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I Was Average At Everything I Did Until I Quit These 5 Habits
It’s not what you do, it’s what you give up.
When I teach Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, people always ask me about the things they can do to get better.
When people tell me they’re struggling with anxiety or mindset, they ask what they can do to feel less anxious.
I always tell people the same thing: it’s not about what you do, it’s about what you give up.
Most people are extremely concerned with doing things to impact the quality of their lives. They want to out-train bad diets, they want to out-hustle their anxiety, and they want to fix their problems before they become deeply problematic.
Ironically, the more you add to your life, the more difficult it is to achieve your specific goals.
I’ve written and thought a lot about habits that help you get better, but the truth is that getting better, being happier, or achieving any goal you might have is more about the habits you drop than the habits you adopt.
Quitting these 5 deadly mindset habits has been essential for my skill development over the last few years.
Letting the past dictate the future.
In Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling, I was very mediocre (at best) in competition for years.
During my second wrestling season, I won 4 matches and lost 28. By the end of my career, I was better, but mediocre at best. When I switched to Jiu-Jitsu, the results didn’t improve much for more than 4 years.
When I won my world championship in 2019, it was my 9th time competing in a major tournament. I was a seasoned veteran before I pulled through and took home a gold medal of that magnitude.
Think about that for a second — before I accomplished my goal of winning a major tournament, I failed 8 times (and dozens more before that in wrestling). I had made a habit of not pulling through at major tournaments, and then one day, I dropped the habit.
The reason? On the particular day that I won, I did not allow the past to dictate the future.
The past always impacts the future, but it doesn’t have to dictate it. It doesn't dictate it at all, in fact.
The present, the past, and the future are very different things. Remember to treat them separately.
Thinking my stuff matters more than everyone else’s.
Everyone has dreams.
Your mom has dreams (not a “your mom” joke!), your grandma has dreams, and even the guy bagging your groceries has dreams.
It’s obvious to say this, but people forget it.
A sad aspect of life is that many people become so wrapped up in chasing their own dreams that they forget about the dreams of other people. They become selfish.
It’s sad because this ruins the possibility of a more collaborative human experience. It makes us disconnected from each other.
This is what the individualistic nature of Western culture seems to do to us.
The true best future is not your ideal future, and you probably don’t actually want it to be that way. If you got everything you wanted, life would probably be pretty boring.
Learning to roll with the punches of life instead of forcing it to be a certain way is one of the easiest ways to make yourself happier. Likewise, learning to problem-solve is one of the easiest ways to become more successful.
Defaulting to pessimism.
Pretty much everything in life is both good and bad.
Duality exists everywhere if you look for it. The thing is, you don’t always have to look for it.
I used to constantly seek that duality. I’d look for the good in the bad (which is a great thing to do), but I’d also look for the bad in the good. I was scared of being happy because I didn’t want to be blindsided by life.
This did give me a very grounded worldview, but it also made me sad. It made me start to believe that there was nothing truly good in the world that I could look forward to. I thought that even the best of things were covered in evil.
What I’ve tried to do instead is to stop viewing things as good and bad, and just as things. I’m trying to avoid emotionally attaching myself to outcomes, objects, and activities. I’m just trying to be more present, and that comes from removing my emotions from how I view situations.
By removing emotions from situations that aren’t inherently emotional (like work or school, for example), you maximize your chances of success.
Believing my internal monologue was true.
I’ve struggled with this habit my entire life.
As a kid, I believed that people didn’t like me. I believe that I was awkward and unloveable and stupid.
Because I believed these things, they were true for me. Even if they weren’t accurate, I lived a life in accordance with these values.
I was an average athlete because I believed I was an average athlete. I was an average student because I believed I was an average student. I was difficult to love because I believed I was difficult to love.
Everything was a Catch-22.
Once I started writing about everything that I thought, working with a therapist, and engaging with my doubts, I started to realize that the things that I believed about me and the things that were true about me were not the same.
It’s not that mindset shifts alone change outcomes, without a mindset shift, you cannot change an outcome.
Living an “exciting” life.
Success is boring.
Success is drilling the same technique over and over again until it becomes second nature. Success is eating the same meal at the same time for years on end. Success is sitting down to write at the same time, every single day.
Success is not how it looks on the internet. Success is monotony.
It’s not a model for a girlfriend, a spaceship for a car, or a pile of $100 dollar bills for a bed.
Sure, these things could all be considered signs of success to someone, but you don’t get success by chasing these things. You get success by having by doing the same things over and over again until you do them with great excellence.
What you do with that success looks different to everyone, yet these vanity metrics are what we see online and in culture as signals of success.
Excitement and success are not correlated. Successful people are able to maintain monotony despite great excitement in their lives.
Quitting bad habits is essential to a good life.
You have to quit bad habits so that you can make room for good ones. Less, for the most part, is more, especially when it comes to skill development. If you are overwhelmed, it’s very difficult to do things well.
When you have fewer options, you’re left with few other choices than to do the things you’re already doing with better quality.
When you have fewer things happening, you’re forced into a kind of monotonous existence. This monotony is the precursor to excellence.
There is beauty in monotony, you just have to find it.
When you’re able to find beauty in monotony, that’s when you really start living.