It started with the self-help fatigue I couldn’t shake, that collided with the dopamine hit I kept sourcing from said self-help.
Somewhere amid the colour-saturated morning routine videos and actionable end-of-chapter recaps, I started to grow annoyed. Despondent. The former because I felt like I was being sold on an industry that is, at its core, set up to line the pockets of the already rich and removed; the latter because I knew deep down that I’m always looking for this magic answer to all my problems, when the simple truth is that there literally is none.
I started becoming very conscious of waking up and already feeling pressed down by the big vision I’d mapped out for myself on a plethora of random journal pages. My God, I was paralysed by the thought that even the way I got out of bed could determine the trajectory of the rest of the day and, if repeated enough times, my life.
The problem with misusing self-help is the seemingly endless hope-despair cycle. In the end, the feelings of resistance, fear, and self-doubt around too-big goals remain and, on a lot of days, triumph.
I remember being sixteen and realising that the teen films I watched were setting me up to fail – there was this underlying lesson of being saved via romantic love. And then I noticed that this bled through a lot of media, whether the saviour is a partner or another thing we hope, and deep down expect, will manifest for us and make our present suffering worthwhile. We dream of a utopia, whether it be in the form of a society or our own lifestyle. Kinda self-defeating when utopia means “no place.” But there you have it. Mass, incessant deferral that only keeps the current agitation going.
It was coming across a productivity video on my daily binge that sparked a shift on Thomas Frank’s YouTube channel, which I finally got around to watching after skimming the video comments for his main points in the past (read: Restless-and-afraid-of-time-waste-while-also-wasting-time Paradox). I watched his demo of a habit tracker that I found a lot easier than others I’d previously trialled. I think I was a little unrealistic with my goals as I’ve since paused tracking, but already through that simplified tool I could see life patterns emerging and finally thought, maybe the end result doesn’t have to be the same.
I still love self-help which, look, I do prefer to call either self-improvement or personal development. But whatever it goes by in your household, I think that when used correctly, as a tool that you’re in control of, it has the potential to unleash aspects of yourself you never would have accessed otherwise. In that way it is a magic key. But not in and of itself. So, while I have no plans of giving up an aspect of my life that I enjoy so profusely, I am going to approach it differently. Because after twelve years, why the hell not?
Lesson: You can take your time, gradually learning the ins and outs of the system you wish to master, and then watch as consistently shifting reps invite tenfold returns.
My new approach is no longer just going to be me reading self-help as a timed race to the finish line that is my Goodreads Reading Challenge. Instead, I’m going to savour the pages of carefully chosen books, making considered notes and transferring them to a repository that I can return to again and again; most importantly, coming up with practical ways to apply them to my own life. These actions I will closely observe, and modify to suit. It’s going to make the process of reading a lot slower, but the idea is that it will actually have some visible effect in the long run. This will be in stark contrast to my track record of internalising ideas but not manifesting them.
So, it’s the slow game. It has to be. I have no other option than to watch and help this thing organically grow, to build over time. Nothing starts out (or indeed ever is) failsafe, and that’s where I have to draw the line on my inner perfectionist.
I feel like I write these manifestos every time I come back into a blogging mindset, but I’m hoping that over time they’ll solidify into my true vision.
I want to do this website thing right. As a fan of Mark Manson, Joe Rogan, and other content sources that require conscious consumption, I want a more long-form sort of blog – a journal with tried-and-true techniques that I can pass on to make the self-improvement sphere feel less overwhelming and actually effective. It needs to be reflective, and feature my unique perspective. It needs to go beyond the trivial and generic (the stuff that might work for everyone else and get the hits, but ultimately leaves its audience wanting).
I also know that there is a big learning curve with the blogosphere. I want to learn the ins and outs of everything, from efficiency-building WordPress functions to creative forms of Pinterest marketing. I definitely don’t want to turn to sleazy email campaigns that make promises but require your big bucks to unlock the secrets. I’m not about tapping into your psychology to rack up exorbitant earnings. I just want to share what I’ve learned. Yes, making money off my blog would be amazing, because I will be putting time and effort into it. But it’s not the core. And that’s why I kept putting The Exhaustive Life off, I think. Because thinking I have to engage in those sorts of tactics does not line up with my core values.
Knowing that this is going to be a journal of sorts feels liberating. I want to give you the secrets without the sugar rush. It also means I won’t have to feel like an impostor selling tips that I myself aren’t currently implementing.
So. Back to the learner’s mindset. I’m owning my humility, my status as a self-improvement beginner – not a complete beginner, because I’m pretty clued-up on the lingo, but a beginner in the sense that I am inconsistent and haven’t been able to make lasting change in the way that I have previously planned. I do have systems, which I will touch on in a future post, but they can be haphazard, which is what I want to ideally move away from.
I’m not going to put pressure on myself to write every single day, à la the 90 Day Challenge I tried to put myself through last year. It’s just not how I roll. If I have something looming over my head, I shut down. I’ve learnt quite a few times now that my brain will actually consciously sabotage itself, just to see what happens.
Right now, I’m on the bottom level. Stage Zero. As I learn techniques, I will share them, and keep building myself upward and then helping you do the same.
It means that my posts may not be that frequent, until I’ve tried things or considered ideas and taken the time to flesh them out. This blog will probably be reflective at first, and then when I learn a few things, turn into a bonafide guide to help you clock the skills as well.
The new plan
I want to:
- Gradually transform my lifestyle with daily conscious practice.
- Implement and iterate as I go, remembering that learning over time, with enough repetitions, gets you where you want to a lot quicker.
- Learn how to develop myself with minimal overwhelm, and share these tips/techniques with my readers.
- Store my acquired knowledge and perspectives in a zettelkasten.
- Choose an actionable book and start reading. (When I first started The Exhaustive Life, I had this vision of providing life lessons, set out in the same format as the lesson plans I might design for my own students. I love the idea of having supplementary texts, almost like a free class you could take at your own pace as you master the techniques, as well as providing a Web-quest of links and resources you may not have come across otherwise. I’m going to find a way to bring this all in eventually. For now, I’m starting my single-text study with The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
- Surrender to the teachings of the content I consume, remaining present and really learning, instead of opting to just read or watch without actioning.
No more overthinking, or trying to fit the mould. This is how The Exhaustive Life is going to work, and if you’d like to stick around, I recommend you bookmark this site or, better yet, sign up for the newsletter. I promise I have no desire to create long email chains that fill up your inbox – that’ll be exhausting to create, let alone to have to transfer immediately to your junk folder! As I’m getting started, the newsletter will be slow-going, but it might become a weekly/fortnightly affair as I grow more comfortable behind the reins.
Here’s to enhancing our lives.