What's at the core of Self-Improvement?
All the people writing and reading about habits, productivity, grit, mental toughness, and other things in the name of self-improvement are chasing just side-effects. The real thing is mastering your mind. Once you master your mind, all the self-help advice render meaningless to you.
Do you think the one who has mastered his mind needs any productivity hacks? Do you think he needs any motivation or validation from others to move forward? Do you think such a person needs to apply tricks to fight procrastination?
A man who has mastered his mind has complete control over his attention. He can focus his mind on any subject any time and hold it there for as long as he wants to. No success or achievement is out of reach for such a man.
A man who has mastered his mind has no dependency on motivation to keep moving. And no setback can demotivate him either. He doesn’t need to listen to music to get in the flow state; he doesn’t need to stick pictures of inspiring people on his wall; he doesn’t need encouraging words from friends. He decides – He does. Motivated and demotivated mental states are just illusions for him.
He doesn’t get allured towards the pleasurable things outside his path. And he isn’t afraid of the painful thorns lying on his path. He knows that all the pleasures are mere mirages that keep you chasing and forever distracted.
A mind out of reins gets a million thoughts every day; most of them irrelevant and useless. A master of the mind only thinks when he needs to, and then shuts it down to take rest. 100% ON – 100% OFF. He brings such a level of performance that an uncontrolled mind can’t comprehend.
We live in a world where people take pride in working hard. Society rewards hardship. People take pictures of themselves working hard and share on social media to show how hardworking they are. People work hard to stroke their egos. They think hard work entitles them to success. A master of the mind simply works on whatever he decides to. A concept like “hard work” doesn’t even exist for him. He either decides to do or don’t. Work follows as per the requirement and the decision, not as per the scale of “Hard work”.
He doesn’t get too happy when he succeeds because he understands the impermanence of this universe. He doesn’t chase a result with the hope of becoming happier. Because he knows that lasting happiness is a myth. He knows that no desire can give him permanent happiness. For such a thing doesn’t exist.
No distraction can invade his activities. When he is working on something, he’s completely focused and composed. When he is resting, he is completely relaxed and calm. He does not waste his energy on any activity or thought that doesn’t fit his priorities. When everyone around the world wastes their energy scrolling social media and binge-watching Netflix, he saves his energy with rest and recovery.
He does not need to build habits because he can focus on whatever he wants and whenever he wants. Hard work and pushing through is effortless for him because he is unmoved by pain and discomfort, just like he is unmoved by pleasure and lust. He knows when discomfort is just out of habit and when his body actually needs to rest.
He doesn’t care what society thinks about him or his methods. He looks at the patterns in his field and his mind. He acts as per these patterns. He doesn’t care, which is the right or the wrong way or the good or the bad way. Because he knows that good, bad, right, wrong are all just constructs of society and culture, these words do not belong in his dictionary.
Failure can’t affect such a person because he sees failure as just one more situation to update his mental models. On encountering a failure, he upgrades his pattern recognition and moves forward. He either goes through the obstacle or around it; but never freezes.
Ups and downs of external circumstances can’t disturb him. He maintains a level of detachment from the external circumstances. There’s a gap between the external and the internal. The external state can’t directly affect the internal state of a mastered mind. He only reacts to his environment when he wants to.
He does not need to schedule meditation sessions in his day. He is always meditative. Similarly, he does not need to practice mindfulness. He is always aware of his inner and outer state. His internal eyes (to observe his mind) are as developed as his external eyes (to observe his surroundings). He is as much aware of his inner state as he is of his outer state.
The goal of this post is to make you realize that everything you are chasing in the name of self-improvement is just a mirage. It’s like four blind people touching a different part of a giant elephant and describing it. Willpower, habits, mental toughness, productivity, hard work – all these are just various tiny aspects of the real thing. And the real thing is mastering your mind.