In the last article, The Nothing We Have Become, I explained how we constantly trick ourselves into taking the easy way out with technology, and waste our time and brainpower with simple entertainment that does nothing more than satiate our need for stimulation. This short-term fix does not provide long-term gratification. In fact, it leads to long-term disappointment. Imagine the moment where you realize that you are too old to climb that mountain, too poor to go on that trip, or not skilled enough to write that book, simply because you wasted the time you could’ve been doing those things by watching movies, surfing the net, and playing Angry Birds.
This article provides a solution, a way out of the darkness and into fulfillment.
Before I begin, I want to clarify my use of the word fulfillment. This does not mean being a billionaire playboy or professional athlete. It means finding out what your aspirations are and pursuing them to completion. It’s about trying new things and getting the full range of life. It’s about being on your deathbed and instead of feeling sorrow for those deeds you did not accomplish, spending those last minutes of life re-living all of the wonderful memories you made during your lifetime.
We don’t squander all of our lives away because we want to. We do it by accident. We are using crutches that slow us down, but we often don’t even realize it. We fall short of our potential because we waste time that we didn’t even know we had. Now, these crutches are not obvious at first. Think about a week in your life. When you have a spare moment, what do you do? When you have an entire day free, what do you do? This will vary. Some people will turn to alcohol. Some to sex. Some to television. Some to videogames. Some to relying on their friends for something to do. Now think about how much time you spend using your crutch, whatever it may be. Imagine if you didn’t have to use that crutch and were given that time to work on your life goals. Imagine how quickly you could get them done.
This is not an argument to be a celibate, ascetic, anti-social monk. This is an argument to honestly self-evaluate and to realize that you waste a significant chunk of your time on familiar activities that gratify you in the short term but suck the life out of your years. These crutches are the mundane, easy ways out. What can be any easier than drinking a magic potion that makes you feel happy, confident and outgoing (alcohol)? What can be easier than staring at a screen to entertain yourself? What is easier than thrusting into another person, or your hand, to create a hormonal burst of happiness (sex)?
Now that we have found our crutches, we need to get rid of them as soon as possible. The more you use your crutches, the more your brain becomes familiar with them, and the harder it becomes to break away. Becoming free of the crutches will not happen by contemplation. It will happen by action. Repeated action for weeks, on a consistent basis. We will build new habits until our crutches are gone and we are moving along our lives at full speed. We must eliminate the old time-wasting activities and replace them with the things that we truly want to accomplish in our lives.
This will probably be the hardest thing you’ll ever do. You will be fighting your brain’s natural impulses for the familiar and comfortable. You will be fighting societial norms. You will be fighting your friends to give you some space. Often you’ll be fighting yourself. You’ll be constantly out of your comfort zone. But in the end, I’d say that is a small price to pay for life satisfaction. After all, isn’t that the biggest thing in your life?
You can blow this off and say that you’ll do your thing later, when you have more time. You can wait for that perfect moment, for that free week, or those multiple spare days. But is that really going to happen? You have to start now. Don’t be the man waiting for a 0% chance of showers that dies without ever going outside. You will run out of time, and then die.
Make your life damn well worth remembering.