This is all very good and well, but how exactly do you go about changing your mindset? How do you take back control, reclaim your happiness and start living a fulfilling and inspiring life again? The thing to do is to diagnose the problem. What exactly is wrong with your mind to begin with? And how can you fix those issues? Well, not to alarm you, but there’s probably a lot wrong with your mind.
Don’t worry though: it’s fairly common and it’s very much a sign of the times. I can guess that you aren’t completely happy with where you are right now. Maybe you don’t like who you are right now. I know this because you’re reading this article. If what you’re doing right now is working for you then great! But if it’s not, or if it could be working better, then something needs to change.
Here are some starting points that can help you see precisely what you might need to change.
The first problem that many of us have is that we don’t take responsibility for our actions and we don’t want to take responsibility for our actions. Now we all know people who don’t like taking responsibility – they will blame others and they will make excuses for what they’ve done. These are the people with the external locusts of control that we have already discussed.
But while this might seem like an irritating problem for people around them, the reality is that this is a much deeper issue that affects them more than it does anyone else. Because a completely refusal to accept responsibility means that you also reject your own autonomy and your control. If you believe that nothing is your fault, then you also really can’t take credit for anything that goes well.
Moreover, it means that you don’t have any power over your life and it means that you can’t choose to change things.
It’s not up to you, it’s up to chance!
It gets worse too. If you are too used to avoiding responsibility, then chances are that you will avoid taking responsibility for other things in your life too. That means you’ll avoid making commitments to people, which might make you feel ‘free’ but ultimately means you get left behind as those around you settle down into relationships and find fulfilling careers.
It means you’ll put yourself forward for fewer tasks in the work place – at least those tasks that have any major consequences. And if you aren’t responsible for large amounts of money, then you can’t expect to get paid large amounts of money either.
Being afraid of responsibility will even make you less impressive, decisive and confident in a day-to-day scenario. When someone asks you to make a decision, you won’t want to because you won’t want to be responsible for what happens if you get it wrong.
And unfortunately, life has made it all too easy for us to learn this lack of responsibility. We are sheltered by so much technology and for the most part, life has become much easier. Our childhoods have also become extended to a massive degree and especially in the current generation of youths.
These days many of us will stay at school until we are 18 and will then attend college for 3, 4 of 6 years after that depending on the amount of qualifications we obtain. Throw in a gap year and some time ‘finding our feet’ and many of us don’t begin our careers until we’re in our mid-to-late-twenties.
This was exacerbated by the economic crash of the last decade. Many people leaving college struggled to find work, which left them without workplace responsibilities and very often still living with their parents. Generations previous were likely married homeowners with children at this point.
And it’s hard to ditch this mentality. It’s hard to stop being a perpetual child. And while there are positive sides to this (it’s good for creativity, for dreaming and for enjoyment in the moment), ultimately life will catch up and we won’t be prepared. We are too soft mentally to cope with the challenges that will come our way. We’ve lost the ability to be decisive, strong, action-takers.
What can you do to fix it? We’ll explore this in more depth in some of the other reports but the key to acknowledge is that you must learn to accept the possibility of a less-than-perfect outcome. Accept that there will be times when things go wrong and it’s your fault. And when that does happen, be willing to put your hand up and admit it. That’s what it means to be an adult. And that’s what will give you the strength to start taking more chances and making more bold decisions.
#2 We Care Too Much What Others Think
Ultimately, number one comes down to doing away with fear. This is another topic we’re going to address more over the coming reports but for now let’s hone in on one very specific example of fear, one very specific cause. That is that we care too much what others think.
This is something that occupies a lot of our thoughts for many of us and something that can actually be quite tiring. Many of us will simply not do something if we think it is going to make us look unusual. If we think it will elicit stares.
Not only that, but caring too much what others think is what makes it so hard for us to take responsibility for things: we don’t want to seem to be weak or to lose the trust or respect of other people. You know what the biggest irony of this is? It is the refusal to take action and take responsibility that actually makes people lose respect. This is what makes us appear weaker.
Many of us also struggle to go after the things that we want in life because we are too busy worrying about pleasing others. We’re so busy saying yes to invitations that we don’t really want to go to and spending money on things that we think we should own, that we don’t have the resources left to spend on things that really matter to us. And this of course greatly limits what we are capable of and the quality of our lives.
Now I’m not telling you to forget other people entirely and to become an ass. That’s certainly not going to improve your life!
But learn the subtle difference:
- Care if other people are happy
- Don’t care what other people think of you
This is the most heroic mindset because it means you’ll do kind things for people without even telling anyone and even be willing to make yourself look foolish. But at the same time, you’ll be much happier because you won’t be living up to the expectations that you believe other people to have.
You’ll be able to take more responsibility for yourself and you’ll have one less huge thing causing you stress.
So how do you make the switch? It is easier said than done of course but the key to getting started is to stop holding yourself to the standards of others and to start holding yourself only to your own standards. Judge yourself on your own terms and by your own code of conduct.
3 We Are Impulsive and Reactive
Perhaps the biggest symptom of modern life is just how badly impulsive and reactive we have become. And this really is something that has been exacerbated by modern technologies and convenience. Did you know that our attention span has measurably deteriorated over recent decades?
The reigning view is that this is caused by time spent on the internet. When we read a blog post we can skip across the headlines and the bullet points and then stop reading. Often we’ll get our information from YouTube or Twitter – which is limited to only 140 characters! When we find the piece of information we want, we can close the tab and search for the next thing.
It will be there in seconds! We’ve become very good at quickly skimming and assimilating information but we’ve trained ourselves out of sustaining our attention and concentrating. And this is then made a lot worse by all the other things vying for our attention and all the other immediate gratification we get. We have all the food, all the entertainment, all the gratification we could possibly need right at our fingertips.
Much of it is free. And much of it can be served up in seconds depending on your internet speed. Adverts are designed with bright colors and attractive faces to grab our attention. There is noise everywhere. And thus we have become incredibly reactive. Every one of these distractions that leads to reward will trigger a dopaminergic response. Eating a sweet, loading up PornHub, playing a computer game, watching a YouTube video.
This reinforces the same pathways in the brain that are present in addicts. And it completely undermines our ability to control our attention and to decide what we want to look at. How we want to behave. So, when we sit down to work towards a massive deadline, it should come as no surprise that the first thing we do is check Facebook. And make tea. And grab a snack.
How do you get out of this rut? There are a few ways and again, we’re going to delve deeply into all of this. But one of the simplest fixes is to try meditation. Meditation teaches us to take conscious control of our mind, to be more in the moment and to avoid distractions. This can help us to become incredibly more disciplined and focused and can certainly do away with a lot of procrastination and impulsivity.
4 We Are Lazy and Tired
The other big problem that prevents us from achieving what we want and that causes a whole lot of unhappiness is laziness. Most of us know what we should be doing but we lack the effort to do it. When given a choice, we will take the easier route. In the short-term this is great. It means you get to spend the evening on the couch with a bag of chips watching your favorite trashy TV.
But in the long term it means you lack the stimulus for growth. And guess what? Growth is perhaps the most important thing we need to be happy. Because you are never still and stable. If you are not going forward, you are going backward. If you are not growing, you are regressing. If you don’t exercise then your muscles atrophy. But likewise, if you don’t use your brain and if you don’t challenge your mind, then your brain physically shrinks.
Worse, you unlearn how to apply effort.But part of this is not laziness. Part of this is stress and tiredness. Because the problem is that we typically lead such busy, stressful and fast paced lives that we simply have no energy left at the end of the day to do anything about it.Is it any surprise? Most of us commute into work for 30-90 minutes on a train or bus or sitting in traffic in the car.
We then fight our way through a busy street into the office where we sit in a cramped, stuffy room and get shouted at by clients and unhappy customers. We work to urgent deadlines and end up staying late, then we make the precise same commute back home. You can add malnutrition on top of this for many of us. Halogen lights too. Loud noises. Air pollution.
All these things upset the body and cause physiological stress. These put us further into the fight or flight state and the body simply can’t tell the difference. This exhausts us. And that’s what makes us choose the fast food in the cupboard and it’s what makes us skip the workout. It’s also what causes us to argue with our partners and not have time for our kids. And it’s not even time that’s the issue here so much as energy.
Your psychological energy is a finite resource. So, the first thing you need to do is to start buying yourself more energy. That might mean looking into easier ways into work, or it might mean swapping to an easier job. It means finding space in your life so that you can stop reacting and being in fight or flight. They you can start to become proactive and make your way onto your inspire path.