundamentally unhappy and willing to buy anything to make themselves feel better?
Many products on the market promise results in 15 days, money worries no more, you can become attractive to anyone…
But they usually fail to mention the absolute sheer amount of work and grind involved. There is pain, sacrifice, frustration… but if you push through it’s worth it.
I went through a lot of rejection when I first started dating, and I know many other guys did as well. I’m still working everyday on my business and do not 100% support myself from it as of writing this article. My friend had to work out 4 days a week in the gym for hours over a span of 6 months while completely changing his diet to lose most of his belly fat and get stronger.
Things take work beyond our imagination, but we feel so much better after because we realize we didn’t use any crutches. We worked on our own way, maybe with some guidance from others and a book or two, but we did it.
And on that note – patience and self-compassion are necessary virtues. It’s completely unfair to expect change within days when you’ve been or done something a certain way for years.
It’s takes time to change. There are no magic pills.
Be very cautious of anyone who promises instant results, but know that if you work consistently at something and don’t give up, you will succeed.
5. The people you surround yourself with will make or break you.
“You are the average of the 5 people you surround yourself with. – Jim Rohn”
I often say that if it weren’t for my friends I would be nowhere. But the people you spend the most time with WILL rub off on you in every single area of your life.
They determine your income.
They determine how good you are with people.
They determine your levels of optimism, neuroticism, anxiety, and resilience.
They determine how you want to spend your time.
They are EXTREMELY influential in your life and you want to treat who you are spending the most time with almost as a marriage interview.
If these people make such a big difference in your life, you’d better pick right…
And also, do not be afraid to limit your contact with them or completely cut them out if you don’t like them – whether that be a family member, an old friend, or otherwise.
Life is too short to hang out with crappy people and let them bring you down. You’ve got one life to crush.
These are 5 principles I’ve seen repeat themselves over and over in my life as I’ve been growing.