“I know what to do, but I just can’t get myself to act.”
Have you ever found yourself saying this?
While it’s an honest statement of what many of us go through, do consider what you’re telling yourself on a consistent basis and how that influences your reality. The more you repeat something to yourself, the more chance that thing will become real to you, even if it doesn’t reflect the entire truth.
“I just lack discipline” or “I don’t know what happens but I just find myself demotivated” are other things you might say as well. It’s okay to be honest, but pay attention to how frequently you repeat these things.
The more you focus on thoughts of being incapable, the deeper you dig yourself into a pit where you become exactly those things you say you are. In this pit, you actively create a self-fulfilling prophecy, whereby you end up not being able to act because you’ve made it a reality.
In other words, you box yourself in to your own cage by repeating the things you say to yourself. The more you say it, the harder it is to change.
In this pit, all you’ll find is dissatisfaction, irritability and low morale.
Self-Control Will Lead to Better Thoughts
You might not have given much thought to self-control, but it’s something we’ve talked about before and continue to explore today. Self-control, similar to self-discipline, is the ability to refrain from doing certain actions, usually harmful, and the ability to take actions that are difficult but beneficial to us.
The more self-control you have, the more you’re able to take meaningful action towards your goals and to limit those harmful actions that undermine your progress. The most successful people in any field practice self-control.
However, having self-control isn’t about being perfect. Quite the contrary, in fact. Distractions will always be there, as will temptations to go astray and do what is more thrilling or pleasurable in the moment.
Think of chocolate when you’re on a diet: it probably has never looked sweeter than when you’ve been eating salads and healthy dishes.
It’s like the saying goes: only someone who feels fear can truly be brave. If you didn’t have temptations, you wouldn’t need to practice self-control. We want to emphasize this so you don’t go out and try to unrealistically remove all distractions from your life, because you can’t get rid of them all.
Self-control is the answer to this.
When you master self-control, you are able to forgo the instant gratification for the bigger vision: a life of success and less chaos. You will have a more focused mind, with more focused thoughts, as a result.
The Benefits and Dangers of Humorous Media
One element of self-control is becoming aware of what media we’re consuming and how it affects us.
Consider whether your media is helping or aiding your development.
When we fail to achieve what we set out to do in life, looking back at that failed outcome with a playful attitude can be instrumental in finding the right lessons and moving forward. Looking at life with humorous eyes and finding what makes you smile and laugh can change your life for the better.
However, in this era of social media and memes, it’s easy to get caught up in the comfort of jokes about lacking self-control and being lazy. This humour may lead us to believe that everyone is failing in the same way, and that it’s normal to just give up on aiming for self-improvement.
Have you seen posts glorifying the struggles of “adulting”, or other such memes that make jokes about how being an adult is a tired and miserable experience? These memes can connect with people because they speak to realisations of adulthood, and that’s great. But be careful if they’re reinforcing negative thoughts, just like we talked about above.
That’s only one example. You might belong to an older generation and find yourself in other negative cycles of consuming media that only confirms one negative view of the world.
The danger of becoming absorbed in this online content is getting comfortable in a place where you feel that not living as your best self is normal. It’s okay to be self-accepting of your flaws, but to lose that drive to improve yourself and the lives of those around you means you won’t achieve your dreams, no matter how much you want or deserve it.
Perhaps you’ve seen enough memes about young people always being late, being unfaithful in relationships or being a chief procrastinator, as some examples, that these types of behaviours feel more normal to you. Because “everyone” is doing these things, you lean into the jokes and they become a part of your reality.
For some, it doesn’t have a negative effect. For others, they find that their perceptions of the norm change.
You can always find a reflection of yourself on the internet. Be careful whether the content you’re consuming is lifting you up and challenging you, or giving you excuses to sink back into comfortable, but ultimately destructive, habits. Think about how online media really affects your life.
Think about whether you’re turning to humour as an excuse not to change.
Be Aware of the Multiple Sides of Yourself
You are a multi-sided human being. You are more than one thing alone.
Within all of us is an energy, akin to what we’ll call a monkey, that wants to live in the now and have fun. It has an excitable, chaotic energy that is the life of the party.
For some of us, this monkey-like energy is on the surface. For others, it is less obvious.
This part of you is valuable. Be sure to embrace it when it’s appropriate, for it can bring out a joy in your life that is unmatched. But also beware this side of you; those who lack self-control will find that this more primal side of themselves comes to light more often than they would like.
It doesn’t always present itself as wild and energetic, but as the side that just wants to live in the now; to watch that movie instead of working, or play that video game, or go see their partner, rather than to do the hard work.
That side of you values enjoyable experiences over all else. It doesn’t care for working hard.
It won’t tolerate discomfort, even if it’s for your own good.
This is where self-control comes into play. When the monkey shows up while you’re busy doing serious work, it will be with the urge to do something else; to watch a movie or call a friend or play a game. You know what follows if you give in to this urge before you’ve made progress.
You won’t get anything done.
And with time, the stress and anxiety of not finishing what needs to be done will drive you to finish your work. After you’ve done what you need to, the cycle begins again.
It’s really up to you to put your wiser part at the forefront of decision making. Tell the monkey-like side of you to sit down, and be serious about it. It usually takes thinking through the consequences of procrastination in order to properly remove the monkey from the driver seat of your decision-making.
For example, if you risk humiliation in front of people or losing a job or even failing an important test, you find that you are able to enforce self-discipline in order to stop that from happening. The reason why is that you have an immediate consequence that will be more painful than just enforcing some discipline.
If you are aware of how you are constantly moving away from pain and moving towards pleasure, you’ll be able to use that to motivate yourself. Focus on the pain that will come from not finishing your work, and the pleasure of finishing a task and that feeling of satisfaction that comes with it, for motivation.
It will take time to learn how to navigate the multiple sides of yourself and get them working in harmony for your best interests, but with some practice it will become a reality for you.
Let the image of completing your goal consume your mind so much that the instant temptation to stray away from it is overpowered. If necessary, combine this with the image of what will happen if you procrastinate. The important part here is to feel the emotions as though you’re experiencing it.
Humans are driven by emotions more than logic, in most cases. You need to feel.
If you do this well, you’ll find yourself compelled to get back to work.
It won’t be easy at first, just like most skills that are worth having. Practicing self-control is like exercising a body muscle: it is painful at first, but it gets better with time.
Identify that monkey-energy in your system as much as you can, and learn to integrate it. Use the pain of not completing your task and the pleasure of seeing it finished to motivate you.
By developing self-control, you will develop more positive thoughts that will improve your life. And with more awareness of the multiple sides of you, you’ll be able to integrate them together and get back to working towards your goals.
In no time, you’ll be on the path to success once more.