Whatever Works

My youngest son is struggling with the concept of potty training. He’s not afraid of the toilet, per se; he just has no interest whatsoever in it. To him, the toilet is just another chair to sit on.

We’ve tried a multitude of techniques to encourage him to start using the toilet. For a while, we started a system that involved anyone going to the bathroom getting a chocolate chip as a reward. We’ve had his older siblings extol the virtues of using the potty. We’ve tried very hard to usher him quickly in there whenever he seems about to relieve himself. We’ve tried diapers that get uncomfortable when they’re wet. We’ve tried almost every tactic there is in the “going potty” book.

His response? He just smiles and laughs.

In the end, one of our techniques will seem to work. The reality is that he’ll make up his own mind when he’s ready.

That’s true of any big step we need to take in life.

When I first entered college, I was not mentally prepared for it. I didn’t have adequate study skills, nor did I have the focus or patience to do the work that needed to be done to really succeed. My first two and a half years of college were spent simply focusing on doing the minimum I needed to do to keep my scholarships.

At about the end of my fifth semester or so, I woke up. I went from struggling to stay in school to making the dean’s list while majoring in two hard sciences. I couldn’t completely undo the performance of my first three years in school, but I certainly left college on a completely different trajectory than when I entered it.

When I was mentally ready for it, I was completely able to take control of my education and career trajectory.

Later on, I spent myself into a pretty deep financial hole. We had a mountain of credit card and other consumer debt. Throughout 2004 and 2005, we just kept spending and spending, digging the hole deeper and deeper.

When our first child arrived on the scene, my perspective began to change on a lot of things in my life. I began to realize that I was not only responsible for my own path, but for the path of this tiny child. I turned the ship around, and today Sarah and I own a home and are completely debt free.

When I was mentally ready for it, I was completely able to take control of my finances.

Sometimes, we’re not mentally ready for the things we need to do in our lives.

I see it all the time in people around me. There are people who are just not ready to go through the hard steps needed to correct their finances or get on a different career path. They’re more interested in maximizing their enjoyment of this very moment and they just assume tomorrow will figure itself out.

I see it in myself. There are personal challenges I’d love to take on, but I often feel like I just don’t quite have it in me to make a success out of those things.

If you’re not fully on board with the changes you want to make, you’ll find it very difficult to make those changes.

So, what can you do? You’re aware of a change that needs to be made, but you’re just not quite on board with it. What’s next?

For me, introspection works better than anything. I’ve found that, time and time again, I’ve reached breakthroughs in my life by constantly looking at my life and asking myself what I want out of it and what I need to do to get there.

When I’m not ready to achieve something, the answers aren’t there yet. The key is to keep asking. Keep thinking about it. Keep reading. Keep translating that reading into the reality of your own life.

The first step is recognizing that a change needs to happen.

The second step is digging into your life and really understanding what’s wrong and what needs to be fixed.

After that, the journey can go in a lot of different directions. Different things work well for different people as long as you have that foundation of understanding what needs changed and you’re truly committed to it. Without that foundation, changing your life is next to impossible.

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