Queue up any quote or criticism of society, millennials, or social media right now and see that people are in complete agreement that the culture today is one of laziness, entitlement, and narcissism.

You see it day in and day out with marketing, ads, Instagram, Facebook, etc.  All of these channels are pandering to your desires of immediacy and ease.

This is no secret, but it does bring up a good question: are we losing the ability to hold ourselves to a higher standard?

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”

-Socrates

Are we losing the ability to hold ourselves to a higher standard?

At the base of it all, we are meant to live a life of purpose.  Use your own personal experience as a guide.  When have you felt the most alive and accomplished?  Most likely you can remember a time when you’ve put in a lot of hard work, suffered through a struggle or challenge, and been really happy with the result.

Here’s what I mean:

  • Are external pressures, stressors, stimuli, and the desire for instant gratification dulling our ability for achievement and higher purpose?

  • Are we losing the ability to look inwardly and gauge whether or not we are giving our best efforts or improving as people?

Listening to your feelings and giving in to your immediate desires is a very slippery slope whether we’re talking about business, careers, health and fitness, relationships, family, it does not matter.  There is little to no value in the immediate effects of something, we must look through a larger lens.

In a time where social media is driving the culture, we are more self-absorbed than ever.

  1. We spend more time judging others and looking through the lens of other people’s lives.

    1. Our lives have become a popularity contest to an unrestricted degree.  We no longer act based on what we feel is right and wrong, but what we feel will get a reaction, a like, or a follower.
  2. We spend less time living in the moment and enjoying the company or situation that we are presently in.

    1. More stimulus has created a detachment from the present.
  3. We are out of touch with reality from an individual accountability standpoint.

    1. We are flooded with information, advice, and marketing that tries to grab our attention by giving us something we can agree with.  We are no longer able to have tough conversations with ourselves or those around us.

Inadvertently, this drives us to seek immediate gratification (duh!), compare ourselves to others, and live an externally motivated life.

This results in a lot of negativity about our situations, abilities, bodies, minds, and life.

We are also less in touch with our bodies and minds than it would seem.  We spend a very large amount of money (as a whole) on fitness, products, and healthcare each year, and yet we see continuing decline in health and now life expectancy.

Marketers and businesses know that (physiologically) we are inclined to desire instant gratification, and you can see it in any of the ads today.  They are catering to our culture’s desire for immediacy.  They pander to exactly what you want to hear.  Have it now, have it easy, and have it your way.

This is not the case.

The problem with this culture of immediacy arises when we have the desire to achieve something, especially something that isn’t quick or easy (is there anything worth achieving if it doesn’t require a sacrifice?).

Principles of Achievement

When you want to achieve something, there are certain principles that need to be employed regardless of what it is exactly you want to achieve.  These principles include:

  1. A PLAN – creates actionable tasks and procedures for attaining your objective.
  2. FOCUS – if the objective is your main priority, or high on your list, then it deserves to be one of the main focuses in your life.  It might take priority over other things in your life.
  3. DETERMINATION – the length of the objective will require your determination to varying degrees and will be tested if it is an appropriately challenging objective.
  4. POSITIVE ATTITUDE – the key to long-term achievement/success in anything is positive attitude.  Negative thoughts, actions, and attitudes achieve nothing.
  5. DRIVE/PASSION – without drive or passion, the project will not begin nor will it be sustained.  Drive and passion make up the other half of the determination spectrum, as drive and passion will come and go, determination must pick up the slack to achieve the objective.
  6. ENERGY AND ENTHUSIASM – obtained from passion, drive, positive attitude and determination.
  7. SINGLED-MINDED PURSUIT of your objective.  Employing intent in all of your actions to attain your goal, doing everything purposefully and without distraction.

Each one of these principles plays a distinct part in achievement, especially over longer periods of time.

What’s going wrong?

Because of the nature of the culture, we’ve become a little out of touch with a few of these key elements of these principles:

  • Determination
    • Patience – We’re losing the ability to be patient in waiting for our work to be recognized or produce results.
    • Discipline – Because of a decrease in patience and generally increasing negative thoughts, our discipline is suffering.  We are not able to apply appropriate follow-through to our desires and goals.
    • Perseverance – Along with discipline and patience, perseverance needs to be a part of a long-term plan to achieve.  Without perseverance you rely strictly on motivation and not discipline, which will only take you so far.
  • Mental toughness
    • Growth – The ability to respond to failure or criticisms with a positive attitude.  All growth comes from failure and being outside of your comfort zone.
    • Willpower – The strength within to choose right from wrong.  With no training of willpower there can be no increase in willpower.
  • Reflection
    • The process of looking inwardly, being honest with yourself about your abilities, potential, and efforts, and judging yourself based on your own individual progress.  Inward reflection needs to come from a place of self-love and compassion if you want it to produce a positive attitude and energy/enthusiasm.

What can you do?

The answer is fairly simple.

To start holding yourself to a higher standard you must:

  1. Reflect.  Reflect to understand if you are honestly doing your utmost to achieve your goal, potential, or objective.
  2. Build habits.  This is incredibly important because without habits, you cannot employ willpower when times are difficult.  On a daily basis, make the right choices based on your objective.  The more you make the right choices, the better habits you will have.  The better your habits, the easier it is to employ willpower.  You already know that your willpower will be tested no matter what your goal, so prepare appropriately.
  3. Practice willpower.  Do this by gently increasing the amount of “good” decisions you make in a day and decreasing the bad.  If you don’t know what decisions are good and bad for your goal, find someone who can help you.
  4. Toughen yourself mentally.  Do not see shortcomings or failures as discouraging, see them as opportunities to learn and grow.  If we can not learn from our mistakes, we can not evolve.
  5. Employ discipline, patience, and perseverance and be relentless in your pursuit of your goal.

The key with all this is to gently push the boundary of balance.  To maintain moderation while applying pressure to your limits.

Key takeaway:

The truth of the matter is that achieving your dreams or your goals is difficult.  It requires a lot of sacrifice and it tests you in many ways.  As long as you give yourself to it, stay committed to the goal, learn from your failures or shortcoming, and don’t quit, you will succeed.

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