You’ve probably heard the running joke that all school does is teach us the stuff we never use in real life. It’s safe to say that’s mostly true, but one thing especially rings true – it doesn’t prepare you for real life.
We spend 13 years going through the system, diligently attending class while simultaneously being sheltered from making any real decisions in life. Then most of us spend another four or more years in college, mainly because we’re told to. Why did you go? Not to say it’s the wrong choice for a lot of people, but honestly most everyone never gives it a second thought – off you go writing application essays while your parents sweat it out.
When we finally get that $120,000 piece of paper (diploma), we feel validated. We did it – fuck yeah. We just spent 17 years in school to obtain our first real job.
And to learn that real life actually sucks your soul dry.
Unknowingly, we’re enrolled in another school after college: the school of life. In an effort to lead to your growth as an individual, it’ll chew you up and spit you out. You’re probably thinking there’s a more sane way to learn about life, but there’s not. Lectures are given through hardship, and it’s ultimately your choice if you want to soak them in or ignore them.
Here’s the catch: if you ignore them, you’ll just be put through a similar lesson again. Ignore it again? You’ll be back in class before you know it, until you learn it and pass the test. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Take relationships for example. Having trouble with the same type of person over and over again, even though they’re different people?
Here’s the raw truth: we’re all forced to grow in life. We’re all put in uncomfortable situations, and we all grow from them. We honestly have no choice.
But this article isn’t about the times we’re forced to grow. It’s about the times we have the choice to grow.
If you want to get ahead in life, you’ve got to put in the work. Flying steady will only give you a smooth ride with very little ups and downs. If that’s what you want out of life, no one’s stopping you. But if you know life is about a bit more than just nice dinners and fancy conversation, now’s your time to tune in.
How To Mentally Grow in Life
Choose Areas You Want To Grow In
Humans fall into two categories: things we’re pretty bad at and want to get better in, or things we’re decent at/good at and want to excel in.
That cool, but it doesn’t leave a whole lot of direction. We’re pretty awful at a lot of crap, and we’re probably better at more things than we give ourselves credit for.
So the question inevitably becomes, where do you put your focus? Trying to improve things you’re bad at? Or try to really fast-track the things you’re pretty good at already?
How do you see your future? While most of us don’t have some crystal clear cut version of what we want to do or what we want to be, chances are we have a pretty decent idea of some version of ourselves. I hate to say it, but no one knows you better than yourself. Run with it.
If you’re blazing trails in the professional world and expect a promotion that will require more face-to-face or presentations, you’ll probably want to consider improving some public speaking skills. If you discovered you love to get creative but tried painting something that rivaled what your dog could do, you might want to invest in an art class.
Develop A Plan of Action
Great, you have an idea of where you want to go. Before you get there, you might want a plan. We aren’t fortunate enough to walk into our boss’s office, sit down, and quit on the spot. Because responsibilities or something.
This step requires some serious strategy and thought. This is your blueprint for getting to where you want to go.
Most things in life require sacrifice. In order to gain one thing, we usually have to give up another. If you want a new career, you’ve got to give up the old one. If you want better friends, you’re going to have to give up the crappy ones. If you want a better relationship, you’ll have to walk away from the shitty one.
So while we technically can just decide we want to try something and take a step, it’s not very realistic. If you want a new career, plan the steps to make it happen. Lay out your next 6 months so you can quit with enough money saved up to take school full time. Dabble in courses in your free time.
Do what it takes.
Take Massive Action
This is the main course. So far it’s been appetizers.
We can think of all the areas we want to grow, we can develop a master plan worthy of a book cover, and then real life hits. We get lazy. Life gets in the way. It’s inevitable. Then we give up on whatever it was we were trying to improve.
What separates the talk from the action? You don’t let a temporary slip deter you. You stick with it until you see improvement.
Nothing changes if nothing changes. Sound repetitive? Nothing changes if you change nothing.
Let’s use a simple example here, which you can think of as an analogy. Let’s assume you’re standing there, and want to take a step forward with your left foot. Step one is you’ve determined that you want to grow in the area of walking forward. Step two is you know you need develop a plan of action, so you figure you should move your left foot forward. …And then you just stand there and nothing happens. You fucked up the part about massive action – actually taking the step. Unless you take that step forward, you aren’t walking forward. Nothing has changed because you didn’t change anything – you just stood there.
You can dream all you want, but to achieve them, you have to take action.
And here’s where the massive comes in. You could take that step forward, but if you do a little dabbling here and there, how can you expect to improve in the long term? You have to commit for at least the short-term to give it a fair shot. If you want to get better at public speaking, giving one speech every few months won’t cut it.
You have to immerse yourself in whatever you want to whole-heartedly improve.
There is no shortcut. We don’t live in The Matrix. You cannot get Tank to upload software into your brain in three seconds to master Kung Fu or flying a helicopter. It takes years of consistent practice. This is the world we live in. Deal with it.
Take Advantage of Life
We sell ourselves really short on our ambitions and growth potential.
Go for what you want. Envision your future and go after it with your growth potential. Choose areas that strategically improve your future self, and then go learn some things or master them.
If you give something an honest effort and find it’s not benefitting you, no problems. That is bound to happen.
In the meantime, start thinking. Start planning. Start doing.
Sitting there won’t get you results.