One of the fundamental pillars of being someone who executes (does executioner sound too extreme?) is trusting yourself completely. Only when you have that trust can you reliably reach goals over the mid and long terms.
By trusting yourself completely, I mean that if you decide internally that you are going to do something, you will almost certainly make it happen, and if it doesn't, the excuse will be really good.
For example, I decided 112 days ago that I was going to do a language tape every day until I ran through every Pimsleur method series for all of the major languages. Because I trust myself, I knew without any doubt that I would follow through and do the tapes. I did miss one day, because I got food poisoning, passed out, and smashed my face on the toilet. Even then I didn't mean to skip the tape, but I was so dizzy that I took a nap that ended up lasting until the next day. I accepted that excuse.
A good way to put "complete self trust" into context, is to think of how you relate with a trustworthy person. For example, I trust my friend and cofounder, Todd, completely. If he says he's going to do something, I have no tangible doubt that it will get done. If he's responsible for something, he will follow through.
But, of course, that doesn't mean that he's perfect. Just like all of us, he will have underestimated a task or something extremely urgent comes up. That doesn't mean that he's any less trustworthy, though; it just means that he's human.
That's how self trust works, too. You trust that things will get done, but you don't put the burden of perfection on your shoulders. No one can live up to that standard.
You can't just trust yourself because you decide to. That's not how it works. If someone who stole money from you asked for another loan and swears that you can trust him this time, you probably wouldn't. Trust is always built, even within oneself.
How do you build trust? First, be honest with yourself about how trustworthy you are to yourself. If you plan on doing something today, will it get done? If you decide not to eat dessert, will you really pass it up? Do you go to the gym like you promised yourself?
Most people, unless they've worked really hard to build trust already, will be somewhere in the middle. Sometimes things get done, sometimes they don't.
That stops today. You wouldn't want a friend who was always claiming he would do things and then failing to do them, so don't be that friend to yourself. You have to decide that being unreliable, even to yourself-- especially to yourself-- is completely unacceptable. It's weakness, and examined weakness should not be allowed to survive.
Trust must be built from the ground up. You declare to yourself that you will do something and you execute on it. And then you acknowledge that you did something trustworthy. So today you say something like, "I will drink a full glass of water when I wake up." And then you do it, and you think, just for a second, "hey, I said I would do that, and I did."
From now on you don't tell yourself that you're going to do something unless there's a 98% or better chance of you following through. Otherwise you say, "I would like to not eat dessert today, but I don't know what will happen." This is called honesty, which is, of course, an integral part of trust.
As the weeks, months, and years pass, you allow yourself to promise more significant things. You graduate from promising that you're going to take a shower, which you would have done anyway, to going out and mailing that bill. And then you promise to go to sleep before midnight for just one night. Then every night.
Eventually your word to yourself becomes sacred, because you understand the implication of breaking it. Just as you can never fully trust someone who lies to you once, you know that breaking your word to yourself is a huge breach. Move a mountain before you break your word to yourself. This severity prohibits you from making promises you may not keep.
You'll fail sometimes. If you can honestly say that you did your best, you give yourself a pass and you don't feel bad about it. If there's something to be learned from the failure, take the lesson.
If you failed and your excuse isn't airtight, you have a problem. Trust has been breached and you've now set yourself way back and have to rebuild that trust. I say otherwise to make this post less severe, but what good does that do? It wouldn't be true. Trust is a valuable commodity, and thus is hard to come by and easy to lose.
It's good that trust is so hard to build, though. The process of building it reveals yourself. You'll learn what your limitations are, and will stop setting false expectations beyond them. The motivation to keep your word to yourself will spur you to be the best you can be. Eventually you'll promise things to yourself that seem impossible, because you know that when you promise yourself something gets done, you always find a way.
Photo is a volcano in the Atacama desert. Can you tell I liked that place?
We pushed some huge changes to Sett over the past few days that will allow us to fix bugs faster and make Sett more reliable. This was probably the behind-the-scenes biggest change we've made, so there are still a few kinks to work out. If you've had any issues over the past couple days, we're sorry and we're working on it.
I've been interested in self improvement for a long time. I'd get into stuff like "Mega Memory", language tapes, or "7 Habits of Highly Effective People". For a while I didn't really like to talk about being interested in this stuff because it was slightly embarrassing.
Bettering oneself isn't embarrassing, of course, it's the association with "those types of people". You know... the people who read all the books, go to all the seminars, and then don't do a thing about it. Maybe the most embarrassing part is that I was one of those people to a degree. There were a LOT of things I'd start and either not finish or not get results from it.
Is this the fault of the program or the book? Not at all. It's up to ME to follow through and implement the things I learn.
Leo Babauta has inspired millions through his writing on Zen Habits, where he's shared his experiences in building up great habits, cutting clutter and junkfood from his life, learning about great parenting and building a wonderful family, eliminating debt, increasing his income and productivity, and living a life that's more happy through and through.
Leo is now graciously participating in GiveGetWin with a practical class on "action-oriented contentment", and he sat down with Sebastian Marshall to share his thoughts on what motivates him, around what contentment is, on trusting yourself, on being compassionate and compassion as an impetus for action, on self-compassion and treating yourself well, and happiness in general. Enjoy:
"Practical, Action-Oriented Contentment and Compassion" by Leo Babauta, as told to Sebastian Marshall