Self-Discipline

Let’s Talk 2017.

2017-mathias-ostlundSo far on this blog, I’ve written primarily about my current thoughts and goings-on, whatever those may be at the time. But for the most part, I haven’t shared much at all in terms of future plans.

But let’s change that, and take a look at what 2017 will bring in the life of Matt.

I guess you could consider this post my New Year’s resolutions of sorts – as much for my own benefit as anyone else’s.

2017 – The Year of Habits

In short, I have some big ass plans for 2017. To begin with, I hope to implement some major life changes in the areas of fitness, health, discipline and productivity, as well as drastically improving my learning process.

Basically, I plan to expand on my long-standing goals of becoming the best, most awesome version of myself I can possibly be – in every area of my life.

But more on that later. First, let’s take a look at the business end of 2017; (more…)

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Achieving Excellence – Putting in the Work

(Note: this is the final part of a longer series of articles on the subject of Excellence. For some context and an explanation to why this whole thing is happening, check out part 1 – Excellence vs. Reason)

So far in the series we’ve talked about the various obstacles we need to overcome in order to have a chance at reaching excellence. We’ve looked into how making exclusively reasonable decisions is holding us back, how our irrational risk aversion severely limits our potential for success, and how our addiction to social support keeps us stuck at a mediocre level in life.

But there’s one aspect of reaching excellence that we haven’t even scratched the surface of yet. And it’s a pretty important component too: putting in the hard work.

Ugh, such an un-sexy phrase. Hard work. That’s not what we want to hear – give us some more tricks or life hacks that promise us instant success! Anything but hard work!

Unfortunately, there is no way around this. Hard work, more than anything, is what determines whether or not you will reach excellence. Because anyone can do what’s easy. Anyone can go for the low-hanging, mediocre fruits of life.

But to go past this low-hanging fruit and reach for that perfect apple at the top of the tree – that’s what separates the extraordinary from the ordinary. (more…)

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How Top Performers Reach Their Goals – by Not Relying on Willpower

Goals Mathias Ostlund

Today marks the middle of January.

About two weeks ago, the majority of our species got together and drunkenly blurted out all their resolutions for this new year. They proudly declared to anyone who would listen that this year is the year they get their shit together!

This is the year they stop smoking and drinking. This is the year they finally write that book, get their finances back in order, and start running ten miles every morning. But most importantly, this is the year they finally get into shape!

And so, two days later, as the hangover clears up, they show up in hordes at the gym, ready to pump them muscles and lift them weights.

Nothing could stand in their way now!

Fast-forward to today, and the gym is back to normal. All those walking New-Year’s resolutions in their shiny new sports clothes have vanished, save for a few stragglers who are still hanging in there. Good for them.

But don’t worry, this isn’t going to be one of those “Haha, look at all these losers who can’t stick to their goals” kind of post. That’s not what I’m here for.

But it’s so easy to think that these people must be lacking something. They put in all this effort, make their best attempt, and still they fail. Surely there must be something wrong with them!

Except, not really.

These people aren’t any worse than the ones who manage to drag themselves to the gym every morning without fail. They don’t necessarily have worse discipline, or less willpower.

They’re just going about it all wrong. (more…)

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How to Invest in Yourself to Avoid Wasting Your Life

investment

 

Imagine that you’re in the middle of cutting down that old tree in your back yard. Suddenly, you notice that your saw blade has gone dull, making your work slow and painful.

What do you do?

Well, if you’re like most people, you simply redouble your efforts to make up for the dullness, and keep on cutting away. You tell yourself that sharpening the saw would take time, and that it’s better to just keep working the way you’ve worked so far – no matter how much time and effort it takes.

But sometimes, there’s more to it than simply working hard. Sometimes, it’s better to stop what you’re doing and make that initial investment that could allow you to double your efficiency.

Sometimes, you need to stop and sharpen that saw.

I personally learned this lesson the hard way when I first started university a few years back. At that point, I considered myself a straight-A student, determined to never see a consonant on my report card. I viewed every single exam as a personal challenge, and I always studied really hard to get the best score possible.

But as I made the transition from high school to university, I was quickly overwhelmed by the sheer amount of material to study. Where there had previously only been a book or two per course, there were now thousands of pages of course literature to get through.

Nevertheless, I kept up my old habit of studying everything there was to study… and got a D on my first exam.

Ouch.

So what was my response to this minor setback? Why, to study harder in exactly the same way, of course!

So I redoubled my efforts, put in as much time as I needed, and managed to ace most of the exams for the rest of that year.

Unfortunately, this took up most of my free time, and it wasn’t long before I started feeling burnt out. By the end of the year, I was hanging on to my sanity by a thread (okay, not really, but I was pretty stressed out!).

That’s when I realized that my old and inefficient studying habits just weren’t cutting it anymore. It was no longer possible to keep studying the way I was used to in high school – I would have to stop and sharpen my saw.

It was either that, or keep going until I inevitably hit a wall and crashed.

So I decided to spend my summer holidays that year learning how to study. I took a course on speed reading to improve my reading speed. I studied cognitive psychology to learn how to better process information. I taught myself to single out the important knowledge from my textbooks, while skimming through the unnecessary drivel.

Come the next semester, I was able to cut my time spent studying in half, while maintaining my good grades.

Fast-forward a couple of years, and I’ve now cut that time down to about a fourth, and actually improved my overall understanding. Thanks to this, I’ve been able to take on several extra classes every year, while also managing a full-time job on the side.

There is no way I would have been able to do any of that if I hadn’t made the initial investment of learning how to study in the first place. (more…)

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What I Learned Giving up Everything Fun for a Month

mathias ostlund

Last week I wrote an article about the socially acceptable addictions that have become the norm of our society. As a part of my ongoing project of self-optimization, I have made it my goal to rid myself of as many of these addictions as possible.

Therefore, I decided to do more than just “no-shave” November this year, and also abstain from any and all addictions I might have, be they of a caffeine, refined sugar, or Facebook variety.

So, for this month-long experiment of “no-fun” November, I vowed to give up all sweets, coffee, video games, lazy internet-browsing (including social media), snacks of any kind and visits to certain, hrm, gentlemanly websites and their correlating activities.

Basically, I gave up all the habits that I judged to be unhealthy, unnecessary or just a plain waste of time.

And what I got were some pretty interesting results. (more…)

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