Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Be Patient with Your Weaknesses: Hitting Walls

Strenuous living is an important key to having any sort of passion, but it's also important to be on guard against pitfalls that may make you wary of its effectiveness, as incorrectly interpreted pitfalls can end any productive venture. The pitfall may just be inherent in the beginning stages, a flaw in a person's methodology, or whatever, but if a person is unable to see that, he may give up an excellent practice altogether permanently.

For instance, in the Art of Manliness article I linked to in the above article (linked to above), it mentions a vast multitude of regular habits F.D.R. maintained, and seeing how much he was able to accomplish in a day may seem immensely intimidating, so much so that one may never attempt it. A person may examine his current lifestyle, see that he doesn't have 1/10th of that productive capacity, and never shoot for it, believing it impossible.

But we all start somewhere. It's like with muscles: You wouldn't look at a weight lifter's record press and say it's totally impossible to you. You would know that it took months, if not years, of training to get him up to that current point of strength, and he's only able to lift such an impressive amount due to his prior training. He probably started out just as weak as everyone else starts out as the default in life. Nobody is born ripped.

The same, in truth, applies to strenuous living: To get yourself up to such an astounding capacity for productive living you've got to work your habits like a muscle, and in practice they'll get stronger and stronger, enabling you to do more. Until then you've got to be comfortable hitting your walls and acknowledge that hitting that wall today means it's going to be further away tomorrow, increasing your abilities.

For example, I mentioned that when I dropped out of college I became an autodidact. Until my studies really got rolling, it was really more of a value I intellectually held as true rather than something I felt emotionally driven about. When I first began my boredom was horrendous and terrible, and my concentration so weak and attention span so short I couldn't study effectively for more than twenty minutes. I intended to study for the entire day . . . and I couldn't concentrate for more than twenty minutes that whole day! After that, I was just kaput and simply could not do anything more effectively. It was hard to accept that my lofty goals were so far out of reach at that point.

However, when I had struggled so hard to concentrate that I got exhausted, or even a headache, I found that the next day my concentration vastly improved. The day before I may have only been able to hold it for twenty minutes, but now I was able to keep it for beyond forty minutes or an hour, and additionally I was able to get in the "zone" quicker. With continued practice, my concentration grew stronger and stronger, and eventually I was able to function at the level of my lofty goals. It just took hitting my capacity over and over again to make it grow, just like how one has to lift a weight until it cannot be lifted anymore for strength increases.

Recognize, then, that when you start out in strenuous living that your capacity won't amount to very much, and that your aim should be simply hitting your wall. In whatever pursuit you choose, simply push yourself until you cannot do it effectively or productively anymore, such as your concentration petering out after twenty minutes of reading. That you hit the wall is evidence that you not only hit your limit, but that you will increase your limit: It just takes a night's sleep or so for the newfound abilities to set in and show themselves. Hit your wall again and again, and it'll move further and further away, eventually to the point where you will be able to be as productive as F.D.R. is outlined as being. Until then, accept that 10-20 minutes of meaningful effort may do you in for the entire day. Call it in. Take a nap. Do something else.

Growing more and more passionate about my life back then was a very gradual process. At start I really had to force myself to do my studies. My concentration was weak, and the subjects were very boring. My emotions mocked me in making me sleepy, disinterested, and daydreamy. Nonetheless I was so intent on learning the material, so intent on becoming my ideal self, that I pushed and pushed against all the resistance within me, and it gave away. Not only did my concentration improve, I also came to deeply love studying. I remember once having to cut a morning walk short because my brain felt "hungry" for my books, so instead of taking my morning contemplation I indulged my urge to study. Yes, eventually the resistance turned into attraction, and I wanted to study and self-improve.

It takes time for those changes, however, depending on the specific pursuit. Building a strong sense of concentration to a usable level may only take a day or two of intense effort. Things such as becoming passionate about fishing may take weeks, for it requires you to push yourself at so many individual things, such as mastering tying lures, learning which fish swim where, and so on. Other things, still, may take months or years. It's all worthwhile to undertake, however, it you truly want to love life.

As such, when you choose to begin living strenuously accept that your beginning efforts will be comically weak. You might plan out of a day to be a flurry of productivity, self-improvement, and self-advancement, and be burned to a crisp in under a half-hour, the rest of the to-do list seemingly impossible. Just accept you hit a wall, and that wall needs to be hit in order to increase your limits, like some sort of physical barrier you must literally headbutt to push away. So, when you begin, go ahead and set yourself the most ambitious goals possible, but realize your true aim is not to strictly achieve them, but rather to hit your walls on the way of doing so, so that the wall gets so far pushed away you do achieve your goals, and then day after day hold it.

Such are pitfalls as these that need to be watched out for unless an ambitious endeavor be stopped by false negative thinking. To protect one's individual lifestyle, be on guard to search for your "hang-ups" that slow you down, the incorrect, false, inaccurate, or irrational ideas that may make you think something is impossible, but it's really your way of looking at it, examining it, or thinking about it.

Don't think you can't when the lives and accomplishments of great men prove otherwise, that you can.

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