I was recently listening to Les Brown speeches on youtube (you probably should too), and I came across one that really sunk in when I heard a special little quote from Les.
He was talking about his son, about how his son was sort of goofing off in school, not really devoting himself to his studies like he should have been, and Les had a man to man with his boy. He said something along the lines of this: I know you have some big dreams, some big things that you want to do in life, and I know you have done a lot of hard work to get where you are today; but, I want to challenge you and ask you a question. Take a look at your days, what you do each day, what progress you are making each day and tell me if you think that the way you have been behaving will ever give you what you want.
When I heard it, it was just one of the moments where it clicked, where everything I had been studying and learning made a lot of sense to me. I have studied and written before about motivation and talked about how it often takes huge life changing events to spur people into action; sometimes it requires that huge realization of “if I don’t change something about my life I am going to die” to really get things done.
Almost everything evil that comes from mankind comes not from grotesque evil, but from a general laxity and complacency of people.
Remember the old story about the frog in boiling water? You know, if you “throw em into boiling water he’ll just jump on out” but if you place the frog into cold water in a pot on the stove and put the heat on medium or low he’ll sit in the water until it boils and kills him. People are just like the frog.
Take an average, in shape, and healthy individual and place 300 lbs of body fat on him overnight and he will do everything in his power to lose the weight, but put that same weight on slowly, say over the course of 3-5 years and he will adjust to each pound until he is comfortably sitting on the couch unable to move.
The mistakes that we make, the things that we hate about ourselves or our lives don’t just appear overnight, they are cultivated, slowly, steadily, each day by our habits, behaviors, and beliefs. Whether your problems are health related, mental, financial, or spiritual, they probably didn’t just appear in your life, they were likely developed over time by your habits: by the laxity in your standards, and simply because you allowed them to build each day until those problems seemed insurmountable.
People usually gain weight slowly as a result of bad eating habits and from a lack of exercise, people usually get into financial problems by spending a little bit more than they make for a sustained period of time, people fall out of love by taking the people they love for granted day by day, and people hurt others not usually out of some spontaneous decision, but because they slowly allow their morals to decay until the things they know are wrong are no longer unacceptable to them.
The problems in your life don’t usually just come out of nowhere, and the ones that do are usually fairly simple get through and fairly easy to solve. You get hit with an unexpected bill- you pay it; you have a big fight with your spouse- you talk it through and get back to usual; you get cancer- you go get treated or prepare your affairs and accept that death is imminent.
These types of issues are fairly simple (they can still be heartbreaking, terrible, and very difficult), but there is usually a clear solution that you can apply; that is because these types of problems don’t come from time, they come from chance or cause and effect, and as a clear obstacle in your path it is clearly important that you get them out of your way.
But what about the problems that come from time, those slow and silent problems that creep up on us? It might not be clear to you that the cheeseburger you eat every single day at lunch break is clogging your arteries, and it may not seem dangerous that you are flirting with a co-worker while you have a spouse at home, and it may not even seem dangerous that you watch 1 hour of T.V. when you get home instead of studying or trying to improve yourself in some way… and that is precisely why these types of dangers are more dangerous that the immediate dangers of life.
A real world look at how the slow decay of laxity and acceptance can create huge problems: Adolf Hitler
Although it may be hard to imagine, Hitler was not always the imposing ruler of the European superpower that almost took over the world and wiped out an entire race of people. This evil man didn’t just show up one day in Germany and gain a flourishing group of supporters based off the idea that we wanted to dominate the world and exterminate all Jews; no, Hitler began somewhat conservatively (at least compared the man who led Nazi Germany) and over several decades slowly created acceptance for his evil and incredibly cruel practices and beliefs.
In 1919 a young Adolf joined the worker’s party of Germany and in 1920 the name of the party was changed to the Nazi party. While Hitler was openly anti-semitic and very pro German, he didn’t exactly tell people that he planned to conquer the world and exterminate all jewish people; and while he campaigned on the ideas of a stronger Germany, and a reuniting of all of the German speaking countries of Europe, he didn’t openly claim he wanted to dominate the world either.
Hitler steadily rose to power over the span of the 1920s, slowly increasing his hateful rhetoric and radicalizing his beliefs each step along the way. Despite the fact that many Germans shared many of Hitler’s sentiments in the early 1920s, had the Hitler of the 1940’s stepped on stage in the 1920’s many of his beliefs (like the belief that the “weak” should be euthanized and that all Jewish people should be killed or removed from Germany), were far too radical and abhorrent to be accepted outright.
As the Hitler promised a strong and united Germany, a better life for the people for Germany, and more equality for the people of Germany, he slowly introduced his political hate speech more obviously into the mainstream; and by the time that Hitler was given full control of Germany by the 1933 enabling act, he had already developed a huge following and built a political party based on the ideas of world domination and the elimination of all people of Jewish descent. Finally, when Hitler was made dictator in 1933, the last of the people who were against Hitler were forced into silence by the threat of violence and death.
Hitler did not suddenly become the dictator of Nazi Germany, but slowly rose to power on the back of the Nazi party. He slowly built support and gradually radicalized his calls to action and his beliefs, I am sure that some people in Germany new what Hitler was up to, but they failed to act. No one stopped this evil dictator because he moved so slowly, because he failed to create a moment where the world felt they needed to stop him. Even after he began to invade Europe countries turned a blind eye while he murdered and confined millions. It wasn’t until the world could no longer watch as Hitler took over the world that a United world effort stopped him.
Simply put, people allowed Hitler to rise up, even when it was evident that what he was doing was wrong and evil, nations still refused to act to stop this monster. People grew accustomed to what Hitler was doing, and nations waited until Germany was invading their own borders before they decided to act.
We are all like this, we know what we are doing isn’t the right thing, we know our actions are taking us away from our dreams, but we still refuse to take stand to change things. Human beings too many time fail to raise their standards until its too late.
If you want to know what your future holds for you, look at the past.
Look at your last few weeks of life, what things have held your attention, what things have you done and accomplished? The same habits and behaviors that make up your days will often end up dictating your tomorrows.
The only way to change the future is to change the present.
If you want to have a better tomorrow then you can’t allow yourself to live another day like the days in your past; you can’t allow the laxity of today to create the disappointment of tomorrow. The change you are looking for starts today, it starts with decision, and it starts with the knowledge that your life will reflect the actions and choices that you take and make each day. The power to change your future exists in the current moment, not in the future.
Wishing and dreaming does nothing without decision and action; if you believe that you have a choice, if you don’t feel a sense of urgency weighing down on you to change at this very moment, and if that urgency does not press on your mind as heavily as a someone telling you that you only have 1 year to live, then you aren’t going to change; it is not that you can’t change, it is just simply that you won’t. Until you raise your standards and create a new way of living, you will keep living the same way: the lottery isn’t going to save you.
We end up hating ourselves and our lives because we know what we need to do, yet we allow ourselves to do the wrong thing anyway; because we fail to set higher standards for ourselves; because we accept our shortcomings and wish for a better tomorrow.
Tomorrow will never come unless you change things today, if you stay the same as yesterday your future will hold more of yesterday.
Do you want to know what your future will look like? Take a look at what you did today and look at what you have accomplished over the last month: whatever actions, habits, and behaviors that you see will also be found in your future. If you truly want to change, if you truly want a better life or to be a better person you must be willing to raise the bar, up your standards, and refuse to be lax about your day to day choices. It’s do or die, and the decisions you make today will either kill you or make you stronger, it is all up to you.
If you allow yourself to be lax today, to eat what you want, skip the gym, cheat on your spouse, gamble a bit (whatever your “sin” is) then you will probably allow yourself to do it more tomorrow. Stop the cycle today, raise your standards