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3 Ways to Do Meaningful and Hard Things More Easily

I trained myself to do hard things and it changed everything

It doesn’t matter what you want to do with your life; you will be much better off if you are able to do hard things.

It is not easy to get into fantastic shape, have a thriving career, or build a fantastic social life.

Heck, even balancing your social media use can be tough and requires self-control.

So, how do you cultivate the ability to do hard things?

In my experience, there are three things we can do to make it easier to do hard things.

How to do hard things and kill procrastination:

  1. Delay gratification more easily by becoming more connected to your future self.

  2. Your willpower works pretty much like a muscle. So, you can train it and become stronger.

  3. Optimize your dopamine system.

How to delay gratification

Delating gratification is about saying no to easy pleasure right now in exchange for a happier, more productive and fulfilling future.

The five steps to increase your willingness to delay gratification:

1. Give yourself a treat reliably.

Reliability plays a huge role in how long we are willing to delay gratification.

If you know for a fact that you will get a reward by delaying gratification, you will be much more inclined to do it than if the payoff is uncertain. How can you take advantage of this trick? Give yourself a treat reliably when you do something difficult.

Treat yourself to a hot cup of chocolate when you study extra long. Allow yourself a small pleasure whenever you pull off something that requires a lot of willpower. Doing that will make you a lot more willing to do hard things. It doesn’t have to be something big. It can be very small.

After working out, I used to motivate myself to go to the gym with a hot cup of tea with some extra sugar. A sweetened tee is not the worst thing in the world after a hard workout. Even though it was a small treat, I always looked forward to the cup a lot. And I am certain it helped me get out the door a few extra times.

2. Start picturing a future self 5 or 10 years ahead.

An excellent way to start becoming less prone to choosing instant gratification is to imagine a future self several years into the future. Very few people do this. But doing that is one of the most powerful things you can do to change your life.

Getting what you want out of life requires making sacrifices in the short term. The best way to have a worthwhile future is to start caring about your future self. Do things today that you will be happy for in 5 years.

I was very short-term oriented until age 25. Then I started listened to podcasts that opened my mind to the importance of thinking far ahead. Caring more about the future was the key for me.

Any success requires working hard for a long period of time; if we don’t have a long enough time horizon, we won’t be willing to work for as long as it takes. In addition, if you care about your future self, you want to do things today that optimize your life in the future as well.

3. Realize the importance of compound interest.

Habits compound for better or worse exponentially. We are not good at noticing exponential change. It is easy to get discouraged when you only see minor improvements. On the other hand, if you know that improvements start small but get bigger over time, you will be more motivated to continue.

Many things work that way when we start engaging in good habits. We don’t see much progress in the beginning, but eventually, it will take off.

4. View every choice you make as a commitment to all the future choices you will make as well.

This is a trick from Howard Rachlin, who was an eminent psychologist.

For example, if you drink a bottle of Coke now, you can try to view it like it means that you will drink a bottle of Coke every day for the rest of your life.

What happens if you drink a bottle of Coke once? Not much. But what happens if you drink that bottle daily for the next year? It will be very damaging to your health. So, this trick helps us understand the impact of every decision we make. And our decisions often turn into habits, meaning that a few choices could make a massive impact on our lives.

Most actions happen on autopilot. So, the few decisions you make where you are conscious and deliberate matter tremendously.

“The most important step you ever take in life is your next one” — David Goggins.

5. You can improve something very small.

Doing something slightly better today than yesterday will snowball into something big relatively fast due to the power of compound interest. For example, what will happen if you do one extra set in the gym every week or read five additional pages every time you sit down? Over time, these small changes stack up and will have a massive, positive impact.

We often fail to start because we set too high expectations. Set small expectations and follow through. Do the same tomorrow — only slightly better. Pretty soon, your life will have changed.

How to build your willpower

You are at a breakfast buffet and see a wide variety of delicious foods, but you ignore the unhealthy options. You stick to your monthly budget when life gets in the way. These choices require willpower. Some have more of it than others. But the good news is that we can actually build our willpower.

Willpower works pretty much like a muscle. It gets strengthened with practice.

  1. You can train it to become stronger, similar to how lifting weights will make you stronger.

  2. Your willpower will be temporarily depleted after you have used it.

By definition, you only get to work on your willpower when you don’t feel like doing something. So, the day you really don’t want to go to the gym is the most important day to go.

It is by going when you don’t feel like doing it that you will strengthen your willpower the most.

Simple things such as cleaning your room when you don’t feel like it and doing the dishes when you want to relax with your phone can also help you build your willpower.

After all, when we don’t feel like doing something but do it despite it, we will strengthen our willpower the most.

Another way to strengthen your willpower is to gradually fill your day with more beneficial activities like reading, working out, meditation, and so on. If you gradually challenge yourself this way, you will end up with new, healthy habits and stronger willpower as well.

When I started my self-improvement journey years ago, the only good habit I had was to work out 3–4 days a week. Now, I have added many others as well, such as meditation, cold showers, reading, writing, and practicing Spanish 15 minutes a day.

And the cool part is that it doesn’t require any more effort than it did years ago, either. I have simply adapted to a bigger workload, and my willpower is stronger today.

Optimizing dopamine levels

Dopamine is sometimes referred to as the “pleasure chemical.” But dopamine’s impact on your drive and motivation in life is even more important.

By optimizing your dopamine, you will make it easier to work hard. It will be more effortless, and you will feel a strong sense of drive and direction pushing you towards productivity.

A healthy dopamine system makes staying motivated and working hard easier. It will also become more enjoyable.

There are many ways to optimize your dopamine system. Here are some of them:

The more of these things you do regularly, the better. When your dopamine system is working optimally, you will have no problem working hard and putting in long hours towards goals that excite you!

Final thoughts

The ability to work hard is paramount to becoming successful.

Without it, you will have a hard time finding any kind of success in your life.

If you become more connected to your future self by thinking more about how you want your future life to be, strengthen your willpower and optimize your dopamine system it will be way easier to work hard.

You can even reach a point where it is enjoyable to work hard. Pretty soon, you will make meaningful progress toward your goals, and it feels better than relaxing and slacking off.

These days, I get more enjoyment out of working towards a side hustle than chilling on the couch after work.

Try it as well!

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