There are several lessons I’ve learned in the last few years that have really changed how I look at my life and more importantly what I’ve done with it. I am not hugely successful at the moment, and I may never be even though I’m working hard to become that. However, I now feel like I have a real chance. And the reason is because my vision and procedure feels very clear to me for the first time. So, I’m going to write posts about what I’ve learned. Maybe it can help you as well.
This first lesson took forever to sink in, but once it did it changed my life a lot
Lesson: Priorities are determined exclusively by your actions. Never by your intentions.
You may feel in your heart that you’re a Broadway singer or lion tamer or whatever. But if more of your waking time is spent playing video games than working on your craft, you know that you prioritize leisure time over your desire to realize your dream. Not to be harsh, but even if you really really want to prioritize your passion, you failed to do so. Your future self did not benefit nearly as much from playing video games as he/she would have from disciplined hard work.
There’s no reason to feel bad about that. It’s your life. You’re allowed to play video games. But if you’re gonna do that, just be honest with yourself. Video games are what you value most. It’s liberating if you think about it. I heard a quote once that said, ‘if you don’t care where you wind up, you’re never lost.’ And that’s pretty cool. Soak up that video game time and don’t feel guilty about it. It’s your right to make it top priority guilt free.
However, if you don’t want video games (or whatever takes up most of your particular time) to be your priority then you have to make a change. How do you do that? I can’t tell you what specific strategy would work for you, but here are two possibilities.
My therapist had me fill out a calendar each week. I would fill it out after I did stuff rather than before. Then at the end of the week I would total up the approximate time I spent on my different activities. It showed me what I was truly prioritizing – Netflix.
This was a good technique to help me realize exactly what I was doing at that time, but it didn’t help me to change my behavior. This simply provided valuable awareness. I had to do something to break the pattern.
What I do now to help me prioritize my time to what I want invovles a very large Google document. Basically, I took some time to write out what I wanted to accomplish, and what specific tasks I needed to do to try to make that happen. Now, every night I write out my ‘action items’ for the next day. I stopped calling it a ‘to do list’ because that verbiage made me feel sad. ‘Action items’ makes me feel a bit better about actually taking action. Now, I spend more time accomplishing the tasks I think will help me succeed.
This doesn’t mean I no longer watch Netflix. There are days where I consciously decide to spend more time on leisure than work. I need those. We all do. But I am in charge of when and how often those days happen. Most other days, I spend my time trying to push myself toward my goals.
In the end, what I learned is that there’s a big difference about what’s in my head vs. reality. For example, in my head I know I’m a talented actor/writer. But I wasn’t spending very much of my time doing either. And no one else lives in my head. So, they don’t know that I’m talented unless they see something I’ve done.
I recently told a friend/colleague of mine that the problem with many of my talented friends is that we’re all way better than we can prove. So, how do we prove it? Go do it. Make something that shows off your acting, writing, etc. Go make a hundred things. Choose to spend your time doing what it is that you know you can do in your head.
Again, the choice is yours. If you prefer a life where you spend time indulging yourself on things you enjoy, go for it. But if you want to become something different than what you are, you need to change your priorities. And that means taking action and doing things differently.