Personal development is obsessed with motivation. Internet gurus are full of tips on how to get it, how to keep it, and how to use it to create a picture-perfect lifestyle to inspire your zeroes of blog followers.
But here’s the truth about motivation: it isn’t enough. If you take an idiot and motivate him, all you have is a motivated idiot – a deadly combo that wins Darwin Awards and American political office, but isn’t good for much else.
It’s not enough to be motivated if you’re moving in the wrong direction. Your internal GPS needs to come into play, mapping out red flags and announcing in its most poshly accented robo-voice that you’re on the incorrect course.
And your job? Your job is to listen. Your job is to question whether you’re being the badass you want to think you are or the f*ckup you might actually be. Your job is to check yourself before your wreck yourself. Here are ten signs it’s time.
You’re Focused On What Feels Good, Not Right
Parties, hookups, Netflix binges, spontaneous trips to Vegas… we’re surrounded by spiritual junk food, and it’s all too easy to reach for another sugary snack instead of nourishing ourselves on stuff that actually matters. Pleasure is great, but it’s easy to attain and easy to lose. It’s not a value to build your life around. If you’re dedicated to joys that only last until the credits roll or the hangover kicks in, you’ve set yourself up for constant disappointment. Learn to work towards better, long-term goals and pleasure will be a naturally occurring byproduct.
You’re Ignoring Your Own Signs
We live in an age that glorifies the hustle. What was once a simple celebration of working hard to achieve your ambitions has become almost cult-like in its fanaticism. Now you’re not hustling hard enough unless you’re subsisting on bulletproof coffee and protein shakes and your side hustles have side hustles. You’ve completely forgotten what it’s like to trust your gut and be in touch with your body. Force yourself to check in, take stock, and act accordingly. Sleep when you’re tired, eat when you’re hungry, stretch when you’re stiff, breathe when you’re feeling anxious, step outside when you’re restless. “Self-care” isn’t just a trendy word in women’s wellness magazines; it’s essential if you want to avoid burnout.
You’re Always The Victim
Victimhood is so hot right now. We’re quick to pass on responsibility for solving our problems and cry injustice at the tiniest of infractions (and in doing so, take attention away from actual victims). We love to feel offended or slighted because it’s a natural high. Self-righteous moral outrage is a hell of a drug. If you’re constantly playing the “Why me?” and “It’s not my problem!” games, you’ve surrendered control over your own life. Nothing will change. Nothing will get better. You’ll just keep looking for more evidence of your own victimhood, so attached to your suffering it might as well have been super glued. Reality check: you are responsible for your own life. The more you choose to accept that responsibility, the more power you have to do what and be who you want.
Everyone Around You Sucks
You’ve heard the saying that you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. So if everyone around you sucks, well… you do the math. You need people – friends, family, mentors, partners, bromances – who will challenge you, inspire you, and make you better, not the bro who encourages you to play your nineteenth round of beer pong in a row. Critiquing your social circle may sound ruthless, but there’s too much at stake not to. If someone is bringing down your average, they’ve got to go so you can grow.
You Think Money Is The Solution
Money is a means, not an end. Research shows that once your basic physical needs (food, shelter, etc) are met, the correlation between happiness and material success quickly approaches zero. Yet countless people are still killing themselves at work, logging weekends and overtime for extra dollars that will do nothing to significantly improve their lives. For some, money becomes a value prioritised above all others – above compassion, above honesty, above humility, above self-respect. We have a word for these people: assholes.
You Don’t Make Time For What Matters
All day, every day, you are making choices. You choose what to give your time and attention to (even when it isn’t conscious), and in doing so, you define your values. Think of it as a nonverbal way to announce what you care about to the world. A guy who goes to the gym in the morning, is never late to the office, calls his parents every weekend, and has at least one date night with his girlfriend each week makes his values clear: health, career, family, a relationship. Those are matters that matter. A workaholic, an alcoholic (pretty much any “-holic”) is also announcing his values – crappy values that, in all likelihood, add nothing to his life and take significant things away.
Your Inner Voice Is A Dick
Some call it an inner monologue. Others picture an angel and a devil perched atop their shoulders. However you choose to frame it, we all have it. This inner voice provides constant commentary on your life, telling you what you think, what you feel, and what it all means. Problems arise when that inner voice becomes an inner critic. Suddenly everything it says is negative – you’re not good enough for her, you don’t deserve that promotion, you’ll never save enough for retirement. All your inner voice sees is obstacles and reasons not to try. It’s wrong – unless you choose to allow it to be right.
You’re Obsessed With Numbers
Numbers are excellent for measuring a construction project or the trousers of your new bespoke suit. They are not, however, good for measuring the worth of a life. There’s no keeping score with your weight on a scale, the number of women you’ve slept with, how many one-armed push-ups you can do, or the amount of tequila you can consume before passing out in a pool of your own vomit. When you’ve become the man who cares more about how his stats look on paper than what he’s actually doing (or who he is as a result), it’s time for some serious reevaluation.
You Never Second-Guess Yourself
“Hold on,” you say, “I thought confidence was a good thing?” Indeed it is, but like a rare single malt Scotch, confidence is best in smaller doses. It’s meant to be sipped and savoured, not sloshed back with abandon. An over-confidant man never questions his choices, and therefore has no way of knowing whether he’s on the right path. Second-guessing yourself means you’re thoughtful and self-aware, and that you’re willing to brave a bumpy road that leads somewhere better instead of sticking to the comfortable, familiar, straight route to mediocrity.
Your happy hours regularly become entire happy evenings. Your gym selfie game is stronger than your actual gym game. Your longest relationship in recent memory was a one night stand who slept over. As your friends evolve and enter new phases of their lives, you remain right where you’ve always been – still living out your frat boy fantasies, only now with more disposable income. You’ve made little progress, and here’s the cold, hard truth about why: you’re scared. You fear the future, and so you’ve decided to play it safe. The future can’t be scary if you never get there, right? But few things are scarier than stagnation, particularly if you’re the guy flexing for the camera by the Smith machine.