One foggy morning on my commute to work, I felt utterly defeated. I would be lying to say this was a first. Unfortunately, it is a common theme throughout my life and a familiar emotional state on my daily commute to work. Maybe you know the feeling? It’s not an overwhelming feeling of loss. It’s the feeling of numbness. Your body is wilted and your mind circles slowly with no apparent exit. It’s just another day and all those vivid dreams and desires of what you want your life to be never seem to float any closer. You’re stuck in route to one more obligation, one more meeting, one more project and one more paycheck.
Why do you feel this way? How do you change? Where do you start? I am redirecting the purpose of Better Than Yesterday to explore ideas and techniques to help you and me move forward.
Why I have come to this point? Well here is the backstory.
I’m pretty normal. Whenever I listen to the news and they talk about some large percentage of Americans are this or that or have this or have that – it’s me. I live in a 1200 square foot home. I have a beautiful wife, 2 boys, 2 dogs and a fish. I commute 45 minutes a day to a great job. I leave the house at 7:30am and get home at 6:30pm. Once I’m home I eat, I play with the kids, I go to sleep and I do it all again the next day – everyday. I’m not wealthy. I’m not particularly talented in the expected meaning of the word, e.g. I don’t sing well, I can’t dance, I’m not Monet. I consider myself to be in pretty good shape though I’m not an athlete. I’m just pretty average.
I needed to shake it up.
In the Spring of 2014, I ran for local political office. I needed to take a giant leap outside of my comfort zone and this was a perfect opportunity.
Thankfully, I am blessed to have a very supportive wife. While she was concerned about the toll on my time and energy, she was also concerned about the impact the undertaking would have on our little tribe. I pledged I would not let the campaign interfere with the well being of our family (putting bread on the table) nor would I let it compete for my attention as a husband and father.
With eight candidates going head to head for 3 contested seats, needless to say, the election was incredibly competitive. For nearly four months, I was a machine. I raised thousands of dollars. I wrote letters to the editor. I created marketing materials, wrote blog posts, and kissed babies on the forehead. I knocked on nearly 1000 doors in a 3 week period. I did all of this with a full time job (and in the midst of a job search). The campaign was awesome, but I lost.
After I recovered from the post-election high/blues, I quickly became frustrated. I fell back into very familiar routines of living. I call these routines the default. The default is comprised of habits, patterns and excuses that occur in one’s natural state. Everyone’s default is different. When my time is not obligated to other responsibilities, my default is a general lack of discipline combined with very familiar friends – alcohol, food, Netflix binges, sleeping late, procrastination and a unhealthy need for peer-approval.
When it comes to plans and dreams, I talk a great game, but in reality I don’t get very far. With respect to personal goals, long and short term, accomplishing them always entails 1) waiting longer than I plan and 2) compromising to some degree so that I might achieve 60%-75% of a goal as opposed to 90%-100%.
My default is my fault. It is built upon years and years of experiences, reactions to certain stimuli, dependency upon certain chemicals and habits built to help me compensate for life’s constant balancing act.
For weeks after the election, I calmly sorted through the mental artifacts to glean a bit of perspective and let the previous four months sink in, process and catalyze. Then it occurred to me. What made the previous four months of my life different? Why was I able to accomplish so much more in that period of time than any other in recent memory. During the campaign, without realizing it, I had changed my default. I altered my normal behavior to organize my time and energy to accomplish a large task. Even more so, I had captured the energy and excitement of breaching one’s comfort zone. This, in turn, fueled my efforts past all that I had known possible.
If I was able to change my default for four months, why couldn’t I do this for a year, two years or a lifetime? What if I could define the process I employed during the election and create a framework for myself which allowed me to better organize my time and channel the same level of energy to accomplish more – of my choosing.
Via Better than Yesterday, I will explore topics, ideas and techniques that allow you to:
1. Improve in all dimensions of your life
2. Sharpen your skills
3. Focus your goals and priorities
4. Achieve milestones in your life
Every person is born with one thing in common. You may not be especially talented. You may not be the smartest person in the room. You might be born to poverty or riches. I argue none of this matters. Time is the one equalizing factor. By making the most of your time and applying that time to very definite goals you can live the life you design. By being more intentional with your time you can overcome that stuck feeling by learning what’s truly important to you and instill actions that reflect such.
If you don’t have a well-bound journal please buy one. I’m currently experimenting with a three ring binder. Over a two to three week period, make notes about your default. Do this during the day, at the end of the day — it doesn’t matter — just do it. Think about these questions:
How did I spend my overall time today?
How did I spend my down-time today?
What would I have done differently?
What did I enjoy?
What habits did I express today?
What did I do when I was free of obligation?
What is the first thing I did when I arrived home from work?
What is the first thing I did when I awoke in the morning?
Observe yourself and your behavior. Don’t place judgement. Just observe. You’ll understand yourself more. Once you understand yourself better, you’ll be more effective at implementing change. I’ll write more about that in the coming weeks.
Until next time. Be well.