“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; for it becomes your destiny.” – Upanishads
While there is connection between, thinking and talking, sometimes the connection between the talking and doing seems to be far away. In my mind the phrase “there are those who talk and those who do” lives strong. This despite the knowledge that while this may apply, it does not apply hundred percent, and that there are always exceptions to the exceptions.
Action is the only thing that does make thoughts and words visible and concrete. It is through work and action that great things get made.
Action then repeated often becomes a habit. With thinking combined, habit can improve drastically. You will of course improve a little by little over time which is nice. However, at times you are bound to reach also breakthroughs, at times you will reach a completely new level of doing and being.
Key with the actions and habits is that, you need to stick with them a particular amount of time for breakthroughs to happen.
Not only starting an action is the challenge, sticking with it until it becomes a habit and then keeping the small pressure to challenge yourself in order to gain small wins is the key. This is called character: something that becomes part of your identity. If you manage to do this you will reach breakthroughs in the ordinary things you’ve just kept long enough with.
Life is imperfect, we need to accept this right off the bat. Imperfection is not the reason not to get started and going. I am imperfect. So may be you. Yet both of us have the capacity to become something a little bit better, this in fact I feel like is the meaning of life.
To be able to become a little bit better, in order to benefit others more. To love myself so that I could nurture the growth of others as Scott Beck put it.
Whatever it is you are interested in doing, you should find a ways to do it now, or very at least today something towards it. Then just repeat it the next day and you are again a step closer.
Today I for example I calculated that I managed to combine three activities that must be done into a one: exercise, chores and learning. In fact all of these I wanted to do now, because I know that how much I will benefit from all of it. I feel like it is great use of time to batch activities like this.
World won’t be perfect over a day. Sometimes big breakthroughs do happen overnight either by coincidence or by sheer creativity and necessity. Yet most of the improvement happens gradually over time. Breakthroughs are rather unpredictable and what matters most is the crawl: ability to every day proceed towards what is deemed as important.
Now when we are moving, let’s talk about prioritizing your tasks.
Prioritizing is one of the most difficult cognitive task we can set for ourselves. We have to make choices to do and not to do. I recently learned that it’s rather useful to set the morning for prioritization and this is true especially for me who gets interrupted a lot at work during the day in an open office setting.
Of course prioritizing happens through the day and through week. I plan my work week ahead during Sundays. This has been a habit for me since my college years when I liked to dedicate Sunday for quiet study and contemplation without any interruptions. I still do enjoy this Sunday study time a lot and in fact even today I used to prioritize my life board – it’s kind of collection of post it’s full of wisdom that include my goals, daily actions to crawl towards those goals and important tools to keep with me during the journey. Reorganizing and updating this info is one of my favorite things to do during the week – I feel like when I organize my life board my mind gets clearer as well.
Now you know what you want to do during the week and during the day, just get crawling.
Learning happens in breakthroughs, not linearly like might be expected.
In life in order to get to the new level, you must bear the emotional cost of the frustration. Frustration is the emotional cost and price for the breakthrough. If you are willing to do the right work and, keep building the belief of success, you will succeed.
After a breakthrough and upon reaching a new level, there will be plateau, a time of rather stagnant period where the changes are not that dramatic. Stagnation follows action. If there is not action, even regression might follow soon, this is why the “use it or lose it” is very accurate phrase.
Breakthroughs are fun, they are what makes life worth living for.
There are perhaps there qualities that lead to breakthrough:
- Right action
- Belief that this can be done (helps with persistence ;))
Breakthroughs happen especially when all you’ve learned is crystallized in action such way that it brings results.
If you do each moment the most important thing for the day, you will have done everything by the end of the day.
Ask yourself once every hour, what is the most important thing at the moment? Time is the only leverage we really have, we better start using it to the important things.
When we direct our attention to the important we may not get necessarily more things done, but we get that which is important done and that’s all that matters in life.
I’ve been trying to practice asking myself about the important things for about a year now. Yet the breakthrough happened quite recently when I realized that if I just do the important things I am done, I do not need anything else.
With this thought I get:
My work done.
My exercise done.
My writing done.
My reading & studying done.
Preparation for the next day done.
A good night sleep.
What more I could ask?
Determine what’s important for you.
I’ve found refuge in the thoughts of karma:
Now as a man is like this or like that,
according as he acts and according as he behaves, so will he be;
a man of good acts will become good, a man of bad acts, bad;
he becomes pure by pure deeds, bad by bad deeds;
And here they say that a person consists of desires,
and as is his desire, so is his will;
and as is his will, so is his deed;
and whatever deed he does, that he will reap.
— Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 7th Century BCE
One is like is his desires. In the end if we live up to our best, in the end we will be well.
Another train of thought, I like to entertain is that of philosopher (stoic). With few desires there needs are easily fulfilled and life is lived happy.
Avoiding desire is difficult and requires effort. It also involves dealing with thoughts such as:
I am not my grades
I am not my past
I am not my thoughts
I am not my salary
I am not my net worth
Most of these I’ve found to be incredibly helpful thought, each one has been kind of like a breakthrough, giving up a desire is acquiring a piece of bliss.
Great thing about people is that you can learn a lot from anyone. Although this learning often requires exposure to the thing you are about to have an insight over and over again, eventually it will happen.
Personally I am trying to arrange such breakthroughs consciously by exposing myself to the ideas repeatedly and through different kinds of mediums, situations and people. This is not rocket science. There are reasons why it is encouraged to revisit your notes after a lecture. Learning has to be reinforced after a while, and the more often you do it the better those memories are gonna stick. Jari Sarasvuo says that we don’t learn anything worthwhile on the first time (and he probably has picked it off somewhere else).
It’s very rewarding when the breakthroughs happen. Today I had a such a breakthrough that clearly has resulted from these positive and hoped influences. It’s quite simple I realized that at the moment there I am simply not doing enough iterations.
There are plenty of excuses for not doing those, however I am gonna save you from those. My choice of doing is at the moment writing, so doing iterate means to simply write. And how to make sure I am doing that important thing: simply ask have I written today?
Questions like these are really powerful for leading myself, and you are free to use this innovation too! Figure out what is the thing you want to do more on weekly and daily basis and ask yourself have you done it?