We all have room for improvement – a gap – in any number of areas in our lives – health, finances, job, relationships, personal achievement, spiritually, and so on. The gap is the perceptible ‘distance’ between where we are and where we should be, or at least where we think we should be.
Sometimes the gap is a number – cholesterol or a dollar amount – and other times it’s harder to measure, such as happiness or a level of personal success.
These gaps are actually doubly damaging:
1. The deficiencies themselves can cause serious problems – poor health, poverty, bad relationships, etc.
2. Knowing that the situation ‘should’ be different, and yet is within our power to remedy, causes mental anguish on a daily basis.
So how do we fix gaps?
We have to be able to own it 100%
Every personal change starts with total ownership, removal of all excuses. This is where change actually takes place. It’s an odd mix of total surrender and total control at the same time. It’s difficult to do, so it’s rarely done. It’s easier to use excuses and rationalization, find a distraction, downplay the importance of the gap, and so on.
Gaps are created by lies we tell ourselves and others. After all, when we say “I truly want X to happen”, then why hasn’t it already happened?…quick, insert an excuse.
Most people spend a tremendous amount of mental energy on crafting excuses and continually revising their personal story to explain why things are exactly the way they are (and not even a tick better). So it’s no wonder that trying to shift away from this thinking is very foreign and very difficult…at first.
Strangely, we do have the ability to look at others’ situations very critically and without tolerance for excuses. So, for that reason the more we can look at our own gaps objectively – as if it were someone else’s life – the more clearly we can see the weakness of our own arguments and storyline.
NOTE: Admission of a gap is not ownership. It’s an excuse in disguise. It’s a way for us to remove responsibility for causing the situation and for taking action to resolve it. It does nothing to commit us to change the situation, so it simply serves to distract, deflect, and reinforce a current condition as permanent and likely just too darn tough to do anything about. Be careful not to fall into this common trap.
We have to learn to keep promises
The ability to get what you want out of life starts with the very simple ability to make and keep a promise to yourself. Once you have some skill there, you can extend it to others. And be sure, if you’re saying that you already keep your promises, trust me that you’re not.
The entire conflict, the whole nature of a gap, is that there’s a span between what you SAY and what you DO. Closing that gap is about keeping promises.
Start with easy things, and build this ‘muscle’, and you’ll quickly see it translate into many areas of your life. Start with small things, and once you have some mastery of it you can extend it to others. You’ll be amazed how the world turns for you when you become truly reliable and honest about what you say you’ll do. People respect that. People pay well for that. And most importantly, you’ll feel like you can make and keep any promise you make – to yourself or others. Make promises carefully, and keep every promise you make…no matter what.
We have to become action-oriented
Now, this is not the same as being task-oriented, which is simply ‘staying busy’. Action orientation has three parts:
Goal SETTING frightens people, me included. Goal STATING is easy. Simply write out or say what you want. State your big goals, ignore smaller ones or interim steps. These goals should then dictate what you spend your time on. They should direct your behavior and your planning. If they don’t, find better goals that inspire you, push you, or suit your life more honestly and accurately.
The idea is to continuously be working on the most important things on your list. Do the most important of those things, and then move on to the next one. Note that this is very different from doing the most urgent, satisfying or easy item on your list to ‘get it out of the way’. Working on the most important things one at a time until they’re done will bring exponential results almost immediately.
Procrastination is actually fear (a topic for another day), so it cannot be removed, only overcome. Yes, it’s very hard to do, but it can be un-learned as a habit. It starts with the most simple things – leaving dishes in the sink, not taking something into the house with you until later, putting off a phone call, and so on. These simple, continuous decisions reinforce procrastination and make it a monster. With some effort, and a lot of constant correction mentally, it can flip for you. Once your default setting is ‘do it now’, there’s little left that can stop you.
Feeling there’s a gap in one or more areas of your life is universal.
Making excuses about it, admitting it (but not really working on it), and making temporary progress on it just for appearances is (*yawn*) commonplace, ineffective, and stressful.
But learning the mechanics of how to improve your life, and actually making your own life and the lives of others better…well…is there anything more worthwhile?