Don’t Try

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    207 people had breakthroughs this week. Will the next one be you?

    One thing for you to think about

    The best things in life are self-evident—i.e., if you have to ask if you have them, then it means you probably don’t.

    • If you have to ask if you feel happy, then you probably don’t.
    • If you have to ask if you feel loved, then you probably don’t.
    • If you have to ask if you are successful, then you’re probably not.
    • If you have to ask if you are healthy, then you’re probably not.
    • Etc.

    And instead of accepting this simple truth, we avoid it by endlessly overcomplicating the definitions of love, happiness, success, etc.

    Reflect: Then consider sharing this thought with others.

    Three things for you to ask yourself

    In what ways have you defined success or happiness for yourself that weren’t helpful? What are some simpler and more helpful ways you could define them?

    At what points in your life did your constant pursuit of success/happiness/love move you further away from success/happiness/love?

    Recommended: Use these as journaling prompts for the week.

    One thing for you to try this week

    Stop trying. In one area of your life where you’re anxious to achieve success or love or happiness, try simply giving it up for a while.

    This will likely terrify you at first. It will feel like a betrayal—as though you are somehow giving up on yourself. But it’s often giving up on our deepest desires for love, success, or happiness that makes them more available to us than ever before.

    To help you along, I will give you a recent example from my own life. For the past few months, I have been playing around with a number of book ideas. I have outlined and brainstormed for hours on each of them. And during this time, none of them ever felt good enough. Something was always wrong. “Oh, people won’t like that,” or “This doesn’t make sense,” or “That just sounds stupid.”

    Finally, I said screw it, stop trying so hard to make it “successful.” Instead, I simplified it and asked myself: What do I feel like writing? What’s the book I would love to read right now that hasn’t been written?

    Within 30 minutes, I had an idea and a loose outline that I feel far better about than anything I’ve spent the past three months working on.

    Remember: Small changes lead to lasting breakthroughs. Reply to this email and let me know how it went for you.

    Last week’s breakthroughs

    In last week’s email, I challenged you to act on something you feel only 60-70% ready for. Then adjust, iterate, and improve. Jennifer woke the fuck up and immediately got herself a job interview:

    The line about procrastination really hit home. I lost my job unexpectedly a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been putting off the job search; I was blaming the hit that my confidence took and telling myself I wasn’t ready to update my résumé, I wasn’t ready to start putting myself out there, I wasn’t ready to consider next steps…. So I did it anyway. Immediately after reading this newsletter. Less than an hour after sending my revised résumé, I have an interview confirmed for tomorrow. I’m glad I didn’t wait until I felt ready. Even if it doesn’t turn out to be the right fit, just having a positive response feels like the kick in the pants that I needed to really gear up my job search.

    Meanwhile, Daniel is putting his Xbox down to explore the world:

    Funny timing on this one, as I did the action you suggested just a few days ago, last Friday.

    To give a little context: I lost my job a month ago. Thankfully, being the careful planner, analyzer, and worrier that I am, my financial situation is stable to the point of not needing to rush back into the workforce. My friends, family, and therapist have all been encouraging me to take time for myself to decompress and enjoy the lack of stress from work.

    Yet this last month I’ve spent the majority of my time playing Xbox. As I have done for most of my life, I’ve been putting off doing anything that I wasn’t ready for, or needed more time to plan for. Living with so much fear of the unknown, fear of uncertainty. So I procrastinate by blasting my brain with highly stimulating video games for hours on end.

    Well, this past Friday, I did one of the most spontaneous things I have ever done: I booked a two-week trip to New Zealand. I leave in a week. I’ve never been outside the U.S., save a few trips to Central America.

    I don’t have any plans. I have nothing booked except the flights. I decided I’m gonna force myself to figure all of that out along the way, instead of planning indefinitely until everything is “perfect.”

    It feels uncomfortable. I’m nervous and anxious that it’s somehow going to end up as a disaster of a trip. But I’m reminding myself this is a good thing. I’m sure I’ll learn more in these next 3 weeks than I would have learned in 3 months of meticulous planning.

    Your message was a nice reminder that I’m on the right track here.

    Many readers identified a fear of failure at the root of their procrastination through over-planning. Here’s Dave being inspired by Breakthrough emails to push past that fear this year:

    For most of my life I have been a procrastinator… I have become a pro at it. I often used phrases like, ‘I work best under pressure,’ or ‘I’m prioritizing my tasks,’ as an excuse for it. Many times I actually took on too much as a means of justifying procrastination, often at the expense of boundaries (see last week’s newsletter!). Through a lot of reflection, I figured out that most of this was due to a crippling fear of failure. If you over-plan, put it off, and don’t actually try, you can’t fail. However, it is exhausting.

    I found your newsletter at the end of last year and it really started to resonate with me. Well, I am happy to say that this year has been off to a good start, partly due to your inspiration. Rather than over-planning and putting it off since ‘I’m not ready yet,’ I have started a journey of health, both mental and physical. Since the start of the year I have shed 20 lbs, through imperfect dieting. Today I began a real imperfect simple exercise program. I have accomplished this goal all without waiting for the perfect time and plan.

    Well, let me be the first to break the news to you Dave: your “imperfect” progress is fucking crushing it. You’re miles ahead of most people. Keep that imperfection going.

    As always, send your breakthroughs by simply replying to this email. Let me know if you’d prefer to remain anonymous. Video submissions are also welcome if you’d rather tell me your story than write it. If you’re open to your video being shared on socials, let me know as well.

    Until next week,

    Mark Manson

    #1 New York Times Bestselling Author
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