I’ve been thinking a lot lately. About self-improvement, making the best out of what you have, et cetera et cetera. And basically, I’ve been trying to figure out ways of boosting your chances to take advantage of the right opportunities. To take advantage of a lot of them. I’ve been reading about it too. There’s a lot of interesting stuff out there on the internet if you just peep around, actually!
I’ve always had problems taking advantage of opportunities. Not big ones, but just the average, everyday opportunity, if I can put it that way. I always spend time doing absolutely nothing, or just messing around on Youtube or any social network out there. I’ve been trying to change this for a while, but I was never really active about it.
Some time ago, though, I self-slapped myself in the face quite unexpectedly. While talking to some guy I don’t really know. I simply caught myself being ashamed of my lifestyle and habits. People I meet are always quite impressed by my „curriculum vitae“, mainly because I only talk about what I’ve done and not about what I haven’t (obviously, right? :-P). I mean, telling people you’ve been in a robotics club since you were ten, and that you’re the one who got all the people together to create it sounds kind of cool to me. But recently, I realized I don’t really think I deserve to impress people.
For most people, getting their first diploma is something to be proud of. As of myself…I just feel like someone took a piece of paper and wrote „Congratulations, you’ve been sitting on this chair in your class for five years not giving a damn! Now you get a certificate for it.“ on it. I understood I don’t feel rewarded because I wasn’t satisfied with my own work. It doesn’t matter if the Swiss educational system was. You should always try to be happy with yourself, no matter if other people say you’ve already done enough or you should do more. Of course, if you need a certain grade to pass and you’re satisfied with an inferior one, it might be wise to try just a little harder. But I think if you want to be happy, regardless of being successful, your own opinion matters more than that of others.
And to be happy, you should set a goal and take all the opportunities that will lead you to fulfill it. For me, it would mean trying to take part in all the possible activities in my free time so I wouldn’t be left doing nothing. I would probably just be happier with myself then. For you, it might be going to the gym to lose weight (commonplace example), or to take up a class to get good in a certain domain. It all depends on the goal you set yourself.
I probably make it sound easy when, actually, it can be very complicated to get out of a routine and do something new. It can be frightening, or basically require more of an effort than just staying the same (this is true in most cases, if not all cases).
First, to set a goal you want to reach, you need to be aware that you need to change. You might feel unhappy but have no idea why. You might think your misery is caused by social or financial factors, but most of the time, it’s just because you’re not happy with yourself. Not to forget that the factors themselves are influenced by what you do.
We’re humans, and thus always going to try to convince ourselves we’re fine and something else needs to change, even if we can have moments of „lucidity“, where we see we need to do something about it. I have to say that being too hard on yourself won’t help you at all. You’ll just feel unsatisfied no matter what happens, and end up being even more depressed than at the beginning.
I’m the kind of person that always tries to do too much at once, and that (of course) always turns out to be unable to achieve my unrealistic goals. You should start small and go from there. I once read that auto-discipline builds up just like a muscle. You need to lift „weights“ that are near your limit, but not above it to actually progress. (I’m borrowing this metaphor from Steve Pavlina, a link to his website will be included below.)
You need to be open and looking to and for opportunities to take advantage of them. If you don’t see an opportunity, it won’t lead you to much. Keep looking for things that could lead you one step closer to your goal, and don’t hesitate too much to take advantage of them. Most of the time, if you wait for some time, the opportunity will simply disappear. The period of time varies, but it can’t be a bad thing to be able to make decisions quickly, right?
But how are you supposed to take decisions quickly if they’re important? Well, some guys (mainly Dan Gilbert) have lead some research, and said that we overestimate the impact of our choices on our happiness massively. I was pretty impressed when some guy I barely knew sent me the link to the speech (which will be included below) Gilbert gave about the subject. It’s a really interesting study. I personally also think that we always have a possibility to change our mind (or at least the
outcome of our choice) if we really want to, even if it takes a lot of time and effort. So don’t be afraid!
The last piece of advice I can give you is to actually create opportunities yourself. If there’s something you want to do, actively try to get to do it. I mean, if you want to take part in an event, and never ask the organizers about it, you’ll never know if you could’ve been a part of it. You need to take risks, even if the risk in my example is practically zero. What’s the worst that could happen? You could get disappointed. And that’s a risk worth taking.
With all of that said, advice never really quite works. You need to figure things out by yourself to really apply them. The thing is, said advice can make you think about the problem in different ways, or just think about it more. And I’m glad if I can do just that. There’s some great writers out there that can make you truly understand things. If I can get you even a little closer to the person you want to be, I’m happy.
Take care, people. Thanks for reading.
Want someone else’s opinion?
Steve Pavlina’s opinion (on self-discipline and willpower, and using them correctly)
Dan Gilbert’s opinion (and speech about happiness)
Steve(of Do Something Cool)’s opinion (and guide to taking advantage of opportunities)
David Wong(of Cracked)’s opinion