We live in the single greatest time to be alive in all of human history. No, not because Amazon and Door Dash deliver toilet paper and hot meals to our doorstep, although that’s a nice touch.
But because many of us are now able to create the exact life we want. No longer do we have to be a blacksmith because our father and grandfather were blacksmiths. No longer do we have to spend an entire season planting our food, and then another picking it.
We have a freedom that no generation before us has had. We have the opportunity to create our life. The problem is that so many of us don’t take the time to figure out what it is we want to create.
We just float along, reacting to our environment and external factors. We blindly follow impulses and desires that cause us to eat too much, spend too much, and not pay attention to others.
We spend our time being scared because we blindly accept politicians statements as truth, and the minute we feel bored we turn to the fridge or the television. We take the path of least resistance and wonder why life is getting more and more difficult.
I fall victim to the same nonsense. I’ve watched like 18 episode of Game of Thrones recently. That’s 18 hours of my life! I’m literally going around my apartment telling Kels things like “What’s dead may never die” and “I’m going to have a lie down.”
This is naturally what we default to in our twenties because there is no longer a script for us to follow. We’re so used to following instructions from others that we don’t know how to create our own; leaving us feeling confused about “What’s next?” We simply kept moving on up to the next grade: 9th grade, 10th grade, 11th, etc. We cleaned our room when we were told. We ate dinner when it was cooked. We did the homework assigned.
Now, there is no more script. There is no-one telling us what to do. But rather than consciously deciding what the next steps are, we default to drifting. We react to life rather than causing life to react to us.
We need to consciously choose our script, or we will continue to default to the path of least resistance, and end up watching 18 hours of medieval characters battling over who is the rightful King of Westeros.
When we know where we’re going, we’re more likely to get there, and it starts by making a choice. The first step to change, is choice. Author Scott Halford writes, “Activating your brain begins with realizing that you do have say in how your life progresses. The brain is a completion machine. Once we choose, the brain will help us figure out the “how” as we progress.”
“The first thing you will notice about a drifter is his total lack of a major purpose in life. He will be conspicuous by his lack of self-confidence. He will never accomplish anything requiring thought and effort He spends all he earns, and more too. If he can get credit. He will have little or no imagination He will lack enthusiasm and initiative to begin anything he is not forced to undertake, and he will plainly express his weakness by taking the line of least resistance whenever he can do so He may be a jack of all trades but good at none” ~ Napoleon Hill
Write Your Own Script
There’s an exercise I was taught years ago, but never really put into play until recently. It’s originally from Timothy Wilson’s book, Redirect. The exercise is called Story Editing, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s physically writing out our story. It’s a life script that gives us a sense of purpose and direction, that we create for ourselves.
It’s the tool we can use to stop floating through life, and to motivate ourselves to stop passively choosing the path of least resistance (i.e. Game of Thrones and fast food).
When we have this self-created direction, or subset of goals, and then actually make moves on those goals, we become happier people.
It turns out that the isn’t a self-help, “woo woo” tactic either. There is scientific backing to taking the time to plan out our lives. It is shown to increase our happiness, persistence, and optimism towards the future.
Wilson writes, “College students who complete [this] writing exercise, compared to students who were randomly assigned to write about a neutral topic, reported greater optimism [and] greater satisfaction in their lives, not just right way, but 3 weeks later. And in the 5 months following the study, the students who had written about their best possible selves, visited the health center significantly less often than students who wrote about the neutral topic.”
How To Do Story Editing
There are many forms of story editing, but the one I’ll break down for you is called the “Best Possible Self Exercise.”
Here’s how it works –
Think about your life in the future, and imagine everything has worked out perfectly. You have abs of steal, more dating options then you have energy for, you own a Tesla, and you’ve saved lives and conquered cities. There’s even a statue outside of your house, or in The Lourve, or whatever. Whatever you want.
For 4 consecutive days, write for 20 minutes about your journey from where you are now (broke, single, constantly watching Game of Thrones, etc.) to your ideal form of success (your statue).
But here’s the key, you have to write about how you got there. What steps did you take? What obstacles did you overcome? How long did it take you (be realistic)?
By writing about our achievements and how we got there, we highlight what we actually need to do to get there. It gives us clarity on what needs to be done in order to grow through life. It’s not simply fantasizing about outcomes. It’s not the Law of Attraction or The Secret. It’s a map. It’s a step-by-step guide.
Research shows when we see the actual steps towards our goals, rather than believing magic will get us there, we become more resilient, persistent, and engaged in the process. All of which makes us more likely of actually achieve our goals.
Try it out for the next 4 days, and simply reflect on how you feel. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be moved to run out to Hobby Lobby for a chunk of clay and a chisel, and get to work on that statue. Kidding, kidding. Sort of.