For numerous times I set goals, stumble and fall through the process, due to various factors such as: not seeing progress as expected after making ‘a lot’ of effort, distractions, ‘I am not good enough’. Yet the good thing is that I struggled but never wanted to give up this struggling process.
As I am flowing through life of events, ideas that are pieces scattered around in mind start to fit together. Yet I was still wrestling with myself. Like in the Bible says, things to want to do, you don’t do; things you don’t want to do, you do.
The fundamental question is: what is preventing me from making progress steadily towards my goals? Why self discipline could rust and become weaker?
I tried to answer these questions by reading works of Yangming WANG, an influential Chinese philosopher. His theory is like this: “Everyone of us in this world knows what is right and what is wrong according to their own standards. Ideally, we follow our heart when making any decisions, thus always doing the right thing, thus we could always keep a peaceful mind. However the problem is, we all have all kinds of desires, often against what our standards of right/wrong. This is the source of all struggles.” Based on this, he thinks the single biggest, abstract goal of life is to: “Always following your heart to the extreme, thus exploring the full potential of our capabilities.” He also pointed out clearly, all of this takes practice. Everything we encounter is an opportunity to practice this methodology.
I agree with what he advocates, and it does really work when I try to practice according to his theory. For example, sometimes it is irrestible to react in an angry fashion when my wife and I are disputing upon something. Many times when the words are the tip of my lips, a voice inside told me, “No, no, no, this will not help the situation and possibly make things worse. If what you want is to cool things down and reach agreement, saying so will shooting yourself in foot effectively”, by practicing this, I was able to cut that urge to fight back at the root, which was so intuitive and natural before. Another example is, I used to be reluctant to wash the dishes in the sink until later. Being lazy was the only reason. I decided to practice on this so that everytime I felt to lay back in the chairs to take a break after a meal, a voice told me, “If you are not doing this right now, you are gonna have to wash them later. Even worse, the idea that “there are dishes to wash later” is going to linger behind your mind as a background process, consuming the precious CPU cycles. Moreover, stains will be harder to wash off after drying out, taking more time and water. This is not time & resource efficient.“ This rationale actually would push me to wash those dishes right away, which was not thing I like the most at that moment but a thing to do making a lot of sense.
Gradually, because I am doing more and more things that I should do, and not doing things that I should not do. I started gaining better sense of fulfilment and happiness. Yet there is still a long way to go, I still feel frustrated when my effort seems not generating any results, and I still worry and fear in front of challenges. Thanks to Dr. Carol Dweck’s great work, I finally learned that it is important to BELIEVE the importance to nurture a “growth mindset”, to BELIEVE challenges, errors and trials are great opportunities to learn, to grow my ability and skills, and to know that self-limitting believes such as “I am not good enough so that I am not gonna make it” are unreasonable execuses for not taking actions toward goals.
I was taught many “wisdoms” as a kid. Yet it was not until going through struggles that I internlize those concepts and wisdoms. This is what WANG Yangming said, “You don’t understand something if the word did not become your flesh; you understand the wisdom only when you live it”
Thank you very much WANG Yangming, and Dr. Dweck. You taught me what is a rational outlook towards failures, errors, difficulities, and all I need to do is always apply this in my everyday life.
Now I like my Nike T-shirt better, which says: “JUST DO IT” :)