Beginners Mind

Embarking on a journey of self-improvement often begins with a moment of realization; you want to change, to evolve into someone better. Yet, this desire is frequently shadowed by the weight of past decisions and the enormity of the path ahead, leading to a sense of defeat before the battle has even begun.

So how do we overcome this paralysis? By accepting that true growth blooms from simply being committed to being better today than you were yesterday. Start where you are and do what you can, because that is all that you can do.

Clearly, this is easier said than done. It’s one thing for me to sit at my desk and type out pithy advice; it’s another to actually deal with the situation day-to-day in real life. But here’s the thing: To get where I am, I had to start where I was.

When I say, “start where you are”, I mean that you should accept that who you are and what you have today is, essentially, your starting hand. Don’t beat yourself up for past mistakes.

Don’t blame others for getting you into this situation. These are the cards you’ve been dealt (even if you’ve dealt them to yourself), and it’s now up to you to play them as best you can.

“It’s not about the cards you’re dealt, but how you play the hand.” – Randy Pausch

How do you do this?

  1. Prioritize Self-Care: Your journey should begin with a focus on your physical and mental health. Exercise regularly, eat nutritious meals, and don’t hesitate to seek therapy if needed. Your well-being is the foundation of any successful endeavor.
  1. Assess Your Situation Honestly: Take a thorough inventory of where you stand in various aspects of your life, be it your health, finances, or personal relationships. Knowing your starting point is crucial for setting achievable goals.
  1. Define Clear Goals: Ambiguity is the enemy of progress. Set specific, measurable objectives. Crafting a personal mission statement can serve as a compass, guiding your efforts and helping you stay focused.
  1. Be Willing to Make Changes: Aligning your lifestyle with your goals might require significant changes. This could mean re-evaluating your spending, considering a career change, or even relocating to a more affordable home.
  1. Embrace Simplicity: Complexity can lead to procrastination. Start with simple actions that you can build upon over time.
  1. Last But Not Least…Avoid Comparisons: On an individual level, comparing yourself to your friends and family is a bad idea because you’re pitting your internal worst against their external best. Of course this’ll make you feel like crap! Besides, it doesn’t matter where anybody else is; what matters is where you are relative to where you want to be. It’s also a bad idea to compare yourself to statistical norms. Sure, stats can be fun to look at, but stats are soul-less, lifeless abstract numbers. Statistics don’t have cancer. Statistics don’t get divorces. Statistics don’t struggle with faulty financial blueprints. Statistics don’t come from impoverished homes. When you start where you are, worry about your own self — not anybody else.

“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom.” – Lao Tzu

Embarking on a path of self-improvement and personal growth necessitates an understanding and application of “The Power of Doing What Works.”

This principle is about identifying and leveraging the strategies, habits, and actions that yield positive outcomes for you personally, rather than following prescriptive advice that may not suit your unique circumstances.

At its core, this approach is about self-awareness and adaptability. It requires a keen understanding of one’s strengths, weaknesses, and preferences.

By focusing on what you’re naturally good at or what brings you joy, you can create a positive feedback loop that not only propels you towards your goals but also increases your overall happiness and satisfaction.

The first step is to take a reflective look at your past successes and failures. What common themes emerge? Perhaps you’ve noticed you’re more productive in the morning, or that you excel in one-on-one interactions versus group settings.

Maybe you find you achieve more when you break tasks into smaller, manageable parts. These insights are invaluable. They help you tailor your approach to fit your natural tendencies, rather than fighting against them.

“One must know oneself. If this does not serve to discover truth, it at least serves as a rule of life, and there is nothing better.” – Blaise Pascal

Take me, for example. I like to write. I think I’m good at it. I also like to play videogames. Writing is productive but gaming is not. Some game play is fine; too much is a vice. Rather than try to play fewer games, which seems like deprivation, I decided that I should instead try to write more, which seems like abundance.

If I spend more time writing, as a side effect I will have less time to play games. By honing a strength, I’ll be avoiding a weakness. I’ll be doing more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

Finally, the power of doing what works is not static; it evolves with you. As you grow and your goals shift, so too will the strategies that best suit your journey. This principle embraces continuous learning and personal development.

It encourages a mindset of curiosity and openness to change, ensuring that as you progress, your approach remains both effective and fulfilling.

My journey towards financial responsibility highlights the essence of starting from where you are. After years of living in debt and financial disarray, I realized that hoping for a miraculous solution was futile.

Instead, I adopted what Zen Buddhists call a “beginner’s mind”, took an honest look at my finances, and set a plan to improve. This process involved cutting back on unnecessary expenses, seeking guidance from those more knowledgeable, and surrounding myself with a supportive community.

“As long as you’re alive, you always have the chance to start again.” – Emily Acker

To those who are feeling inadequate about their money, who feel they don’t measure up to their peers…To people who desperately want and need financial advice but are afraid to ask for it…Too embarrassed by their past decisions and their present circumstances…afraid to look foolish.

Here’s my message to those people: Start where you are. Don’t panic. All is not lost. You’re not too late. This isn’t a contest. Don’t fret about your past, and don’t worry about how others are doing. Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.

If you’re meticulous and methodical, it doesn’t matter when or where you start. It’s still possible to get rich slowly. I’m here to help, you only need ask.

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