If you had to guess, how many days would you say the average human life has?
A) 28667 days
B) 340723 days
C) 1870943 days
Surprisingly enough, it's 28667 days.
To put that into context, if you are 25 years old, right now, you have 2792 weeks left to live if everything goes right.
And even if everything goes right, that feels uncomfortably short. Too short.
Put it this way, all the experiences you want to live through, the people you want to meet, the obstacles you want to overcome, all of those will have to happen in the next 19542 days, or not at all.
Doesn’t seem so long now, does it?
When we put it into context things start to get really scary really quick. Not so much because it is actually a short time, but because we tend to waste so much of it, usually, with the excuse that we have so much left.
Sure, you may want to go after all these things… but not as much as you want to be comfortable in the short-term.
“That’s not true! I don’t value comfort more than my goals!” — You may be thinking about commenting below.
While I won’t argue that you don’t think that is true, in reality, things may be the exact opposite.
If you find yourself constantly procrastinating on the things you consider so important, in exchange for some good old Instagram, then you are fooling no one but yourself.
When it comes to progress, words have as much impact as looking at motivational videos. They feel nice, but they are, for the most part, irrelevant.
So irrelevant in fact, that if anything they should serve as a reward for after you’ve done what you truly say you want to do.
The trips you want to take, the people you want to meet, the results you want to be proud of achieving.
Because none of those, none, will happen as long as you keep prioritizing short-term pleasure instead of long-term one. Period.
How We Trick Ourselves
The big problem with short-term pleasure though, is that our brain loves it.
So much in fact that it will do everything it can to convince you to prioritize it, getting you to delay important work in exchange for some quick dopamine spikes.
This is the reason why we tend to delay things so much when we know we should be focusing instead.
Logically we know we should be stronger. Emotionally, we couldn’t care less.
Due to this gap tending to be enormous, from what should be done to what feels good, we may resist for a bit, but in the long-term, short-term pleasure always tends to win.
Does this mean we are doomed to never reach the end goals we desire?
Well… Yes. There is no hope for anyone.
Just kidding, of course. There are countless examples of people who have grabbed life by the horns, getting the most out of it they could.
People like you and me, because contrary to popular belief, giving your best effort is not something reserved for those who are “talented” or “genetically-gifted”, maybe the best results in certain areas are, not arguing with that, but giving it all you can is always within your reach.
To narrow your aim to a single point and then do what is within your power to reach it is something available to all of us.
Unfortunately, it isn’t something most of us do, despite everyone desperately craving it.
Don’t believe me?
Just take a look at the countless pieces of entertainment that revolve around a hero facing endless obstacles along his path to a nobler end goal, and through his sheer dedication and will, overcoming them all.
There is a reason why superhero movies are so popular.
Sure, they are very entertaining, but above all, they fill a gap for so many of us.
They show us what we could become if we were the best we could, and for a couple of hours, we get to indulge in what that would look like.
But unlike the movies, in real life, there is no 5-minute training sequence to greatness, no great outside villain that forces us to do our best, and no obvious great reward at the end.
There is, however, years of consistency and improvement, countless plateaus, lack of results, and a completely different prize than we expected at the end.
While in the movies this processes over the course of 2 hours, in our lives, it happens over the course of years, if it even happens at all.
No one wants to hear they should start slow and steady, looking to get results in a few years, not in a few weeks. But long-term advice doesn’t really sell and that is why you get stuff like “6-minute 6 pack”.
So What Should We Do?
Speaking from experience, the first step is to start.
Without the act of taking the first step in the right direction, for how tiny it is, nothing will ever change. Even if this is not the best, most optimized step, as long as it is moving in the general direction of where you want to go, then you’re on the right path.
Due to the nature of paths, you will need to put more steps in order to progress along this journey.
Thus, after the initial effort, the question we’ll be looking to answer is:
“How do I become consistent with taking these steps?”
I consider it extremely important to nail down the consistency before moving on to the optimization. Without being able to show up when you have to, it won’t matter how optimized everything is because you won’t be able to reap the benefits of it.
To do this, quite simply, you’ll start as easy as possible.
As James Clear put it, “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.”
This is what’s called the 2-Minute Rule.
Taking into account our nature to avoid discomfort, it states that when you’re starting a new habit, you should boil it down to a 2-minute version of it, and build up from there.
As James put it:
- “Read before bed each night” becomes “Read one page.”
- “Do thirty minutes of yoga” becomes “Take out my yoga mat.”
- “Study for class” becomes “Open my notes.”
- “Fold the laundry” becomes “Fold one pair of socks.”
- “Run three miles” becomes “Tie my running shoes.”
With every small step you take, momentum is building for you to keep doing it, and eventually, turning it into a habit.
Not only that but if you make the effort to track the consistency of what you are doing, looking to improve when it comes to showing up but also in terms of difficulty and execution, then it will be a matter of time until you reach your goals.
The crucial thing though is that it takes time.
The Valley Of Disappointment
The big issue with this approach is that there will be a period when our expectations won’t meet reality. Especially if you are desperate for change.
By taking this slow and steady approach, you are telling yourself, at least at the very beginning, that results don’t matter as much as setting the habit.
But because so often we get into these pursuits because we are looking for a result, it seems that there is a conflict of interest. On the one side, you understand that results will take time and so you should be patient, on the other, maybe you aren’t feeling too good about where you are and want to dive in with full effort right away.
In this period when expectations don’t quite meet reality, the “valley of disappointment” coined by James Clear, is when we are the most vulnerable to succumb to short-term pleasures that drive us away from the crucial habits we’ve set out to do.
It is not an easy period to overcome despite all the optimizations you do. If you want results and they are not there, no cheap tricks will ease you.
That is also why I don’t have any particular tips to share with you in this article, despite them existing. What you should be focusing on, in my opinion, is in the process itself.
Understanding that there is a goal you want to achieve at the end, but also to recognize that the road there is what will take 99% of the time. As such, if you don’t learn to enjoy the walk, will it even be worth it?
Most likely, the answer will be a big fat no.
Because if you have come to hate your life in exchange for some achievement in the future, even if you attain it, you will be lost trying to find meaning in some other goal, repeating this process until something clicks.
The same thing that clicked for me.
That is, meaning and purpose are not to be found in something material in the future ahead, but instead, in the daily pursuit of these goals.
In essence, to recognize that what we are ultimately looking for is right here where we are, to commit to what's we chose to do, and to do it as well as we can.
In other words:
“To extract some simple pleasure from the execution of a task well done.”
Thank you for reading.