I bet most self-help plans would work if you followed them. There are millions of such plans available, though I’m not sure how much you’d be left with if you were to combine them all and cancel out the fluff and repetition.
With the access you have to information right now (enough to be reading this) you could compile the most effective self-help plan conceivable—an eclectic plan completely unique to you and what you want.
The razor-edged alarm blare casts distorted ripples across pools of warm, chrysalitic stillness, tearing you from your dream’s final moments of resolution.
You awake to cold and darkness.
It’s time for your first morning run.
Your mind ambles back through all the weeks spent gleefully assembling stacks of color-coded binders, which now house your immaculate collection of running and eating charts.
You dimly remember the feeling of wanting to get control of your life.
You see the note-to-self-style outline taped to the front of your top binder. Bullets of text across the cover bear your “six inescapable truths” or “eight spiritual reasons.”
Will any memories you can conjure from your time of preparation be enough to drive you forward toward what’s now become the least pleasant of all options?
You think ahead to the next morning, then the next, feeling the full weight of a pending lifetime’s worth of grueling sacrifice and toil.
You wonder why you didn’t really appreciate the final blowout you had the night before.
You start to wonder whether the plan you chose might not have been quite the right one for you.
You consider doubling your efforts to search out or tweak a better plan—the one that will finally make all the difference once it starts…
What happens in those crucial moments of decision? What seems easiest not to focus on?
You’ve bought all the equipment, and spent countless hours getting organized. You’ve probably been talking about your plan non-stop to everyone in your world. You know you want to change. You know why. You’ve done all you can to put to paper your absolute best guess as to how.
Why do plans fail? Is it just that your desire for comfort in the moment outweighs a steadier, quieter desire for change?
Is it wise or even possible to follow a single plan forever?
Well, technically it must be possible. It’s also possible to never drop any crumbs. It’s possible to never say anything in anger you’ll later regret. It’s possible to do perfectly on every school exam.
I once wrote this while high:
“I know that to complete all the projects I’m working on now, I have to use weed way less.
“I always find myself leaping to plan exactly how much to use and when.
“It seems important to realize that the plan for how to do something is separate from the actual thing you want to do.
“A plan is only ever your current best guess as to how…
“As you share your experience, what you need to do next to get to where you want to be becomes obvious.”
I’ve made and bought many great plans through the years.
Whenever I get high more often than I think I should, I’m driven to make or find a new plan for how to change. The time spent preparing for my next plan always feels incredibly purposeful. Somehow I never stop believing that my next plan will be the one that actually changes me.
I have this middle-aged friend who’s never been in a relationship. He falls in love with every girl he meets. Somehow he honestly believes each time that this will be the one.
Do you have any examples like that?
I think identity crises work the same way: You arrive at an appealing new identity, and somehow you convince yourself that this will be the one that sticks.
Anyway, here are more of my high thoughts from above:
“Before jumping to hide behind more plans, I should consider what I’ve learned so far from preparing to share my experience.
“It seems the question has really always been: How do I manage myself to complete the current next steps in my sequence?
“Again, what part does willpower play?
My mind still jumps to how—to finding the perfect way to force myself to follow the steps I’ve so far been basically brought to without having to try.
My high thoughts continue:
“It’s ironic but understandable that self-help is all about what you do and how.
“The way you interpret what you do defines what you believe about who and what you are.
“Really, it’s what you are and want to be that matters.
“Since all you actually see is what you do, you jump to plans for how to do what you see yourself not doing.
“But what you are has to change before you can change what you do—before you can do what you see yourself not doing.
“I’m not telling you to quit making plans, but just to see your plans as signposts pointing you toward the kind of person you want to be.
“Let your plans remind you of your reasons for wanting to change.
“What you are changes when you’re unable to ignore your values for long enough. Your values are those good things that start to work themselves in and through your life undeserved—even in or from your current limited state.
“Remember: You’re not just something other things use—whether that’s addictions that switch roles with you and end up using you for their reasons, or good things that work themselves to life through you.
“You’re a thing too—a completely unique person that happens to be the result of innumerable combined pieces, ideas, forces, and influences, all coming together and reacting in time as you perceive the world and make decisions.
“Can you take credit for what you have to work with as a person?
“Can you take responsibility for your actions?
“I’ve never been short on reasons for wanting to control my weed addiction. Yet I see more and more from the experience I’m preparing to share that at the base of all my motivations is a desire to be a good person—a good parent, friend, writer, husband, employee, stranger…
“I feel momentum moving me forward toward maturity.
“Stopping now would feel like the least natural thing I could do.
“After all is said and known, you’re a person. Becoming more the kind of person you believe you should be is maturity. Maturity requires you to see and grow beyond (or through) specific limitations which hold you back in specific ways.
“Why wouldn’t growing from what you are to what you want to be occur as naturally as a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly?
“Is it because you have different instincts, or different resistances and obstacles to grow through?”
When you see yourself stuck in that age-old gap between knowing who you want to be and living as that person, your instinct is to bridge the gap through willpower. But what you are (your character) has to change before your actions (your behavior) can.
Again, for that change to take place, the power of what you value must exceed the pull of your current compulsions and limitations.
We’ll spend the next few days examining some of the best, most powerful of those perspective-changing values.
Then we’ll be ready to see how perfect plans can become choices made in real time.
Only the person you want to be is capable of actually making those better choices.