There is a plethora of methods to cheat: cheating on your partner, cheating on a test, cheating on a diet. There are so many people you can let down when you cheat.
But what about cheating yourself?
Some people don’t struggle with this at all. I know some such people: they’re confidant in themselves—their choices and their abilities—the way that the rest of us can only envy. Due to some kind of allowance of independence since childhood, these go-getters do what they want and somehow what they want is always what’s right. They read the best books, listen to the best music, eat well, indulge in entertainment, have their dream job, and through it all: never appear to think twice about any of these daily decisions that scare the rest of us into passivity. What should I eat for dinner? It can’t be carbs, it can’t be fats, it must have protein, but I don’t like what I have in the fridge, I shouldn’t spend money, should I waste time cooking? PBJ again and pretend this never happened?
Those hyper-confidant friends are like sharks: they have to move to stay alive. Action is existence.
Conversations with ourselves like the one above can grow to consume our every move. This practice of neurotic forethought can be applied to anything and everything we do—and eventually construct a bubble of uncertainly around us. Then there we are, immobile. We gotta swim, friends!
Too often we get in our own way. Simple as that. There’s no divine or karmic roadblock that is preventing us from being happy—unless you consider yourself divine or karmic. If so, you’re on a whole other level, please leave.
Let’s just give ourselves a chance to be whole. I’ve found a few ways to get to a better place mentally to achieve this.
- Imagination. Regularly picture your life the way you want it. If you see yourself as a super-intellectual librarian, awesome! You have visions of yourself running a five-star restaurant in New York, cool! You feel your feet twitch as you picture a world-class ballet stage. Ah yeeuh! If you find yourself looking like a goddess and starring in a superhero scenario, bravo!
- Now picture ways to make these visions realities. You can’t develop superpowers. But you can be a tall, strong, beautiful, smart superhero to that neglected kindergartner in your class: you can create projects and activities that make that kid feel like he’s worth saving.
These are two pretty big mental adjustments, and each comes with a lot of baggage to sort through. So a few smaller, easier tips:
- Allow yourself the things that you see the people you admire doing:
- Manage your money well so you can visit coffee shops. Eventually, you’ll have found your signature drink that you can order with flair and finesse, like some kind of connoisseur.
- Manage your time well so you can get on Netflix and watch shows or documentaries; buy a gaming console and plunge into that whole world of virtual reality; make playlists on Spotify or iTunes; try lots of different podcasts until you find one that resonates with you, that you cannot start your morning without.
- Manage your weekends well so that you can travel, start a new hobby, volunteer, or host a get-together.
This is all easier said than done. Sitting down to start learning a new instrument, writing a blog, or any other thing you always thought you would like but never tried is the hardest part. There’s so much self-doubt, and adults give up really easily…
So here’s where the imagination comes back in. Grab that guitar, and imagine that you are Future-You: laid-back, confidant, and most of all—capable. Why is it so scary to give yourself things? Give yourself time to learn. Give yourself instruction, whether that’s getting another university degree, getting a tutor or teacher, or making a YouTube playlist of instructional videos. Give yourself grace: sure you can only play one chord, but could you do that yesterday? Give yourself treats–you made a DIY indoor herb garden and kept it alive for a week? Bust out the chocolate covered pretzels.
Just try stepping out of your own way once. It’s a lifelong challenge and an every-day obstacle, but after one time of seeing the path in front of you clearly without a roadblock that’s weirdly shaped just like you, you’ll be addicted to that freedom.
Don’t cheat yourself out of the reward of success.