It seems like everybody’s got a multi-step program for getting through things. Not just life coaches and self-help writers, but everyday people. I keep finding them on people’s blogs, whether it’s eight steps to blogging success, ten steps to establishing yourself in social media, or nine steps to having a better life. We agree that things are complicated enough to need a multi-step process, and I appreciate people being willing to share their ideas on it. I’ve learned a lot from things like 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, but most of those are a lot of steps, and I’m a simple guy. I have a two step program that I’ve been using for about a year and a half now, and following in the footsteps of these great posters, I want to share it too.
Step 1: Imagine
Every night, before I go to bed, I think about everything I did during the day, and imagine how I could have done better. All the things I didn’t get done that I wanted to, and what I can learn from the things I fell short on. Some nights I make a little list, whether on paper, or in my head. If something’s really important, I’ll put it on my whiteboard. I think the key is to imagine what I could have done differently or better, and to make it education instead of recrimination. What’s done is done, all we can do after the fact is learn from it. Once I’ve got my list, and gone over my day, I resolve to do better the next day.
Step 2: Do It
Then I get up and I do it. Or at the very least, I try my hardest. Some days that means making apologies or project revisions, and some days it means running a little farther or trying harder to respect people’s interests. It means learning new things, getting involved in life, and educating my imagination so that night I can think of even more ways to do better. It means trying to do what’s best practice, and spending time re-evaluating that as necessary. No, it isn’t best practice to eat chips for lunch. No, it isn’t best practice to be dismissive of an idea.
But be ready to fail. I’m not gonna lie, a lot of days I don’t make it. That’s life, things come up, we get distracted, sometimes I just don’t feel like it, so I eat chips and play video games all day. The saying “I’m getting better every day in every way,” just isn’t true for humans. The important thing to me is to do the best that I can, and on the days when I don’t do that, I think about the two step process. How can I do better, and then the necessity to make a commitment to doing so. And I know when I’m not doing my best. I’m the only one who can know when not I’m doing my best, and some days my best isn’t good enough. And that’s okay. Everyone has days like that, which leads me into my next point.
I’m not alone. I may occasionally be by myself, but I’m never alone. Every brick in my house was laid by human hands, every screw and nail put there with some kind of intention. Every lesson I’ve ever learned from anyone is a little piece of them that travels with me. I can trot those out and realize that I’m a product of those people, of society at large, and of the historical process which brought it about. Everything I am, I am because of legions of people, all of whom have the same issues. Some days they fall short, and some days they do well. But they get through the day, and so can I. There are people who depend on me, and people on whom I depend, whether I realize it or not. And if I quit on them, if I endorse the idea of quitting on them, then I’m saying it’s okay for them to quit on me. I’m not just talking about friends or family, either. There’s lots of people I depend on to get through my day. The bus driver. My professors. Road repair crew and traffic engineers. Maintenance people and doctors and police and politicians (I may not like them all the time, but I rely on them). They all get out of bed and do stuff for me. Maybe I can’t do something for them directly, but if I don’t get up, I’ll never find out.
I don’t know that I can make people believe in themselves, or be brave, or be great. I don’t even know if I can make myself do that most days. But what I can do is think about what I can do better, sleep on it, and then get out of bed and try and do it, and that I think you can too. Once we’re up and moving, we can just take it one day at a time.