The Cycle of Mediocrity and Failure That Keeps People Down

People that struggle with various challenges in their lives–relationships, fitness, careers, social skills, money management, dating–often exhibit the same pattern of effort and failure.

Our efforts to break out of a rut and create a new pattern are foiled by our own mistakes.

Once you start looking, you can see this cycle everywhere:

Stage 1: Over time, we get frustrated with the lack of progress towards our goal.

Stage 2: One day, we are so frustrated that we go berserk trying to radically shift things all at once.

We hit the gym with a superhuman level of exertion.

We throw all of our potato chips, muffins and cookies in the garbage and go on a kale- and chia-spending spree.

We hit the dating scene harder than ever and talk to more people in one night than we did in the last year.

We cut back on spending… hard: swearing off everything “nonessential” from lattes and movie tickets to new smartphones and basic cable.

Whatever our personal goal is, we move intensely in that direction with a raw dedication that seems almost manic.

Stage 3: The collapse. Inevitably, we cannot sustain this level of sacrifice and dedication. Life gets back in the way. Cravings come back. Urges resurface. Fatigue from excessive discipline sets in, followed by burnout and laziness.

Stage 4: The resurrection. Bad habits are back from the dead. And just like that, we’re back to where we started. Eating junk food. Spending without saving. Sitting home, whining about dating on internet forums. Over time we get more and more frustrated, maybe one day to repeat the process anew.

So why doesn’t the “THAT’S IT–Time to Change!!!” method work?

First and foremost, because that’s not how progress actually happens.

True progress is sustained over time by small bits of effort every single day. Day in, day out. It doesn’t happen magically all at once.

The brain and the body need time to adjust to new ideas, new thought patterns, new behaviors, new emotions and new assumptions.

By definition, this can only happen over time.

An extreme example of this is drug rehabilitation. An addict can force him or herself to go without for a few hours or a few days. But sooner or later they will hit the drug again. Hard. Without a sustained program to overcome this addiction over time, they won’t get better.

We are in many ways addicted to our bad habits. Whether those bad habits are in our finances, working behavior, diet and exercise, or relationships with others.

Breaking an “addiction,” and forging new positive habits, takes time.

A high-school dropout with no skills, half of whose friendship circle has been in jail at least once, can get lucky and find himself in a country club surrounded by jet-setters and tycoons. Maybe by winning a free lunch, or winning the lottery, or some random misdirection or miscommunication.

But because his brain and body have not gone through the lifelong conditioning that the others’ have, his visit to that world will be brief.

Everything from minor social customs, to patterns of dialogue, to core beliefs, to mindset and attitude, will be alien to him.

This is why 70% of all lottery winners are broke within 7 years.

Their internal reality (beliefs, inner dialogue, self-image, etc) and their external results were so mismatched, that their brain subconsciously felt the urge to change the external to fit the internal.

And this is why a number of successful entrepreneurs who eventually made millions or billions, went through several periods of bankruptcy, loss and burnout.

They often had a good idea that took off, couldn’t process the sheer size of their material success, and therefore wasted it on an unsustainable lifestyle or foolish and expensive business decisions.

They learned some hard lessons from this loss, picked up the pieces, and eventually succeeded again.

The urge for quick results is understandable. We have all felt the frustration.

But I’m telling you from lots of personal experience and lots of clients’ and students’ experience: slow and steady wins the race.

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