Sometimes I imagine that we all strive to be a better version of ourselves to continually improve and assist others in their improvement. We all put off today’s pleasures to build for the future.
I start to see those struggling as victims who are having difficulties through no fault of their own. It seems as though those individuals simply need to see a better path forward so they know which way to go.
But it isn’t that simple. Most people are where they are due to themselves more than anything else. We all take our circumstances and make decisions. We form habits based on common decisions and decide to take the easy path or the hard path.
In essence, not all those at the bottom are true victims. Some are simply unwilling to do the hard work and sacrifice today’s pleasures for a better future.
In 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson, the author says about this, “It is far more likely that a given individual has just decided to reject the path upward, because of its difficulty. Perhaps that should even be your default assumption, when faced with such a situation. That’s too harsh, you think. You might be right. Maybe that’s a step too far. But consider this: failure is easy to understand. No explanation for its existence is required. In the same manner, fear, hatred, addiction, promiscuity, betrayal and deception require no explanation. It’s not the existence of vice, or the indulgence in it, that requires explanation. Vice is easy. Failure is easy, too. It’s easier not to shoulder a burden. It’s easier not to think, and not to do, and not to care. It’s easier to put off until tomorrow what needs to be done today, and drown the upcoming months and years in today’s cheap pleasures.”
Reading Peterson’s assessment, it does seem a bit harsh. But there is a great deal of truth in it.
The reason I agree with much of his assessment is because I have been on both sides. I have worked to improve and sacrificed what I want to do today to build something better for tomorrow.
But I also found myself on the bottom. I felt as though it was through no fault of my own. I could point to many reasons why I was not to blame, yet through it all I was the one responsible. Until I realized that, I would not change or improve in any way.
If you are not where you want to be and life has delivered a few painful blows, realize you have 2 options and they are fully up to you. You can take the blows and keep working to get better and learn from any mistakes you made. Or you can feel sorry for yourself and convince others that it is simply a case of bad luck.
But only one of those options ends well. If we let the external factors control us then we are giving in, whether we see it that way or not.
If, instead, we decide to focus more heavily on our own actions, our own thoughts, then we gain a slight bit of control. And that control means there is hope, hope that we can get better and climb out of the hole we find our self in.
When I was younger, after falling into about $10,000 worth of credit card debt I read something that clicked for me. I was given all sorts of advice about my financial situation and how to remedy it. I was given books and videos explaining money management. I was encouraged to save money and not spend more than I made.
Most of it fell on deaf ears but the one thing that I read somewhere that I still remember to this day was, “if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”
I realized that all of efforts to get out of debt were adding to the debt. Instead I needed to change my approach and focus on doing things that I didn’t want to do but needed to do.
Until I did this, I kept falling. Once I did this and realized that the path forward is often disguised as tough work. Sometimes it is and sometimes it is viewed worse than it really is. Once I started improving I realized that sometimes it was difficult but more often than not it was actually easier than I predicted.
Not everyone is willing to improve. I know this because I experienced this. It wasn’t that I had full realization of my mindset. Instead I just found excuse after excuse for my shortcomings and poor decision-making.
But that doesn’t mean that they are unable to improve. Everyone can improve and get better but it usually means changing to do the things that we probably don’t want to do in order to sacrifice today for a brighter tomorrow.