Have you ever taken a class where the teacher required that students do a certain amount of words on an essay?
Let’s say they set the acceptable range for the word count was 2,000-4,000. I bet you 90 percent are going to go for the 2,000 mark. Honestly, if you did the 4,000 you are probably a pervert. Writing 2000 words is, in almost every way, better. It’s more efficient, it’s a better use of time and it’s easier for the professor to mark. But what happens when the word count isn’t for a book review of War and Peace, but the word count represents our quality of life, and we have the power to set the range at whatever we want?
In life we always have options. Do we wander around the gym once a week for 15 minutes? Or do we crush it every morning at 5:30 for two hours. Do we order a salad on Tuesdays from Wendy’s or do we prep an entire week of healthy meals every Sunday? When most people set their own word count for what they put into life, they give a massive range of what’s acceptable, anywhere between 1000-10,000 words. Guess what? Just like the stoned freshman, they end up submitting the minimum 1000 most of the time. They show up late to meetings, they pay their rent minutes before their landlord evicts them. Maybe that one time when the stars align they do something great and they hand in a 10,000-word page-turner. They win that online weight-loss contest. They get a column published in a national newspaper. They score the game-winning goal in the league finals. But these scenarios are so rare they become stories told to grandkids. I want you to start turning in 10,000-word papers regularly.
In life, unlike in school, doing the minimum word count won’t let you succeed. It usually just lets you scrape by, or keeps you just bobbing in the same place. Everyone is handing in 1000-word papers. What the word needs is people who are pushing and exceeding their own limits. I meet people all the time, who are capable of producing stunning work. But what are they doing? Producing the bare minimum day in day out, claiming that it’s the wrong time, the wrong activity, and they are just too busy.
“Ok, I hate essays, but I get the idea. How do I raise this ‘word count’ quality of my life?”
It won’t happen overnight, and it will take lots of work. But the first step is to stop letting yourself off the hook. I want you to be unimpressed with 1,000-word papers. I want you to set 2,000 as the new minimum. Continue to slowly move up the bottom range of what’s acceptable. Now fast food salads don’t qualify as a healthy meal success. Hitting the treadmill for seven minutes while watching TMZ does not mean you can claim a workout.
Establish some methods of recourse in your life. Some accountability. The ultimate goal is to be the only source of accountability you need in your life, but at first, make use of friends, family, technology, whatever it takes. Reach out to people, tell them where you want to go, how you plan on getting there and when you will have it done by. Fear of losing face is an incredibly powerful motivator. Bring other people in on your journey, it always helps to have a partner in crime.
Take any step necessary to slowly push up your minimum word count.
Next, Stop letting the people in your life off the hook. This step is so important I cannot emphasise it enough. You are the accumulation of the five people you spend the most time with. If you let your friends, family, boyfriend treat you like shit, what precedent are you setting? Stand up for yourself. Let people know you aren’t going to be writing or accepting any more bullshit, stained, misspelt, wrinkled papers. Either they start turning in some crisp 5,000-word beauties, or they can move along.
Is it harsh? Yes.
Is it better for you? Yes.
Is it better for them? Yes.
By forcing yourself to climb higher, there is going to be some inevitable tugging on the bonds with people in your life. If they don’t start following with you, cut the dead weight. I have found in life as I start to leave people behind, most will at first, refuse to change or to grow. Like a child testing their parents’ boundaries, they cross their arms, stomp their feet and stay put. But once I say “so be it”, cut the cord and keep climbing, their attitude changes quickly. You see them scrambling up behind you.
“It is necessary that you get the losers out of your life if you want to live your dream.”
You should never try to directly lift other people up. You should only focus on lifting yourself. You will fail 100% of the time you try to force others to change. Even if at first it seems like you have succeeded, they will always collapse the second you disappear. People have to lift themselves up. This can be hard because it feels like you are leaving people behind, and you love and care about them and want them to have the same success you have. Unfortunately, you can lead a horse to water but you can never make it drink. And desperately trying to force that horses head into the water will just get you kicked in the chest.
When I first started to progress I was so excited. I harassed everyone in my life.
“Hey, you need to come work out with me!”, “Eat healthy with me.”, “Come study with me.”
How did people respond?
“Woo! Yes, Thomas, I can’t wait. Pass me the Kale. Let’s do push-ups.”
No. That didn’t happen. It was more like,
“Dude, I’m so hungover, I can’t see colours. Get out of my room.”
The most success I have had with positively impacting people in my life is by letting them know the option is there and then just leaving it.
Hey, I am going to the gym in the morning and you are always welcome.
Hey, I am making a crazy good salad, if you want any, let me know.
Like convincing a wild animal to come eat out of your hand. You can’t force it, you have to offer a reward/treat, you have to be patient and you have to accept that it’s a wild animal, and it might just not be ready to come eat out of your hand. (Serious side note – don’t feed wild animals, it’s super douchey.)
“It is necessary that you align yourself with people and attract people into your life who are hungry, who are unstoppable and unreasonable, people who are refusing to leave life just as it is and who want more.”
– Les Brown
“Alright, I’m ready to start pushing myself and people around me. But I don’t want to write essays.”
That’s fine, it’s just a metaphor, don’t let your school anxiety bubble up. In most people lives, the quality of your actual schoolwork is one of the least important things (sorry mom and dad, but it’s true). Focus on the truly important areas of your life (health, wellness and relationships). Nobody will ever remember the papers you wrote. You will remember the people you met and the adventures you had. If you can nail down other areas of your life, you will still succeed in school. Don’t worry.
Ok so let’s summarize.
- Find an area in your life where you have been getting less than average results. Fitness, relationships, career, happiness etc. Find how you could personally improve. Start to raise your standards. Raise the word count and enforce a higher standard on yourself. For example, you have been checking Instagram every 15 minutes. Your hand shakes when your phone isn’t nearby. You notice when you check it you feel insecure, get FOMO and it keeps you up at night. So, new rule. You are going to only check it three times/per day and never before bed.
- Plagiarize, find other people who have beat the problem or who have avoided it altogether and steal their methods. Copy and paste whenever possible. Plagiarism here won’t get you kicked out of school it will just get you going faster.
- Evaluate whether the people close to you in life help or hinder your success. Are they snapping Insta pics while eating, walking and plucking their eyebrows? Tell them what you are trying to do, and ask them if they could help you deal with your problem. Some will join team kick ass, others won’t.
- If you find the people in your life are starting to slow you down, tell them. But don’t blame them. “Hey I am trying to slow down my social media addiction, I have trouble doing it around people who are constantly on their phones. I am trying to focus on other activities like getting outdoors. If you wanna join me for a nature walk please do, but there are no phones allowed.” Likely at first, they will tell you that you are crazy/weird/annoying/stuck-up/whatever. But when their Instagram doesn’t want to listen to their problems or help them move furniture, they may likely come knocking. If they never do, that says enough.
You need to push yourself to grow. To push yourself, you have to expect more than what you did yesterday. You need to expect more from every aspect of your life. Let everyone know that you are raising your quality. It won’t happen overnight. If you have been handing in 1000-word papers for the past decade, don’t expect a 10,000-word epic tomorrow. Aim as high as you can, but as long as you add one word a day, in no time, you will be surpassing your previous bests. I look forward to reading your work. (unless it’s an actual paper then I don’t care. Those are super boring)