You know that feeling.
You just fucked up. Your stomach drops. You curse yourself. Life sucks.
Maybe you made an impulsive investment decision that lost you a bunch of money. Maybe you sent a retarded text message to that girl you’re trying to meet up with and she stopped responding. Maybe you slipped up on your diet and feel like a fatass.
Either way it sucks. It seems like your whole world is about to end. You understand it would be best to simply learn from the mistake and move on, but you can’t actually bring yourself to do it.
Instead you beat yourself up and start to identify with the mistake. You start to look at yourself as a worthless failure who doesn’t deserve to be happy. Your world can quickly begin to crumble if you’re not careful.
This is why you should always remind yourself that you’re a ‘work in progress’ during these tough times. Why? Allow me to explain…
Don’t Be Perfect, Be a ‘Work in Progress’
We tend to take ourselves way too fucking seriously. We act as if the fate of the world depends on how successful we are in our life. We’re scared to death of failure and rejection.
When you buy into this common mindset, you set yourself up for a shitty life. This is because when you inevitably screw up, rather than learning from the mistake, you dwell on it and allow it to consume you.
Yeah, maybe you just blew your chances with that girl you really like. Yeah, maybe you just blew a few thousand dollars that you’ll never see again. Yeah, maybe you just over-ate for the fourth time this week and yet again delayed your weight loss goals. These things suck. Of course. But they can’t be avoided. So you should adapt your mindset to be able to cope with them when they do happen.
An easy way to do this is to remind yourself that you’re just a ‘work in progress’. You’re still learning and improving your skills and your life. You’re not perfect and you never will be. So lighten up, stop taking yourself so fucking seriously, and get back to the grind.
When you do this, not only are you able to move past the mistake a whole lot quicker, but you’re also far more likely to learn from it and correct your behavior the next time you’re in a similar situation. That’s what being a ‘work in progress’ means after. You’re always iterating to the next best version of yourself.
Sometimes you’ll fail. Sometimes you’ll succeed. But you’ll keep on going and improving either way.
Making Mistakes = Making Progress
Let’s get analytical for a second.
Nothing in life happens in a straight upward projection. The stock market has been steadily rising for the past century, but it still suffers dips and crashes. However it always recovers and continues the upward trend.
The same goes for you. If you start to train martial arts, you’re going to suffer some setbacks and injuries that make you feel like you’re actually getting worse. And you might be… temporarily. But if you keep training, you’ll eventually make progress and get better. The sames goes for learning a new language. Some days you’re going to feel like you can’t speak a word or connect 2 sentences when you felt nearly fluent yesterday. But again: if you stick with it you WILL get better.
Even when it comes to fitness and weightlifting, the same rule applies. Somedays you won’t be able to squat as much as you did last week. Somedays the warm-up set feels heavy. Other days you come in and feel like a beast, and set new PRs left and right. But again: if you stick with it you will always see progress in the long term.
My point is that mistakes – and backwards progress even – are all part of the process of getting better. When you’re a ‘work in progress’ you will inevitably suffer some setbacks and some shitty days, but your ability to keep going despite these mistakes is what will dictate your long term success and happiness.
“Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish”
Steve Jobs famously said “Stay hungry, stay foolish”. And I think this quote really embodies the idea of the ‘work in progress’ mindset.
On one hand, you should stay hungry. You should push for more and more in all areas of your life. You should challenge yourself, chase your passions, and be hungry for growth and success.
On the other hand, you must embrace your foolishness. You must accept that you’re going to do some foolish things. And you should realize that these are an important part of the process. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Enjoy the foolish times as much as everything else.
Steve Jobs is widely considered one of the most successful innovators of all time, and he did a bunch of foolish things. He dumped all of his Apple stock when he was initially booted from the company, and he neglected his daughter for years to name a couple. But he brushed off his mistakes, learned from them, and marched on.
So when you screw up and do something stupid, just remind yourself, “I’m a work-in-progress.” And then have a laugh about the stupid thing you just did. Be happy and stay focused, regardless of how much of a step backwards it seems like you just took.
Your ability to do this will determine how happy – and how successful – you’ll be.