How many times have you thought to yourself “This is it, this is the last time I do this”, the last day I slack off on my work, the last time I waste the whole day playing games, the last time I have that cigarette, eat that doughnut, skip that workout, last time I complain to anyone who will listen about how unjust and difficult life has been for me, how I would have done this or that if only this would have or wouldn’t have happened… How many times have you found yourself the very next day, doing the exact same thing?
Life is hard, I won’t deny that. We all find ourselves entangled in circumstance, things don’t go the way we anticipate, we end up in the wrong place, we have limited resources, we get stuck in situations we would never have entered in voluntarily and we might have to stay there much longer than we thought, we get sick, we get turned down. It’s easy to get disheartened. All you have to do is look at someone else’s straight path and you will think to yourself that there is no way that you will ever end up where that other person has gone, it’s absurd, circumstances are too different, your obstacles are too great. They had everything going for them. It probably won’t happen for you. Just forget it. Give up… eat that donut, have that cigarette, watch that mindless show. Maybe you can start being serious tomorrow, or maybe there’s no point in even trying. Go on… have another one.
The more I think about it, the more I can’t understand why it’s a logical step for us to begin discouraging ourselves when faced with difficulty. ..And we feel like we’re being rational each time we convince ourselves that something is impossible, as though realism is grounded in impossibility and not in probability. It’s the easier reality to make, I’ll say that much. You are a realist if you say “no” and then don’t do something. You’re absolutely correct in what you said, there is no risk involved, it’s in plain sight, the result is totally predictable, you may retain your self-respect and not be embarrassed in the eyes of others. People will think you’re a realist, they’ll praise you for your sober thinking, for your ability to say no and then not do something…how very grounded and rational.
The root of the problem is hidden in the fact that we are self soothers, we hate the idea of tension, we crave security, to be coddled, held, fed and marveled at with no effort or expense on our part. We are overgrown toddlers. That is literally what we are. We crave the return of that stage of development when things came easily and we didn’t have to do anything, yet we received praise from everyone. That’s why you return to your destructive habits, they are self soothing behaviors. You get a bit frightened or tense, then return to the safe embrace of passivity and boredom Your soothing habits relieve tension, they might be killing you or holding you back, but they’re like an ever present grandmother who will keep feeding you cake well beyond any possible human capacity to stomach anymore. We grow up, physically at least, but we remain the same as toddlers.
In Greek mythology, a hero was often offered an easy life, abundance and everything that they could want at the expense of glory and the possibility of triumph… They refused. They chose to go through tests, they chose to fight for everything they got. They chose to build legends instead of being handed shortcuts, resources and opportunities they did not earn. Their lives were often not glamorous, one of Hercules’ tasks was to clean the Augean stables. To shovel horse dung. He had 12 impossible tasks… Not 1… 12! And the key to his immortality and why his name remains to this day, is because he accomplished all 12. He did not convince himself that it’s too much work, he did not sit down to think about it, he didn’t plan to start tomorrow, the man fought lions and shoveled horse dung, that was what was necessary and that is what he did. Stop running away from your own tasks. Stop feeding yourself nursery rhymes and carbohydrates. There comes a time when it’s no longer ok to lie to yourself that tomorrow is when it begins, when you don’t have a single day in the past to show that you are reliable enough to postpone until tomorrow. Tomorrow is not when it starts, tomorrow is when it starts again and every day counts. Begin today. Stop coddling yourself, stop retreating into your toddler habits and small-mindedness, stop making excuses and stop giving up on yourself. Do the work and build your legend.