The major challenge in life is getting over errors in your own thinking, attitudes, emotions, and habits. People who find life excellent and effortless have simply learned how to get out of their own way.
Most people are of the mindset that life is generally difficult, and only by their own smarts, will, and hard work are they able to overcome challenges and do well for themselves. It pits us as the hero against the universe, as we valiantly make our way through the ups-and-downs that life throws at us. It blames life for our difficulties.
A fantastic story, and a total self-delusion.
The reality is that all difficulty in life is created by us. Much of our attitude, philosophy and habits – what guides our daily decision-making – was cemented in late childhood/early adulthood and has simply been reinforced every day. From foods we don’t like, to a lack of skills or disciplines, to a limited view of the world or other people, to things we aren’t willing to do. These are the things that cause all of our problems – our own limitations.
How does it work?
There are really four main areas where it reveals itself:
Habits – procrastination, lack of discipline, self-destructive behaviors, repeated shortcuts, errors and assumptions
Attitude – closed-mindedness, negative self-image, negative world view, pessimism
Philosophy – lack of focus on guiding principles, lack of perspective, lack of urgency
Knowledge – lack of critical thinking, lack of advanced skills, misinformation
These continually reinforced internal errors are the cause of 100% of what we call ‘problems’, including difficulties with health, money, relationships, and mental/emotional well-being.
Why do we do this?
We don’t really know any better. A delusion, by definition, is a strongly held belief, despite evidence to the contrary. So, for example we may admit that our poor attitude is causing a problem at work, and yet still blame everyone else at work! And the same goes for all aspects of our life – money, relationships, health, and so on.
Perhaps the most fundamental error we make is in determining what we can control. We can control a lot more than we think, but choose not too. And at the same time, we focus on trying to control too many things that we can’t control.
How do we fix it?
First, we first have to recognize that we’re making these mistakes. When we get upset at traffic, or weather, or a boss, we’re already making a mistake. Once we’re in traffic, dealing with weather, or getting criticized by a boss, those things are already out of our control. Of course we can try to react as best we can, but what we should focus on is avoiding behaviors that may have caused the situation to begin with. We can leave earlier or take a different route. We can prepare for a storm or carry an umbrella. We can talk with our boss about what we can do better, and then do it!
So many of the things we identify as life problems are totally caused by our own shortcomings, and are totally avoidable. We just cannot or will not see the true cause of the problem. Often there’s a time delay – sometimes years – between cause and effect. The problem is not that your rent went up – the problem is that you didn’t save enough money over the last 20 years to afford the kind of place you want to live. The problem is not that you have high cholesterol, the problem is that you’ve been eating animal fat for decades.
And regardless of whether we caused the problem to begin with, we can always control our response to a situation, and the level of responsibility we take in trying to resolve it – specifically just how much we turn to bad habits, shortcuts, assumptions, and lack of perspective.
Don’t wish life were easier, wish you were better.
What does fixing it look like?
Fixing these errors makes life easy. Not just ‘easier’ but actually easy. It’s akin to swimming with the current versus against it.
Once you start to improve your Habits, Attitude, Philosophy, and Knowledge, you begin to see life, and yourself, differently. You see yourself as you are – a creative force shaping your own life – and not a victim or a hero fighting against life’s harsh reality. And as your attitude changes, you can see that not only is life not against you, it is an amazing force that makes everything possible. So, it simply becomes a matter of choosing and doing what is necessary to get to where you want to go.
Climbing a mountain with a map, a full stomach, a good night’s rest, water, food, the right gear, the right companions, weather reports, and good health, is typically successful and enjoyable!
On the other hand, heading out without preparation, a map, water, etc, is not only foolish, but predictably leads to suffering and failure. What it is NOT is noble or heroic. And yet we applaud people for walking 5 miles each way to a $10/hour job, or patting people on the back because they’ve somehow made it through another year with their poorly-run business, or have gotten all their hectic daily tasks done without a plan or purpose, again.
Struggling in life because you continue to fail to improve yourself, learn new skills, or remove personal problems, is not heroic, it’s foolish, self-inflicted, and diminishes your life and the lives of everyone around you.
The real difficulty of life
When you take it easy on yourself (not correcting bad habits, attitude issues, poor philosophy, and misinformation), life gets difficult. But if you do the difficult work of improving yourself, life becomes easy.
The even better news is that self-improvement is only difficult at first. Like anything, once it becomes a habit it becomes automatic and effortless.
So if you want to live the life you desire, happily and easily, all you have to is shift your focus. Stop focusing on how life is so difficult, and start focusing on making yourself less difficult.
You’ll find that once you start removing your own problems, life’s problems magically disappear.