Naval Ravikant, entrepreneur, investor and modern-day philosopher, says that when it comes to self-improvement, the only way to get what you want, is to choose strategies to achieve those ends, that make you happy.
“The ideal life would be one where you had a hobby that as a by-product made you money. You had a hobby that as a by-product kept you healthy. And you had a hobby that as a by-product made you smarter and more creative.”
The alternative—beating yourself into submission and living a life of endless suffering and self-sacrifice, is neither effective nor sustainable. So here’s the plan:
- Take an area of your life that you want to improve upon. You want to play the guitar better or manage your time more effectively.
- Be honest about the distance between where you are and where you want to be. Maybe you’d like to run 10km but right now you’d more than likely pull a muscle running for the bus.
- Work out a fun and enjoyable way to make progress towards your goal. My friend and I just bought a heavy bag, gloves, wraps and a striking training plan to work through together.
- Be realistic about your timeline. When you’re passionate about your daily activities and nothing feels like a chore, maybe there’s no hurry. Ideally, your plan is sustainable over the long term and it won’t feel like you’re constantly having to make sacrifices.
Naval says to throw out the idea of work…
Are there areas of your life where you’re not getting the results that you want? Are you struggling through books that you think you should read rather than reading for pleasure or to satisfy your curiosity? Is the way that you’ve chosen to earn money making you miserable rather than energising and inspiring you? Are you in a relationship that takes work instead of flowing, relatively, harmoniously?
Often when a strategy—say, deciding to go vegan to lose weight—isn’t working, instead of questioning our approach, we double down on it. Vegan harder. Maybe you miss going out for burgers with your friends or eating Sunday roast with your family. Is there a way that you can keep the goal the same but make your plan to get there more fun? You could give yourself some leeway at the weekends or join an online vegan community to share recipe ideas.
Here are some questions that I’ve been asking myself to make sure that I’m not sabotaging my efforts. What do I find myself doing effortlessly? Who am I happiest spending time with? Where do I most enjoy living? This isn’t the same as asking what am I supposed to want to do or be or have. I’ve discovered that if I go down that road, I’ll only last so long. If it’s hard. If it feels like work. Maybe it’s not the best use of my time and energy.
Naval says, “It’s very easy for self-improvement to degenerate into self-conflict and for self-conflict to degenerate into self-misery.”
And nobody wants that.