0199 – set precise goals to measure your progress towards self-mastery

What’s a reasonable age to expect to plan to develop self-mastery by? The elegant cop-out answer is that it takes a lifetime, that you’re never done. Ah, so wise, so profound! But not very helpful, is it?

Why do I say helpful? What kind of help am I looking for? Ah. That’s a better question. Refinement. What do I need to do (and how quickly can I do it) to feel like I am in control of my life?

Well- do I not feel in control of my life? Kind of. Sometimes. Okay. What’s stopping me from feeling in control? What would make me feel more in control?

I don’t seem to have full control over my behavior. Okay. But I don’t need to have absolute control over my behavior, do I? I just need to identify the thing that bothers me the most and then fix that. Get that out of the way. [1]

Well, what bothers me? I think what bothers me most is that I feel like I’m frittering away my time and energy. I feel like I’m not applying myself properly.

Okay. What does applying myself properly look like? What are my priorities? My highest priority actually I think might be to achieve financial freedom as quickly as possible. Is that it? No… doesn’t seem like it. I want to achieve some sort of freedom or Independence. But what sort of freedom is that exactly? If I don’t make it precise I’ll never get it. I do all the meaningless research and reading probably because I’m trying to avoid something uncomfortable. What makes me uncomfortable? What am I afraid of? Do I have some underlying craving or urge that I’m denying? Um. A part of me always feels like smoking cigarettes but I don’t think that’s it. I’m happy to be smoke free. I want to figure out what other things in life I ought to be ‘smoke free’ of.

It feels like my brain is pushing me towards “numbing” behaviors. I’m experiencing “avoid/run/hide” type behaviors. Why? Is it some sort of imposter syndrome; I feel like I don’t deserve to be where I am? That doesn’t quite feel like it. I guess I just feel exhausted from having so many fucking things on my plate. But that’s entirely my fault. It’s up to me to cleanse and prioritize things. A part of me feels like my work will never be done, like this state that I’m in is going to be this weird state of incompleteness. That doesn’t capture the whole picture- I know that incompleteness and impermanence are features of our reality- there will be things on the to do list and un-answered emails when we’re on our deathbeds. So what’s different? Can’t I just accept this as reality? Why so anxious? Maybe I should just stop to smell the roses and enjoy this as the nature of reality?

But I know I have more to give. I know I have more to contribute. All of this is just the tip of the iceberg. And I simply don’t like the idea of not executing. Of not getting stuff off my plate so I can focus on the things that matter the most to me. But fuck man, what actually matters to me? When life gets tough and messy my instinct is to hide away from everything. To smoke and drink away whatever is troubling me, to wait it out until the storm blows over. That’s not going to cut it anymore. It’s not a coping mechanism, it’s an avoidance mechanism. And I’m tired of avoiding things.

A part of me also feels like I’m not sure what actually matters to me anymore. What do I actually care about? What do I actually want to do with this precious, cruel gift of limited time? I just have to figure out what satisfies me once I drop all the superficial, contextual stuff. What am I afraid of?


[1] I stopped writing here, but when I reread this I realized that I took a wrong turn here. “Frittering away my time and energy” is not a problem I can solve by eliminating distractions, though eliminating distractions has certainly helped me to get a clearer sense of things. Okay- rather, it might be possible to continue approaching this from a “keep eliminating things from the bottom of the list” perspective, but it seems likelier that I will get happier faster if I just get the big, important things done everyday. I’m tired because I’m not doing the big important things. If I get the big important things done first, then I will have extra energy to do other things. At least, that’s my hypothesis. I haven’t run in too many days. That’s a rather important thing. I need to fix my diet. That’s a rather important thing. These are things that I’ve increasingly understood to be important. Why don’t I do them first?

That’s the main problem I have to solve. What’s stopping me from doing the big hairy important things? I learned earlier that procrastination can be boiled down to (in a simplistic model) of 4 things- expectancy, value, delay, impulsiveness. Yeah, I’m impulsive. Yeah, a lot of these things have delays. But I feel like… I don’t know, I feel like making progress on those fronts don’t seem like they’re going to make much of a difference. I could be totally wrong, of course.

Urgh, I need to mull this over longer. Will give it a few more shots then leave it to the subconscious. Why do I not do the most important things first? Because they’re hard? Because they’re scary? I KNOW they’re valuable. I KNOW they’re important. But I guess I know these things intellectually, the same way I knew intellectually that smoking was bad for me. Why did I ultimately quit? Why? Why? Why? I feel like I know the answer but not really. I eventually snapped and got rid of most of my social media. I got rid of cigarettes. What do I have to get rid of next? Doing things that aren’t the most important thing. So I guess I need to monotask, to work in only one tab for all my work at work. Maybe that’s it. I don’t know. This is just the painful schleppy part. Gotta keep going. Gotta keep going. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. I refuse to give up.

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