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Stop Waiting for Perfect (or Suffer the Consequences)

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Think of something in your life you’d like to improve.

Just one thing that you’d like to add, change, or remove. 

Got it? Good.

Now think of a few ideas of how you might move that needle.

For example, if you’d like to have more money, what are a few ways that you can make some extra cash?

Get creative!

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Want some help?

Or maybe you’d like to lose some fat and build some muscle?

Okay, let’s brainstorm. How can you do it? Here, I’ll start…

Or maybe you’d like to save more money, read more books, or learn some new skill?

Go ahead and make the list! I’ll wait.

Alright, the point here is obvious:

No matter what you’d like to change in your life, it’s easy to compile a lengthy list of feasible ways to do it.

The real question is why you’re not doing any of those things. Why haven’t you started? What are you waiting for?

For the perfect moment? The perfect mood? The perfect day? For all your imaginary ducks to get in a row?

Let’s face reality:

Conditions will never be just right. Perfect is just an excuse that we use to stay comfortable and maintain the status quo.

When someone says they’re going to do that one thing “one of these days,” we all know the truth — if they haven’t carved out the time and energy already, they probably never will. They’ll keep dreaming instead of doing, until they eventually can’t even bring themselves to dream anymore.

Napoleon once said that “sometimes death only comes from a lack of energy.” Well, a lack of energy comes from a lack of challenges, from taking on less than we’re truly capable of, which means waiting for perfect is a beautiful way to die a little every day.

Your only alternative, then, is to stop telling yourself that you need things to be “just right” before you can start doing the thing. It’ll never happen. Start now and figure it out as you go.

You can sit around and wait for the inspiration to run a marathon, or you can get up right now and go for a 15-minute jog.

You can wait for the stars to automatically align before starting that side hustle, or you can skip Netflix tonight and get reading on where to begin.

If you do this — if you cast aside your feelings, fears, doubts, and anxieties — and just get into action instead, you’ll begin a process far more profound than you probably realize.

You’ll find that the more that you do, the more your attitudes and feelings will shift. Opinions and rationalizations that were once dear to you will crumble and fade away. Behaviors that felt foreign and formidable will become familiar and comfortable.

In short, you’ll gain the upper hand in the war against Resistance and become a new person — the type of person that is doing the thing, the type of person that you truly want to be.

And in fact, this is the only way to do it.

Many people mistakenly believe — or want to believe — that you first have to change your mind before you can change anything else.

Research shows that this is exactly backwards — that the surest way to change attitude is to change behavior, and that the reverse rarely works.

The reason for this is simple:

Thanks at least in part to cognitive dissonance, we derive our attitudes from how we behave, and figure out who we are by watching what we do.

When we act in a way that’s inconsistent with our current attitudes and beliefs, regardless of why, we will generally just adjust the subjective to match the objective, not the other way around. In other words, we’ll adjust our mental models to make sense of our behaviors, even if they’re deceptive, disgraceful, or downright dreadful.

Yes, every little thing that we do every day molds and determines our self-definition.

This is also why changing actions is the only reliable way to change self-definition, to reinvent and reconfigure ourselves for the better.

We can think all the best thoughts with all the right intentions, but unless our actions embody them, we’ll simply reinterpret it all to conform to the objective reality. And the more intelligent we are, the better we’re going to be at rationalizing it all away, creating a powerful, self-reinforcing vicious cycle of degradation and despair.

Many people say the biggest obstacles we face in life are of our own creation — the limitations, restrictions, and criticisms that we impose on ourselves.

This is probably true.

It’s also true, though, that the only way to clear these hurdles is through our willingness and ability to take action — to do the things that we know we should do to become the person we want to be and have the things we want to have — regardless of how we feel about them at first blush, and then to resist temptations to lose psychological ground by acting otherwise.

That is the biggest obstacle that we face, and how we negotiate it will ultimately determine our fates.

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