Of late, I’ve posted a series of missives encouraging people to start moving towards their big goals as soon as they’ve started the marginal improvements they need to get there.
- Success Is Within Your Grasp
- You Don’t Have To Be Perfect To Get On Stage
- Don’t Let Perfect Be The Enemy Of Better
The theme is that it’s never too early to start drawing the benefits of your self-improvement projects, indeed that the good feeling of knowing you are getting better can itself give you the gumption and confidence to take a good crack at your goals.
I want to close this series, however, with a counterpart piece of advice: it’s never too late to start living a better life.
I am not the first to say this, but it’s something you can never overemphasize – even to yourself. This is especially germane for guys out of their 20’s where the frame of their life is less mutable than it used to be. That you have burned opportunity cost can make you believe that you’re stuck and you’re never going to get anywhere. There is always an opening for better living.
“It’s never too late” seems obvious – “who wouldn’t want a better life any way they could get it?” – but people talk themselves out of improving their lives all the time. One major factor is that they feel the best opportunities have passed them by and there’s no return on the investment available anymore. They think they’ll look silly chasing something better, that they’ll stand out among their social group.
Don’t get seduced by this brand of fatalism. Even if you can’t get what you might have gotten 2, 5, 10, 20 years ago, you can get better than you’ve got now. And don’t think it’s going to be a slim return. I have a palette of friends in every stage of life from college to post-retirement, at least one guy in every stage tells me “this is the best time of my life.”
START STEPPING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy. Some guys are in really bad straits. Consider a spectacularly average and under-romantiqued dude passing into middle age. “Well, I’ve fucked up my life. I wear disfashionable clothing to hide my frumpy body. I have a distasteful, embittered personality, my flirting skills have atrophied, I’m in poor financial shape and I stuff my brain with junk culture. I have no distinguishing job skills, so I’m a replaceable vassal to the whims of management.”
What do you do if you were this guy? Here’s what you do. You make the best choices you can from that day forward to get things better than they’ve been. Swap in better clothes for the shitty ones. Do some approaches. Pay off some debt. Read a book instead of watching TV, and get off the Internet. Smile more and stop blaming others for your situation. Go for some walks around the neighborhood. You’re not going to turn into a raconteur with a body like The Rock. But you’re going to be a much better version of yourself before too long.
Until Mr. Fusion is on the retail market, there’s no going back in time to correct your previous mistakes or offenses or misjudgments. The best move you can do now is to do the best move now.
If you just graduated college, but studied a shitty subject and got no play, now’s the time to start getting social and building practical job skills you can make a career out of.
If your health sucks after 20 years of bad lifestyle, now is the time to make moves to eat healthier and push your body into fitness. You don’t need to be Mr. Olympia, you have to get to a better health place so you can enjoy your later years in some semblance of physical comfort.
If you’ve red-pilled after finding yourself in a mediocre (or worse) marriage, now is the time to run the MAP and either make your marriage better or get out of the relationship with enough value and pizazz to get a better one.
If your wardrobe would make a goth skater punk look down on you, today’s the day to go get a nice pair of shoes and a shirt that fits you and wear that shit around town.
If your career sucks, now’s the time to build some new networks or flip into a new line of work entirely. It may be too late to get rich, but it’s not too late to get paid more or to get paid doing something you’re proud of.
If your finances are in bad shape, the best thing you can do is stop the bleeding by eliminating bad spending, saving a slice of each paycheck, and paying off debts (credit cards first I’m told) so that each subsequent month you are a little less burdened.
If you’ve lost touch with family or old friends, now’s the time to pick up the phone and take the first step towards mending those fences. You can never get back the time you spent apart, but you can be in each other’s futures. (And if they can’t be mended, you at least know you did what you could once you were honest enough with yourself to admit you needed to try.)
BETTER FEELS GOOD
I can’t speak for the readership, but I feel better when I get better – even if the improvement is marginal. And it doesn’t take that many marginal steps before you start to really feel like a better man. If you’re going to tell me “ehh, it ain’t worth it,” you’re lying to both of us and you know it.
Now, I am not insensitive to why people’s minds push them against taking those first steps. I’ve said before that I’m a procrastinator. Part of my problem is distraction, but the part of it I really don’t want to admit is shame. I’m possessed of the resistance that if I start doing the thing I’ve been delaying it will all the more highlight that I’ve been stupid and slovenly in delaying. The procrastination builds on itself because the psychic “cost,” the self-shame I have to face, becomes higher and higher. I greatly fear the idea of crossing the threshold into doing. However, I’ve noticed that when I force myself to do something I’ve delayed, I get a huge sense of relief that it’s finally getting checked off the list. This is actually how I’m starting to get a lot better at getting things done that I don’t want to do – to beat away the anticipation of regret, I remind myself how invariably good I feel once I start doing it. (I wrote about another application of this technique in a post about affirmations.)
It may take some personal forgiveness; you can’t retroactively shame yourself, as if doing it wrong before means you’re not allowed to do it right this time. One particularly pernicious human tendency is to revert back to the social status and frame of our youth under pressure. If for example you were a low-value geeky virgin in high school, but by the time you got to your early 20’s you were a sharp, fit, intelligent, upwardly-mobile kind of guy, you might not believe the change and you may still act like the former when the opportunities and pressures of your present-day existence make themselves apparent. This is especially common when you are around the people of your less-than-stellar youth – family and school reunions are famous for bringing out social atavism with everyone subconsciously re-taking their roles from the past.
Don’t be so hard on yourself. Don’t think that you’re a fuckup and you’ve made your bed and have to lie in it. Don’t believe that greatness is other people’s destiny. The first day of your better life should be today.