A Redditor named Ryan from Canada made a post in /r/getmotivated several months back that has really, really stuck with me. I’m going to share (most of) it with you today, but first, I want to ask you a big question.
Do you love yourself?
(Cue the cheesy new-age music and self-help vibe here, right?)
But seriously, that’s not what I mean at all. Let’s think about the word “self” for a minute.
Right now, you are…you. You are reading this blog post and existing in the present moment, right? (Obviously.)
But there are other versions of yourself, too — versions of you who aren’t reading this blog post right now — who also deserve your love and caring. (And no, I’m not trying to get metaphysical here with any parallel-worlds stuff. Read on; you’ll see what I mean.)
It all started with a college freshman named Max who complained about feeling unable to care about himself. He felt like he’d fallen into a hole of rejection, poor grades, and less-than-awesome relationships:
And even when I do get out of these holes, which happens somewhat often, it’s only temporary and then I fall back in to the same habit of not caring about anyone or myself. I have no money, no one who really cares about me, shitty grades, shitty diet and exercise, and the worst part of it? It’s not even that I hate any of this. I hate feeling like this, but not even enough to do something about it.
THE FIRST RULE: NO MORE “ZERO” DAYS
Ryan from Canada jumped in with some pretty stellar advice (which I’ve edited slightly for formatting and whatnot):
Rule numero uno: there are no more “zero days”. What’s a zero day? A zero day is when you don’t do a single f***ing thing towards whatever dream or goal or want or whatever that you got going on. No more zeros.
I’m not saying you gotta bust an essay out everyday, that’s not the point. The point I’m trying to make is that you have to make yourself, promise yourself, that the new SYSTEM you live in is a NON-ZERO system. Didn’t do anything all f***ing day and it’s 11:58 PM? Write one sentence. One pushup. Read one page of that chapter. One. Because “one” is non zero. You feel me?
When you’re in the super vortex of being bummed, your pattern of behavior is keeping the vortex going. That’s what you’re used to. Turning into the “Productivity Ultimate Master of the Universe” doesn’t happen from the vortex. It happens from a massive string of CONSISTENT NON-ZERO DAYS. That’s rule number one. Do not forget.
First step to loving yourself: don’t let yourself get caught into the trap of doing nothing and then hating yourself for it. No more “zero” days.
THE SECOND RULE: BE GRATEFUL TO THE THREE VERSIONS OF YOU
Let’s go on to Ryan’s next rule, which is about learning to love yourself (in the non-cheesiest way possible — I mean it!):
Rule number 2: BE GRATEFUL TO THE 3 YOU’S. Uh, what? 3 me’s? That sounds like mumbo jumbo bullshit. News flash: there are three “you’s”, homeslice. There’s the past you, the present you, and the future you.
Be GRATEFUL to the past you for the positive things you’ve done. And do favors for the future you like you would for your best bro. Feeling like shit today? Stop a second: think of a good decision you made yesterday. Salad and tuna instead of Big Mac? THANK YOU, YOUNGER ME.
Was yesterday a non-zero day because you wrote 200 words (hey, that’s all you could muster)? THANK YOU, YOUNGER ME.
Saved up some coin over time to buy that sweet thing you wanted? THANK YOU.
Then, he goes on to explain the second half of Rule #2 — not only should you be grateful to the past version yourself, but also be kind to the future version of yourself. This, of course, might require some present-self sacrifices. After all, your present self will soon, inevitably, commune with your future self:
You gotta do your future self a favor, just like you would for your best f***ing friend. (No best friend? You [have one] now. You got two. It’s future and past you).
Tired as hell and can’t get off reddit/videogames/interwebs? F*** you present self — this one’s for future me, and I’m gonna rock out P90X Ab Ripper X for 17 minutes. I’m doing this one for future me.
Alarm clock goes off and bed is too comfy? F*** you, present self — this one’s for my best friend, the future me. I’m up and going for a 5 km run.. MAKE SURE YOU THANK YOUR OLD SELF for rocking out at the end of every single thing that makes your life better.
The cycle of doing something for someone else (future you) and thanking someone for the good in your life (past you) is key to building gratitude and productivity. Do not doubt me. Over time you should spread the gratitude to others who help you on your path.
Love yourself by doing good things for — and being grateful for — the past and the future versions of yourself.
THE THIRD RULE: LEARNING TO FORGIVE YOURSELF
And on to the third rule — forgiving yourself, and treating your past self as a friend:
Rule number 3: FORGIVE YOURSELF. I mean it. Maybe you got all the know-how, money, ability, strength and talent to do whatever is you wanna do. But let’s say you still didn’t do it. Now, you’re giving yourself shit for not doing what you need to [or being] who you want to. Heads up, champion: being disappointed in yourself causes you to be less productive.
Tried your best to have a nonzero day yesterday and it failed? So what. I forgive you, previous self. I forgive you. But today? Today is a nonzero masterpiece to the best of my ability for future self. This one’s for you, future [self]. Forgiveness, man. Use it. I forgive you. Say it out loud.
Imagine how you can use these rules to deal with anxiety. Had a panic attack yesterday? Your past self is one of your best friends; forgive her. Pat her on the back and tell her it’s going to be okay. Be grateful that she tried to do whatever it is that made her panic, for your present self is now one step closer to making progress. (Because every panic attack is an opportunity for progress.)
Feeling like you’ll never get rid of your anxiety? Make today a non-zero day: do just one thing that will help your future self become less anxious. (Ideas: take ten minutes to plan out the week on a calendar. Prep your work clothes for the week so you’re not doing any last-minute rushing. Or practice some CBT strategies. Or do one small thing that scares you. And on and on and on.)
What will you be doing today that will put your future self in a better place?
[Editor's note: I've edited some bits and pieces of grammar in the original post, and cut some parts out for length. Still, I took care to retain the original impact of the message. To read the post in its entirety over at Reddit, including a fourth rule about doing good things for your body and your mind, go here.]
Art credit: aryeo (Reddit)
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Last reviewed: 13 Feb 2014