The Line Between Finding Your Method and Letting Yourself Off the Hook

I listen to a lot of podcasts and read a lot of interviews and articles about the different habits and schedules of successful people.  Some get up at 4:00 AM, some get up at 11:00 AM.  Some work 16 hours in a day, some work two.  Some need people and energy around, some need solitude.  Every one of them is disciplined, but what they discipline themselves to do and how differs tremendously.

The more you learn about habits like this the more pressure you can feel.  I’ve had various phases in life where I felt guilty for not getting up earlier like so many people.  I’ve gotten up at 5 or 6 every day for sometimes long periods.  But honestly, it never helped me.  I feel physically ill early in the morning.  I used to dislike that about myself, but I realized it was only because I had this feeling that I should be more like successful people I know.  Yet none of those people got up early for its own sake.  They did because they found it to be the best schedule for them, given their own rhythm and flow.

It’s hard to shed guilt or pressure to implement the habits of other successful people.  It’s freeing to realize that you have your own methods that work for you, and they might look totally different.  That realization can also be a bit dangerous.  Am I sleeping in because that’s really the best way for me to optimize my day, or am I doing it because I’m lazy or lack the discipline to not drink too much the previous night?

It takes a lot of self-knowledge and self-honesty to find out what works for you and be honest about whether you’re really doing it.  The thing most successful people share in common is not the habits themselves, but how they arrived at them.  Constant seeking of new ideas and information.  Testing out ideas and practices you hear from others.  Being honest about which ones work and then sticking with them.  When you get slack, not pretending you slacked because it didn’t work.  Being honest about which ones don’t work at all and dropping them.

The line between putting unhealthy pressure on yourself based on a desire to imitate others and putting healthy pressure on yourself based on a desire to optimize your life can be a fine one.  Treat it like a game, laugh at yourself, and keep exploring until you find things that work.

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