If there’s one thing we humans are good at – particularly those of us into self-improvement – it’s beating ourselves up and being a self-tyrant. We place these crazy unrealistic expectations upon our own heads, expecting daily perfection, never allowing for any misteps or mistakes anywhere along the way.
You’ve gotta be realistic in your expectations of yourself – you’re a human, a human who’s going to make a million mistakes throughout your life… no matter how hard you try not to. The measuring stick you should be using is: if you’re making progress – ANY amount of progress – you’re on track. The journey of a thousand miles is measured in individual steps – not giant leaps. In other words, simple daily habits consistently repeated over time, rather than huge leaps which require you to muster up all your willpower and motivation (which are always followed by a dropoff in motivation and then days/weeks of laziness & lack of progress). Think “The Tortoise and the Hare“.
This is the method I’ve used to achieve pretty much all of my goals – slow and steady progress over time.
A client I’m coaching was recently beating himself up, because he had a day where he only talked to 5 girls. He was really down on himself, because the previous day he’d talked to 15 girls, and felt like he was “going backwards”.
But 2 weeks ago my homie wasn’t talking to ANY girls – now on his worst day he talks to 5 girls. He’s also much more self-aware, more confident, is working on his dating skills, is learning to be more honest with girls, is building a habit of going to the gym, and is tackling his challenges head-on like a man. He feels more alive. His worst day now is a million times better than his worst day from 2 weeks ago, let alone 2 months or 2 years ago.
Measure Progress Over a Longer Timescale
Don’t get caught up in comparing each and every single day to your previous day – take a step back, zoom out a bit and look at the general trend over time. Are you, generally speaking, happier and making more progress than you were a few months ago? Good, you’re on the right path. Your only goal should be to have a general upwards trend over time. You need to compare your average days to your past average days, and then see if you’re gradually improving over time.
Example time: Let’s say 6 months ago you spent most days jerking off to porn, eating too much junk food, not talking to any girls, and not going to the gym. These days, you go to the gym a few times a week, you’ve cut down on the porn (though sometimes you relapse), you count your calories and don’t eat as much junk food, and you’re messaging a couple girls a week on online dating sites. Congratulations! Your average day now looks a hell of a lot better than it did 6 months ago.
Comparing Your Best…
You can also compare your best days to your past best days, and see if there’s a general improvement over time. Maybe 6 months ago your best day meant you went to the gym and messed around for 30 minutes, talked to 3 girls on Plenty of Fish, met up with some mates and smoked weed with them all night. A pretty decent day.
But the last few weeks, your best day looks more like this: You go to the gym and absolutely crush your routine, putting more weight on the bar than you did the previous workout. You leave feeling amazing, strong, fucking powerful. You message 10 girls online, and even manage to work up the courage to talk to a random girl you see on the street during your lunch break. You listen to self-development podcasts on your commute to and from work, put in a very solid work day (other people are starting to notice & comment on your improved work ethic), and grab dinner with some mates, talking about your goals and latest achievements.
Clearly a much better “best day” than your best day from 6 months ago. Congrats! You’re improving over time.
…And Comparing Your Worst.
And if you must compare your worst days and be a tyrannical cunt to yourself, fine. But at least be realistic in your comparisons. If you have a shit day now – like my client “only” talking to 5 girls instead of 15 – compare it to your shittiest day from 6 months ago. I’ll bet you 10 bucks that 6 or 12 months ago your worst day was the stuff of nightmares. At the time, I bet you’d have given anything to have a day like the “bad” days you have now.
The number of bad days vs good days is also important. If a year ago 3 out of every 7 days were bad days – and now you only have a bad day once a week – that’s massive progress. It’s proof you’re on the right path, proof you’re doing the right things. Keep on going, and don’t ever quit.
Another thing people do is compare their progress to other people’s progress. The issue with that is one of transparency – you’re acutely aware of all of your flaws and mistakes, but you don’t see even one-tenth of the mistakes the other person makes. You’re only seeing a highlight reel of their life – the parts they’ve chosen to show you. You have no idea what’s going on in their head – their fears, insecurities and doubts are all hidden from you.
You look at them and think, “Damn, they make it look so easy. Meanwhile I’m here being such a fuckup”. Truth is they’re exactly like you, and they’re not special. They’re not immune from all the bullshit you’ve had to struggle with. Every person you look up to, every person you compare yourself to, had a million bad days where they were on the edge of despair. And chances are on their bad days, those people were beating themselves up, just like you are right now.
Be more objective in how you judge your progress. Are your generally improving over time? Great, keep doing what you’re doing – and don’t stress about the occasional bad days. If you’re not improving over time – then make some changes, adjust your approach and try again.
If you’re stressing about making up for lost time, or feel time is slipping away from you, remember age doesn’t matter. Just focus on making a little progress each day – one teensy tiny little baby step – and over time your success will snowball. As long as you never quit, you’ll eventually get there.
Be nicer to yourself; this self-improvement journey is supposed to be enjoyable. Don’t beat yourself up if you have a bad day. Just focus on incremental improvements, and as long as you’re doing the right things, you’ll be on that upwards trend line.