The Greatest Life-Hack of All

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A friend recently contacted me and wanted to know of any tricks I had to maintain my peace of mind and to keep from backsliding into old habits and routines (I get similar requests almost weekly).  He has come out of a long, dark winter and did not want to slide back into fear, drinking, and other bad habits.  He knew of course that willpower alone wouldn't do it so what kind of hacks did I suggest?

It seems everyone is looking for life-hacks and shortcuts to make life easier.  Books and programs selling short work weeks, getting fit without exercise, and productivity hacks all soar to the top of best-seller lists.  It still amazes me how easily the modern versions of snake oil sell, but I guess human nature doesn't change so the carnies just change the label and call it something else.  I fall for it once in a while myself.  We're all looking for the magic pill that will make life better and easier - once and forever.

Often times the snake oil salesmen are not intentionally selling you a worthless potion - it worked for them!  Why then do so few people get real value from self-help books or routines?  Could it be that most people don't do the required work?

All routines, procedures, and systems are empty.  They're like closet organizers- the structure is there for you to use, but if you don't use them to organize your belongings they are worthless. Tim Ferris offers some serious productivity and time saving 'hacks' in his best selling book The 4-Hour Workweek , but do you really think that Tim works only 4 hours a week?  What Tim has offered is convenience -  a set of systems, and like an instant sauce which requires water or milk to be added, you must add the work.  I'd dare say his strongest hack is willpower -the king of all hacks.

I will agree that there are routines and systems that we can use to make our lives easier and more manageable.  I've found that maintaining a morning routine and following certain guidelines give me the strength and clarity I need to live a productive and meaningful life, but I work hard at mindfulness every day.  Willpower is required.  (See more on tools and systems here, here, and here)  Mindfulness, meditation, exercise, and self awareness are all great tools, but if you have addictions, bad habits, and challenges - and who doesn't - then a lot of willpower and determination is required to overcome them.

Living a meaningful life can be hard work but it's worth it.  Grab your tools and get to work - the work of Life.  With the right practice it gets easier.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living

19 comments:

  1. I've wasted so much money on self help programs and books that it's sickening.

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  2. I agree, Dan. I was the queen of reading self help books starting - oh, twelve years ago or so. Until I put down the work and actually implemented some (and I do stress 'some') of the practices in ways that worked best for me, the books did little more than collect sticky notes and dust on the shelf. This is a great reminder that it really is work, but it can also be fun!

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    1. Fun? Just kidding....Life should be fun, even when it's not

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  3. Willpower is indeed the king of all hacks. Willpower is a habit in and of itself, I think. Too many of us were conditioned to think that we have it or we don't. Not the case!

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    1. You are correct Tony, I spent years thinking that I didn't have willpower or discipline and that was that. I've since learned to cultivate it, though it is still a challenge.

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  4. Nice post Dan. Willpower is indeed powerful, but unfortunately a lot of people lack it. I struggle with willpower issues myself..daily. I agree with what you said about routines. Daily routines are a great tool becasue once you set them in motion and stick to them for a short time they become habits.

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    1. Hi Craig,

      Routines are one of my greatest weapons for developing willpower over time.

      Like your blog, you've done a lot in a short time.

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  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  6. Willpower, for me, is to stop asking ourselves if we "feel like it" (we do all the time - often without knowing - then decide we don't feel like it, then don't do it, then wonder why we're not getting anywhere).

    Whether you feel like it in the moment has not importance whatsoever. If it fits your long term goals, do it. Period.

    Regular exercise and meditation have made everything else much easier, tastier, happier. :-)

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    1. If it fits your long term goals, do it. Period.

      If only...........

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  7. Luckily, I did not spend too much money on self help materials. I did go through a time reading alot of self help type books from the library or in the book store and my husband starting saying you have read so much of that stuff you should be perfect by now. :) Of course there is alot of valuable advice out there, but I now find that joke very funny. :)

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    1. Hi Lisa,

      I've spent a fortune on self help materials. Some are truly inspiring, but what works for one may not work for another. We must get in touch with our inner voices and have the willpower to DO WHAT WE KNOW WE MUST DO.

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  8. I went through a period of reading self-help books until one day I realized they all pretty much said the same thing, but not one of them spoke to me or fulfilled what I was seeking in the first place, the answers were inside myself. It does take hard work, but it's worth it.

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  9. Willpower is definitely a muscle I haven't exercised nearly enough. If things get difficult, I tend to slip up--and perfectionism gets in the way too. If I slip up, I decide that I "don't have what it takes." I think a lot of people do that. We're all pretty good at getting in our own way, aren't we?

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    1. It's your life, live it accordingly.

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  10. My home screen on my phone reads:
    "There is joy in discipline. Don't let weak people take that away from you. Stay strong and true to your goals. Never give up on what is important to you. It's your life. What others think does not matter."

    I like your simple version even better: Willpower is the king of all hacks.

    Great stuff Dan!

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  11. Dan, I think this is what Steven Pressfield and others discuss: the notion of just DOING THE WORK. It can be hard, but as you point out, there really is no way out but through.

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  12. Willpower has nothing to do with being weak or strong. True inspiration is needed to find true motivation. When you can thus find at least the tiniest bit of hope, the narrowest outlook on a better tomorrow, then the will to act upon it will give you wings. Then you can find true joy so discipline does not feel like something that can even exhaust you.

    This sounds maybe more mystical than it is, because I'm not a native English speaker.

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