Monday, February 22, 2010

Self Improvement: Little Victories Matter

Changing Life Daily

My first blog post on taking responsibility and fixing my life went over pretty well. Did receive a couple of concerned phone calls, which is very touching, but these problems were years in the making - not a sudden outburst. If anything, overall I'm actually feeling really good about 2010 to this point and about the strides I'm beginning to make in getting to where I want to be. Monday was a very good day, and while the blog post I'm going to write sharing my large list of approximately 120 goals for 2010 will have to wait for a few days based on schedule, time constraints, etc. I did want to share a little bit about today and a small amount about what has happened already, what the short term goals are, etc.

Well Friday was pretty good, too. I told my brother that one of the most frustrating aspects of being where I am now in life is falling back to the old fears and anxieties that come up every time I think about talking to someone I don't know, approaching random people to chat, and especially so with females. This goes back to issues from my youth, in which I was painfully shy up until, well about half way through age 19. This fear and anxiety frustrates me the most, because it's not like I don't know that all the senseless fears about socializing are just that - I've been a very outgoing extrovert and also know how well people respond to a genuine extrovert. So how am I back to this point?

Well Friday I had to walk through a lot of piled up snow to get to Barnes and Noble and buy some books on how to use Microsoft Power Point 2007 for a freelance writing contract I have now. Once in the store, I decided to take an hour off from life and just enjoy myself. It was warm, I had gotten one heck of a workout just to get to the store, and there were some books I wanted to skim, including the revised version of Timothy Ferriss's The 4 Hour Work Week, which I'm a huge fan of. So I found a copy, read through a lot of the new material, and decided to force myself to work through the fear of talking to random strangers by refusing to leave until I struck up a conversation with three people.

After putting the book back, the first person I ran into was a very pretty young lady about my age whose name turns out is Christy, and she was looking at one of my favorite books. Perfect. I didn't even need to come up with an ice breaker beyond "hello," and Christy was actually really nice, we ended up chatting for about 20 minutes. This should be something simple to do, and at one time in my life it was, but now for where I am and for overcoming old fears, it was a really perfect set up. Admittedly, I didn't talk to two other people, but I figured 20 minutes was plenty, and that was a great way to end on a high note. Another small step to returning to the person I want to be.

Once in a while, taking a step to change your life actually turns out to be nice and easy. Today I worked. A lot. Friday was the first day I felt normal since the massive dental surgery, and my production has been fantastic since then. With the 3 month fever gone from the infected wisdom teeth, I also feel a lot less miserable and a lot more like myself. But to Monday. Gabe got great news that he was accepted into college. It's not either of his top 2 choices, but now he knows no matter how the rest pans out, he'll be able to continue on to achieving his life long dream of going to and graduating from college. He has his safety net. I took 4 hours off work in the afternoon to hang with my brother and one of my best friends, and that night we celebrated by going to IHOP (one of Gabe's favorite places).

And personally, it was a great night for me and an example of how self improvement comes with a lot of little victories that even the people around you might not begin to realize are happening. Going with the self confidence, the socializing comfortably, and the getting over the instinctual fear of talking to the opposite sex (and once again I can not stress how much this old anxiety really ticks me off and even embarrasses me). Eating out with my friends felt like it used to. I had no physical anxiety at all, cracked jokes half way across the room with the waiter, and kept throwing out jokes and jests until the pretty waitress was cracking up. Eye contact, smiling, laughing, and I felt relaxed. I finally felt relaxed!

Some of the old fears and anxieties had gotten so bad over the past year I actually had some panic attacks in crowded public places, which even at my most nervous/least self confident had NEVER happened before until the past year. So being relaxed and happy and joking wasn't a small victory for me by any stretch, even if I'm re-claiming ground within myself I had owned years ago.

Changing my life to get to where I want to be means making daily life changes. One thing that encourages me is that humans are (science even says) habitual creatures. This is why things seem to come "naturally" for some people while for whatever reason it's next to impossible for someone else. If I work daily on a conscious level to overcome fear, doubt, frustration, and anxiety then eventually the positive opposite of those like confidence, self esteem, faith, and happiness will become habits, and then become subconscious habits. In the same way a long spiral can turn your mind and body against you, the same concept can be used to your advantage to turn things around.

I know from experience how much my entire attitude or emotional make up can change simply by making a daily conscious decision to look at the silver lining, regardless of circumstance. Self improvement is like personal growth: it has to be a conscious choice, especially once you've fallen off the path for quite some time.

There have been some good things going on in other areas, too. I have landed some major freelance writing contracts, and am in great shape for the next 2 or possibly even 3 months. In fact, there's a chance that from March to May I'll make nearly 70% of what I did all of 2009 combined. I've also paid of some of my short term "floating debts." I use this term to refer to non monthly debts that I had for short term reasons. I reimbursed my brother for groceries for when I was really suffering with the wisdom teeth recovery, as well as for the medications. I re-paid Gabe who loaned me an emergency $60 at the beginning of the month when a student loan company screwed with my checking account right before rent was due. Half of my wisdom tooth surgery is paid for, with the other half on monthly payment plans, and the gym membership is covered for another month. Not bad.

Oh yeah, Truth Exposed Publishing, LLC is about 2 months ahead of schedule, and Jon and I are watching the passive income increase something like 200-300% a week. The pure numbers still aren't much, but based on how AdSense, search engine rankings and indexing, and other online stuff generally works, we're way ahead of schedule and it's really a great sign for later this year when enough time has passed to see the full effect of our early work this year.

My own passive income is growing about 20% this month above normal, which definitely adds to the confidence in my ability, but even better is I had one of those "A-HA!" moments that really changes the game. Enough so that by my 30th Birthday this year I'm hoping to be at the point where I don't have to freelance write at all any more if I don't want to because my passive income will be enough to pay all the bills and then some. In January that was a dream. Now it looks like a very achievable goal.

Speaking of which, some very short term goals for the next 2 weeks for me, so things I want to do or want done by March 9th:

  • Pay off all "floating debts." Right now, that would be a $75 donation promised to Coe, about $150 I owe lawyers for drawing up the LLC papers, and the hardest of all, $600 I still owe Mike from when he basically made sure I got to Austin to take advantage of the opportunity of a lifetime, something I still greatly indebted to him for.
  • Pay off my lowest balance credit card. That one would be at $350 right now.
  • After spending this week getting back up to speed in the gym, I want to bike a marathon distance a day, so 26.2 miles a day on the exercise bike, 5-6 days a week (it varies how often we make it to the gym). And yes, I did get this idea from The Biggest Loser. While workouts have gone extremely well, I need some big time goals to really push me, and that one certainly counts. Especially since I bike the steep hills program on the exercise bikes.
  • Start 20 conversations with strangers I meet while out and about...which will force me to also go get out and about.
  • Write 2 chapters of a book for my sister.
  • Send 4 letters (old fashioned, snail mail) to various friends and family, especially thanking them for the good they've done for me in my life.
  • Write more freelance articles in these next 2 weeks than I did in the first 6 weeks of the year combined. This might actually be necessary to make the financial goals mentioned earlier.
  • Get some plastic bins to act as dressers. I'm really tired of living out of suitcases.
  • Take some personal time for myself daily.
  • Read 2 books I haven't read yet, or started reading yet.
There are others, as many of my goals are long term but require daily or weekly work, but this is a pretty ambitious list as it is. I had no illusions. Even though I've been to the "promised land" before, I know that fixing my life, much less changing my life, is not going to be an overnight thing, and it's not going to be easy.

But I feel good. Recently I've been joking a lot more, smiling and laughing like I used to. The confidence is beginning to ebb back, and I'm finding it easier and easier to concentrate on the silver lining again. Some of the fire is back, and the fight in me is definitely back. Not sure that part ever left, but it might have been getting stomped down on the ground for a couple years. At least it's standing again.

Sometimes self improvement is great, and sometimes the process sucks, but my goals are clearly set, and I'm not afraid of a lot of 18 hour days to get there. Thanks for the kind words and the support everyone, and I hope ya'll are having a good night and peaceful dreams.

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