Six years ago I was working at a dead-end job which kept me stuck in an ugly city that I hated. I would drink more than a gallon of beer every night to drown the sorrows of a failed life. I used to smoke 3 packs of cigarettes a day. I had no girlfriend (even though I wanted to have one) and my sex life was mostly consisted of watching porn. I was fat and out of shape. I could barely make ends meet so I wasn’t able to save any money. My future looked bleak. I needed to get my life together or I would be miserable forever.
Today, I no longer work for someone else. I own 2 location independent businesses which allow me to live in any city I want. I first quit smoking, then drinking. I had sex with many desirable women and now I have a great girlfriend. Not only I am no longer fat and out of shape but I am also sporting a set of six-pack abs. I feel great and the future looks even more promising.
It’s been tough to get my life together but I pulled it off. I first had to change my mindset and then take the necessary actions to change my life. In this article, I will show you how you can do it too.
I won’t be talking about vague advice such as get up early, eat well, exercise, don’t waste your time with TV, video games, and social media, blah blah blah. Everybody knows those things. If it was that easy, everybody would get their lives together. The devil is in the details.
1. Accept that everything in your life is your own fault
The first step to getting your life together is to take complete responsibility for your life. It’s easy to make excuses and blame others for your problems but that mindset leads to helplessness which is the last thing you need when you want to get your life together.
When you break it down, you will see that every problem in your life can be traced back to a mistake you made in the past. All your problems are your own faults. This may seem scary at first but it’s actually good news. If every problem in your life is your own fault then you have the power to fix it. Depending on others to fix your problems would be much worse because people will never prioritize your needs over their own. Moreover, regular people already suck and they are already struggling with their own problems. Not only you can’t expect them to help you but also you must actively shield yourself from their problems. Successful people who have the power to make your life better will be too busy living a fabulous life. So, you are on your own. The sooner you accept that you are the only person capable of helping yourself, the better.
-But Lane, I did everything right in my life but I’m still miserable.
Even when you think you did everything right in life, a deeper analysis will show you that it’s not the case. One of my ex-colleagues is a great example of someone who did everything right and still ended up miserable. He was a nice guy and we used to talk a lot during lunchtime or coffee breaks. This man did everything the society told him to do. He went to school, got good grades, graduated from a reputable university, got a good engineering job, got married, and had a kid. He didn’t drink or smoke. He was a good man who got along with everyone. While everything looked good on paper, he was one of the unhappiest men I’ve known. He couldn’t figure out why he was miserable although he never made a major mistake. Who would have thought following the rules to the letter could make you miserable? His mistake is clear as day to me. He bought into society’s lies without questioning them at all. It’s not a surprise that he ended up miserable. He is a great guy and I feel sad for his situation but I am also aware that it’s his mistake to blindly follow the rules.
The point is, if your life is a mess, there are mistakes that you are repeatedly doing whether you are aware of them or not. Same mistakes lead to the same outcomes. Somewhere down the line you must stop and think “What am I doing wrong?”, eliminate all the excuses, and take full responsibility for your life.
2. Eliminate the non-problems
Most of the problems people worry about are not problems at all. Not only they are not problems, but they are often perfect opportunities for growth.
Here are a few examples of non-problems that don’t deserve the pain they cause:
- Getting fired from your job
- Getting dumped
- Getting rejected
- Failing (a job, a business, a relationship)
While all these things may hurt you at the time when they happen, note that they all can be framed as non-problems. They also can very well be blessings in disguise.
Getting fired from your job may lead to finding a better job or building your own business. Getting dumped may mean you dodged a bullet or regained your freedom. It may also lead to finding someone better. Getting rejected provides you with real-world feedback from which you can learn and improve. It also can stop you from settling and make you start looking for better opportunities. Failing teaches you valuable lessons. Success is impossible without failure so if you can withstand the pain of failure, you will eventually succeed.
When I got fired from my first job (at a financial corporation), I made a switch to the IT industry and as a result, I tripled my salary within a few years. When the first girl that I fell in love with rejected my marriage proposal, I was devastated and I wasn’t aware that I dodged a massive bullet which was guaranteed to ruin my life starting from my early 20s. Getting fired from my first job and getting rejected by the first girl I fell in love with felt awful at the time but they ended up being blessings in disguise.
Emotions aren’t always reliable indicators of bad happenings. It’s perfectly possible to feel bad after something good happened. Don’t trust your emotions blindly. They may steer you wrong. Logic and facts are better and more reliable predictors of your life’s direction.
Conduct a rational evaluation of what’s happening in your life and eliminate the non-problems. If you manage to frame some of your problems as non-problems, you will take a giant step forward on the way to getting your life together. Bonus points if you manage to detect blessings in disguise.
3. Let go of the past
You can’t travel in time and correct your past mistakes. Whatever happened, happened and there’s nothing you can do about it. Dwelling on your past mistakes is pointless unless you learn valuable lessons from them.
Life always finds a way to punish you for your mistakes. You already paid the price for your past mistakes so there’s no point in re-punishing yourself for the same mistakes. Forgive yourself, learn from your past, and let it go.
I wasted the better part of my twenties by partying and being an irresponsible airhead in general. I got stuck in jobs that I hated but failed to look for alternative ways of making a living. I acquired bad habits which hurt my wallet and health. I let myself go and I got fat. I didn’t go for the girls I desired because I lacked the confidence. I forgave myself for all my mistakes and I promised myself to never repeat them. Sure, I will keep making mistakes as they aren’t completely avoidable but my new mistakes will not be the same as my past mistakes.
Mistakes aren’t the only things we dwell on about our past. We have a tendency to value what we are invested in. Maybe you invested a lot of time and effort in a relationship that still fell apart. Maybe you invested years on a degree that went out of fashion and fails to serve you now. Maybe it took you years to build a skill that failed to make you money. All these things are hard to let go because you are massively invested in them.
If the things you were invested in don’t serve to make your life better now, it’s best to cut your losses and move on. Some things may become dead weights that we are reluctant to drop but they keep crippling our ability to move forward. Again, set your emotions aside and do a rational analysis of the parts of your life that you might need to cut off.
I invested 4 years into an economics degree only to throw it to the curb and switch to the IT industry. I worked 10 years in the IT industry but I threw that experience away to build my businesses in completely unrelated industries. I left the city that I lived in for 13 years. I hated the city anyway but I had a social circle that I liked which was hard to leave behind. No matter how hard it is to let go of the past, it must be done if it’s not helping you move forward or it’s dragging you down.
4. Be precise about what you want to achieve
Getting your life together doesn’t make sense if you don’t have a future to look forward to. We want to get our lives together because we want a better future. We tend to feel happy when things are moving in the right direction and unhappy when things are trending bad. 1.
In 2011, I got tired of the vicious cycle of
- Wake up at 7 am
- Go to work
- Come back home at 7 pm
- Eat dinner
- Drink beer and watch porn
- Sleep at 12 p.m.
So, I decided to quit drinking. I thought it was the single most damaging thing to my happiness and I figured if I could pull it off, it would be a big step towards getting my life together.
I quit drinking for 3,5 months and absolutely nothing happened aside from dropping a few pounds. Why? Because I didn’t have a future to look forward to. I didn’t know a way to escape the rat race.
Alcohol wasn’t the real problem. The real problem was that I hated my life. Drinking beer in the evenings was merely an escape from everything I hated in my life. I lived in a city that I hated with every cell in my body, I worked at a dead-end job that I dreaded going every day. Maybe I would grit my teeth and hold on to my job if the future looked promising, but no. Every colleague who was older than me was also miserable. There was no point in working hard to get a promotion. Those men who managed to keep their jobs until an older age and got promoted to better managerial positions showed up at work earlier than everyone else and left the office later than everyone else. There was nothing going on in their lives that would motivate me. They had no life out of the office. If I worked hard, kissed the correct asses, and secured an upper managerial position, I would be even more miserable. I went back to drinking beer in the evenings because quitting the drink didn’t put an end to my misery.
Fast forward to 4 years later and I quit drinking again. This time I succeeded because I had goals to accomplish and a future to look forward to. That made all the difference in the world. I have been sober for the last 3 years because I have a great life and I still have a future that I’m looking forward to.
When we were kids, we had big dreams. Those dreams were crushed as we grew up to be adults because we realized that life is hard as an adult.
What are your dreams? You have only one shot at living and will you waste it living a mediocre life? Will you spend it envying the successful people? Will you just watch others succeed and quietly accept a miserable existence? We live inside our own heads and keep questioning why life has to be so hard and unfair. We are likely to take it personally but it’s not. Life is unfair in different ways to everyone. You are strong enough to overcome the obstacles on your way. If you can read this article, it means you are well-off enough to have access to an internet connection and a device to read it. It also means you can read English. These things are more than enough for you to succeed.
Aim high and set goals to keep you motivated. Some people say that it’s not smart to set goals because you will not be happy until you accomplish them but that’s not true. Noticing progress towards achieving our goals is often more than enough to make you happy at the moment and improve your self-esteem. For example, let’s take the goal of getting fit. Do you think people never feel happy unless they aren’t perfectly fit? No. If an obese person sets a goal to get fit and starts dieting, he will be happy when he loses 3 pounds in the very first week of dieting. Setting goals and working on them doesn’t make you unhappy unless you are not progressing towards them. The thing to be careful about is to understand and accept that your progress will not be linear. Failures and setbacks happen. It’s important to keep going despite them but the point stands. Setting goals and moving closer to achieving them is better than drifting like a rudderless ship.
Write down the goals that you want to achieve in 5 years and make a commitment to achieving them. Your goals may change along the way but that’s not the issue for now. When you change your goals, you still have goals.
Working passionately on your goals has the potency to automatically get your life together. For example, if I tell you that you need to wake up early in order to get your life together, that would be incomplete advice. What’s the purpose of waking up early if it doesn’t help you accomplish anything? If you wake up early on a Sunday morning just for the sake of waking up early and spend the whole morning reading your Facebook feed, then you will soon decide that there’s no point in waking up early. But if you wake up early on a Sunday morning and work on your side business then it’s a different story.
If your goal is to become a rich business owner in 5 years and that goal excites you, then waking up early to work on your goal can be the automatic result of setting a worthy goal. If you have a drinking problem that bothers you, the same goal can force you to quit drinking (as it did to me) because you can’t afford hangovers when you must work on your business every morning. If you find out that regular exercise increases your productivity then you will start exercising regularly. You have set one goal, started working on it and boom, boom, boom…your life is automatically getting together.
5. Get rid of the dead weight
Often, we get stuck in life just to maintain the status quo. Fear of loss is a powerful motivator. Rather than losing what we have, we continue to be miserable because we have dead weight to maintain.
Many people go neck deep in debt to buy things that they don’t need. As a result, they get stuck in jobs, cities, or countries that they hate. Many others stay in bad relationships with the fear of not being able to do better.
I sold my beloved car when I quit my job because as much as I loved it, it was too expensive to maintain and wasn’t indispensable at all. I got rid of my car and moved to a better city with better public transport. This move allowed me to get rid of car maintenance expenses. I moved to a smaller house with cheaper rent to avoid running out money until I made enough profit from my business. Getting rid of the dead weight in my life helped me immensely at getting my life together.
6. Go for some quick wins
Every year, millions of people set new year’s resolutions to get their lives together, only to revert back to old habits within an average span of 6 weeks.
A recent study by Kaitlin Woolley from Cornell University and Ayelet Fishbach from the University of Chicago found that the presence of immediate rewards is a stronger predictor of persistence in goal-related activities than the presence of delayed rewards. 2.
For example, people start exercising in January but they quit in February due to the lack of immediate results.
I know why this happens because I had dabbled with long distance running for years with no results to show for. I would run for a few months, get no results, and quit. After a while I would start again promising myself to stick with it for a longer time, still get no results, and quit again.
I broke this chain of failure when I discovered the power of strength training. I believe that it would be a lot harder for me to turn my life around if I didn’t start strength training.
Right about the time I was looking for ways to get my life together, a colleague (and also a good friend) of mine had started bodyweight training. He was a chubby guy just like I was at that time. His body started to change in a matter of a few weeks. His transformation was so incredible that I too started bodyweight training and I never looked back. Being able to change my body so quickly instilled in me the confidence to change other parts of my life. I had also found a training method that doesn’t consume a lot of my time. The workouts were short so I could squeeze in a workout even into busy schedules which made it possible to make exercising a part of my lifestyle.
My fitness success also changed my mindset about how I view information. I noticed that most of the mainstream advice about diet, fitness, work, and relationships are wrong. My fitness success led me to seek and find out better and infinitely more effective ways to succeed in life.
Look for some quick wins which you will start reaping immediate rewards. These wins will not only keep you motivated but also they will rewire your brain and leave you wanting to win more in life. Once you taste the sweet taste of winning, it will be addictive.
7. Start working on your goals and make adjustments as you go
Changing your mindset is half the way and the other half is the action. You’ll never achieve anything without action. The majority of the self-help advice revolves around useless things such as meditation or yoga but I advise against those types of time wasters. Real life action that gets real-life results is what counts as an improvement.
In a perfect world, everything would work just as we planned but the real world doesn’t work like that. It took me 3 years to completely change my life. There have been numerous setbacks, failures, and change of plans along the way. If your life is a mess, it didn’t become that way in one day so don’t expect to get your life in perfect order in one day.
Allow yourself time to correct your ways and don’t get frustrated if everything doesn’t exactly go according to your initial plan. Make adjustments to your plans as you go. Your failures and setbacks will provide you with valuable feedback about the direction you are going.
Always remember that you possess the inner strength to turn around anything that doesn’t go your way. Believe that you can do it and your inner strength will come out and prove you right.