I’ve been hard on myself.
Not really for self improvement, necessarily, but more for the loathing. I should be doing this; why aren’t I?
Feel free to inset your own “this” here; working out, eating better, writing more, finally solving Fermi’s paradox, whatever. The point is you have things you want to do, and you hate yourself for not doing them.
That’s where you fail.
See, we only really do what we want to do. The gravity of that pulls us away from our hopes and “in theories…” that sound so easy. When you think about things you should do, you’re quietly setting them up as things you hate. Nobody likes requirements, after all. And, even if they’re for a good cause, you’re going to avoid them whenever possible.
But what if you like them?
Sometimes we don’t like to be happy.
It seems to easy, too childish, and we act suspicious of that. We adopt cynicism or even ambition to insulate us from happiness. Yes, even ambition, that cultural caffeine; the more you focus on the future and your wants, the less you can enjoy and smile at your haves.
So we don’t want to be happy. We adopt a theatrical posture of the supposed-to. We’re supposed to be healthy, to travel, etc. And by making it mandatory, you’re forced to do it. It becomes a chore, an errand, and we hate it.
But what if we didn’t?
Well, that changes things. You’ll go out of the way for things you like, because you feel good about them. That’s obvious. But when you look at things you want to do as things you enjoy and not just chores, you’re going to be happier.
And they’re going to get done.
See, at the end of the day it’s about solving the problem. It’s about being the best self we can be, and that’s something that can be looked at from one of two sides. The first is the negative, the dragging, the New Year’s resolution that hates the mirror. The second, though, is different; it’s the upbeat, loving version that likes yourself enough to improve even more. It’s a self that will do it for yourself because you like it, one which removes the moral angst (I should eat healthy) to the self aware and positive (I like eating healthy, so I will.)
What if instead of talking about how much you should be cleaning your room, you focus on how good it feels to have a clean room? Even if you don’t do it, you’ve already replaced some guilt and stress for upbeat aspiration.
You’re just as likely to get something done if you think like that, and you’ll probably be happier along the way. You might as well, right? It’s not like your suffering has helped you so far. Go ahead and forget the aesthetic appeal of the “ugh, I’m supposed to” and skate along with the “I like to do (X), the thing I want to do.”
It might work. And, either way, you’ll be happier.