Stop being easily swayed by anything that’s in front of you. Start living a value-based lifestyle.
When you wake up in the morning and get out of bed — or even before you get out of bed — what’s the first thing that grabs your attention? Whatever it is, it’s going to be responsible for your first thoughts of the day. Throughout the rest of your day, you’ll be faced with a bombardment of distractions that will grab your awareness away from what you’re doing.
We live in an attention-based economy. Companies and people can only sell you products and services if they first have your attention, after all. This is nothing new, but with the rise of clever marketing statics (ex. Data-collection, branded content, personalized advertisements, etc.) most people are often being sold things without even realizing it.
THERE’S A BATTLE within all of us. I try to detach for a moment, and recognize the duality — the two distinctive wants that battle for majority attention:
The want of difficulty, and of seeking betterment for ourselves. Doing the right thing for the long-term, no matter how much hard work is needed.
The want of ease, and taking the path of least resistance. Doing the easiest thing no matter how detrimental it might be long-term.
Biologically speaking, human beings have evolved to favor ease over difficulty. Though, our prefrontal cortex — the most complex and cognitive part of our brain — has the ability to want more than just what’s easiest, and tries to combat our more primal and sluggish behavior.
Often times, this is a battle we lose, and a vicious circle is created. When there’s a feeling of guilt after wasting the day away, which only demoralizes and causes further laziness.
In my opinion, the most effective way to defeat laziness within one’s self is by utilizing two different tools: momentum and mindfulness.
I believe there is good reason why ‘morning rituals’ are so largely talked about in the field of self-improvement. (1, 2, 3) When you start the day on a good note, it’s far easier to continue it. An object in motion stays in motion.
But a good day is only a good day — there needs to be a larger picture. That’s where the idea of not breaking the chain comes in. The idea that you must commit to doing something daily without allowing yourself to slip.
The more consecutive days you have going for you, the more momentum you build. The more you’re willing to fight to make sure you don’t break the chain and keep your streak going. But what happens if you fail?
When we find ourselves in the middle of a bad day, it’s easy to similarly continue on with it and dismiss trying to salvage anything good out of it. It’s easy to find excuses or lament after failure.
The best way to move on from this and redeem yourself is to realize that you’re the only one pinning yourself downward — the world does not care.
You’re under no obligation to be the same person you were five minutes ago. — Alan Watts
Do not try to hold onto your shortcomings and regrets, take the lessons you learn from these things then dismiss the rest of the negativity. It helps nobody, particuarly yourself.
It can be rather difficult to understand — let alone control — your emotions if you’ve let them run astray for too long. The stoic act of distancing yourself from the emotional, impulsive part of your mind is one that needs to be practiced.
CONCLUSION: If you want to use your time more effectively, and not waste it, work with improving what you’re already doing right, while also working on not being too hard on yourself. Hold onto the good, and let go of the bad.
“It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much. … The life we receive is not short but we make it so; we are not ill provided but use what we have wastefully.”
— Seneca, On the Shortness of Life
Time is all we have — and it is our only limited currency. You can always get more money, you can always get more energy, but you can never get back time that you’ve spent. No matter how healthy you live, no matter how good your genetics are, your time is rangebound.
What isn’t so transfixed is our perception of time. A day that is spent doing something that is completely novel and laborious feels exponentially longer than a day spent doing something that is routine and pleasurable. Our mind has the ability to stretch or shorten our sensation of time, depending on our activities and mood.
But the easiest way to embellish our time is to simply cherish it — to be proactively mindful and conscious of what we’re doing at any moment. This is one of the keys to meditation, and in reality, it can be done anytime.
Imagine each day you’ve lived that you can’t even remember because you allowed yourself to mindlessly follow the same routine. Monotony is what accelerates our awareness of time. Uniformity is the enemy of our longevity.
Imagine instead, if you asked yourself the following question every five minutes throughout the day: “Am I happy with how I’m using my time right now?”
It’s effortlessly easy to become absorbed in the unimportant, or to become caught up in whatever is in front of you. It takes far more energy to be acquainted with each passing breath, each beating of the heart.
There might be an impossibility in capturing the entire day, each day. Not every fleeting moment of our lives needs to have some sort of grand meaning behind it. Rather, try to do just one thing each day to make it memorable, and take a few moments to just not do anything except appreciate the time you have. Use the hours, don’t count them.