Can You Improve NOW?

Recently, this article from Entrepreneur.com about ways to improve your life for tomorrow got me thinking about how we go about effecting real change–and, more often than not, how we fail in effecting that change.

The article’s point is that there are things you can do that will almost immediately change your life. My first instinct was that it was total BS, that real change is never immediate. Sure, you can start working out every day, but most of us stop doing that after a few weeks. You can start waking up earlier, but that usually falls by the wayside, too. How do we get change to stick?

Well, if I knew the real answer to that, I would write some pop psychology book and get rich.

The easy answer (well, “easy”) is that you just have to actually be committed to changing. Maybe something has to happen in order to spur you into action. Change requires an inner resolve. If you lack resolve, you’ll never achieve anything. “Just do it,” Nike says. Easier said than done, I say.

The difficult answer is that we’re all motivated differently; moreover, we don’t see results from most efforts to change for a long time. And, as Carol Dweck would say, we’re taught to expect “now” instead of “yet.”

You really should watch that, but in case you didn’t, her basic point is that the word “yet” is very powerful. She references a school in Chicago where if kids don’t pass, they get a “not yet” instead of a “failed.” And this has worked with remarkable success. She talks about the development of a growth mindset as opposed to a mindset that accepts failure. Just by changing the verbiage in low-performing schools, teachers were able to effect amazing change in students in just a few years.

Anyhow, I wonder if that’s how we should go about improving our lives right now–by learning to say “not yet” instead of “never” when “now” doesn’t work out. Sure, the ideas in Entrepreneur.com sound really nice. Taking a gratitude walk is a lovely thing, but who among us is going to do that daily? And yes, we should all be committed to exercise and fitness, but I’m sure as hell not going to the gym every day and I also refuse to give up Taco Bell. The one tip I really like, “get connected with your why,” is something that’s going to take real time, investment, and effort. It’s not going to happen overnight.

This is kind of catch-22. How do we see results from our efforts immediately, but accept that we won’t achieve our goals immediately? I think that’s the power of “yet” that Carol Dwyer is talking about. (Seriously, if you haven’t read Mindset, you really should.) The sad fact of the matter is that it’s really easy to commit ourselves to lofty principles and ideas, but it’s much more difficult to carry out in your daily life. As committed as I am to my life ethos, I fail in some way almost daily. Almost daily! I think of my life mantra: “Live with intention and direction. Love fully. Be busy, but always 1000% present in the moment. And always, always jump with both feet.” I literally fail at that almost every single day in some way. Sometimes I’m really busy and I’m not present for anything. Sometimes I get cold feet and don’t jump at all. But I tell myself that I just haven’t achieved all this yet. That helps. It’s easier to accept that change isn’t immediate, that progress is gradual, that you can remain committed without succeeding daily or immediately or even the majority of the time.

So the short answer, I think, is that you can’t improve your life right now. Not in any meaningful way, and probably not for the long term. But by embracing “yet,” you can take the first step and actually keep going.

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