A conversation in a self development server. S just join. We talk about and make plans for some of the problems. After having the conversation someone else mentioned that it was a great read because I didn’t let excuses sit on the table.
At the time I was pushing him for concrete actions and progress steps. Some of these problems are big and hard to work on. They don’t get solved over night. They do get solved one step at a time.
Maybe some of the solutions work for you too. [Links have been added in brackets to annotate the conversation] for the convenience of the reader here. They were not included in the conversation.
S: Found this forum on Reddit, I’m just an average loser really. 25, still studying, never worked, no driving license, virgin, stuff like that. parents still giving me money, bad posture, underweight.
E: Why don’t you start lifting?
S: No idea what to do. Zero motivation. Feeling like its too late to change anything.
E: Start small. Make a list.
S: I did.
S: Its really long and on paper.
E: Share, Take a photo. This is what we call external accountability.
[I noticed I didn’t get an answer so I asked again. This happens a number of times where I don’t get a satisfactory reply]
S: It’s not in English, I’ll write it down from memory.
S: Gain 10kg, fix my posture, quit weed and drinking, finish college, find a job, learn Spanish, get a girlfriend, beat anxiety and depression, have more friends. That’s it I think.
E: Okay. Gtd (Getting things done): For each one. What’s the first step?
[Write down the next action to move toward the desired outcome]
S: My biggest issue is anxiety and depression because I don’t like how I look.
E: That’s not a next step. I don’t care what the issue is, I care about actions you can take about the issue. Things like track food each day and eat more calories to gain weight.
S: I’m working out at home and eating more. But i give up after few days or weeks.
E: What do you eat every day? Record it somewhere. Confirm that it’s enough food or eat more.
[Track yourself with a form]
S: I eat twice in my college cafeteria and the rest is peanut butter sandwiches. It’s around 3k calories.
E: Okay. Or eat more? Fix posture. How are you going to do that?
S: Found some workouts online for posture.
E: Are you doing them?
[People often know what they need to do but aren’t doing it. The hard part isn’t the knowing part.]
S: Not really.
E: When do you want to do them?
[lets be concrete about the goal, be SMART about it]
S: When I wake up. It’s only 3 minutes max. A few times a day.
E: Write out instructions. Put it on the bathroom door.
[Book: Taking charge of adult ADHD suggests this and other tips for overcoming lack of focus on tasks]
S: I’ll do that.
E: Write out a set, leave it on your bed, when you go to sleep, take it off and do it. When you wake up, do it again and put it back on your pillow.
[Building Trigger Action Plans]
S: Okay i can do that.
E: What’s next. Weed and drinking.
S: Weed and booze is easy.
E: What’s your access like?
S: My roommate. But I refuse to smoke mostly.
E: Ask him for help.
S: I didn’t smoke for the last month. Don’t even like it very much.
E: Tell him if he can make you smoke you have to pay him $50.
S: Hahah sounds good.
E: Then you have to actually pay him if you do smoke.
[This is one of my own concoction to actively encourage your environment to be adversarial. A friend no longer helps you out by offering you a smoke. Rather they keep you on your toes by doing so]
S: Next is job and college
S: I can pass exams. But I can’t do presentations.
E: What does that mean?
S: Or I just don’t go and then I don’t have attendance.
E: Right. Next time you have to commit to walking to the building. You don’t have to turn up, just need to get to the building. When you get to the building you can turn around and go home. Or once you get there you can go in if you like.
S: I need to present a PowerPoint in front of 200 people. Getting out of bed is hard. If I leave bed I can go.
E: It is. Why is getting out of bed hard for you?
S: I’m just depressed about life in morning. I don’t care about college.
E: Right. Have you tried a coffee nap?
E: Drudge out of bed, drink some coffee. Go back to sleep. Wake up 30 minutes later with energy. Also supplement Magnesium Citrate in the evenings.
[My Supplement sheet has suggestions]
S: I dont drink coffee.
E: Reasons to get out of bed… Phone on the other side of the room.
S: Okay I’ll do that. Smart.
S: So job, I’ve never had a job. There are students jobs here but its mostly restaurants or driving. I am too anxious to be a waiter and I don’t have a driving license.
E: If you could work anywhere where would you work?
S: I don’t know.
E: Make a list of 10 companies you like.
[Stable Marriage Problem says that the searcher gets maximal first preference over the responder]
S: Haha okay, this is [location redacted]. Doesn’t work like that.
E: Email them and ask for a job. “I like you guys, can I work for you?”
S: It’s all about connections here.
E: Start talking to everyone you meet in person. Ask around.
S: There are jobs but I’m not qualified for anything.
E: No one ever is. Be honest about that. You want to learn though.
S: Yes. I want to be a waiter. Its good pay here. but no one will take 25 year old dude.
E: Okay, so ask around, friends who work, places you walk past. Somewhere near your house would be good.
S: You don’t get it. I look terrible. No one will give me a job.
E: Change that.
[Something you are unhappy with should inspire action to improve it. Things do not get the right to stay in your life and be bad]
E: Ask anyway, fix your appearance after. Do it all at once. Also there are always kitchen jobs where people don’t need to see you.
S: Then I’ll be overwhelmed and quit.
E: Ask your friends and family if they know of any jobs.
E: Network of friends. That’s a start. And make that list of companies.
[2016 study – 85% of jobs come from networking, study might be dodgy but there are more saying the same.]
S: I don’t have a list. I only have a few loser friends.
E: That’s fine. Ask them. Ask them how to make money. Maybe you can hire them. Start a business.
S: Starting a business right now is too much too soon.
E: Okay don’t.
E: Spanish? Reddit/Learnalang and Duolingo, https://discord.gg/q3GRBZ7
[learnAlang discord, https://www.reddit.com/r/languagelearning/, https://www.duolingo.com/]
S: Yes I’m doing Duolingo.
E: So what’s the problem?
S: And watching movies.
S: Well i dont do it often. No consistency.
E: There should be language practice forums. You might be able to have coffee with someone in your city who wants to practice your language. How often do you want to watch movies? How many times a week? 3?
S: Every day at least.
E: 3 evenings. Watch a Spanish movie.
S: Okay. I could do that. next is girlfriend which is hardest. And impossible at the moment. Or in the near future.
E: You can’t materialise a girlfriend. That’s not how the universe works. But you can improve your odds. Put yourself in the right places. You said you are lifting.
S: Yes I’m working at home.
E: How often do you have the chance to meet new people?
S: I don’t unless I’m drinking.
E: You know you can go to a bar and not drink. Right?
S: Then I can’t talk to women.
E: They are just humans.
E: You know there are other hobbies apart from drinking. Hobbies give you something to talk about.
S: Yes, I know there are but I’m not interested in anything.
E: You need to put yourself in a place where you can meet new people once or twice a week. The easier it is to start a conversation with you the better. But for starters – a place with new people.
E: Practice eye contact wherever you go. Look people in the eye and smile every time you see a new person. It’s exhausting at first.
S: I can keep eye contact when I talk to people.
E: And smile.
[Book: How to win friends and influence people]
E: I can’t give you a girlfriend but this is about increasing your chances by taking better actions.
S: Yes of course. I understand that. I just feel I’m not good looking enough yet.
E: Okay. And that’s fine. Work on that. How would you change how you look?
S: And i want to suppress my sexual thoughts because they are ruining me.
E: Do they? Okay. Do that too.
[I have other strategies around suppressing thoughts, but it’s too complicated to bring up here. For now I want to acknowledge the experience and help him feel understood]
S: Yes but how do I forget about sex and women for 6 months?
E: Get busy with other goals. There are lots of important things to do. Do other things.
E: In the process of improving yourself you will get the things you want. It will become easier to do the next step. That’s what this is about. Small steps to increase capacity.
S: That sounds easy.
E: It is easy. In small steps. Hard to do it all in a day. That’s an important point though, every good idea I have given you. Everything that sounds great and doable. It won’t work. It will hit a stumbling block and then you need to try again.
[Staying on the wagon, and getting back on the wagon when you fall off is an Alcoholics Anonymous concept. You will fail, but you have to try again]
S: Thanks for your help.
E: Work out how to do it again. Think about why it didn’t work and try again. The note on your pillow will fall off or something. Shit happens. You need to work with reality to try again. Come back and ask more when you get stuck.
S: I’ll start small but I’m weak willed.
E: The last 4 are depression, anxiety, more friends and looking good.
S: Maybe if I achieve something I’ll feel better.
E: If you are weak willed then you need to make it easier for you to do actions. Plan for your future weak self. You want to eat more? plan the meal so that it’s easy when you get there.
[Use willpower upstream. People good at willpower are just better at knowing where to use it. i.e. use it to make a shopping list, not every time you open the fridge.]
S: I do that.
E: You want to meet people. Sign up to some thing so you can just turn up. You want to quit weed, make your roommate work with you, not against you.
S: No faith that it can be better. I don’t believe any girl would be with 25 year old virgin.
E: Appearance – you can probably do some research about how you want to look. Consider planning a wardrobe, tidying your face or whatever.
S: Okay. I’ll try.
E:No one cares about virgins. It’s an adult thing to stop caring about it. It’s like a few minutes for the first time and then it doesn’t matter any more. In the scheme of a lifetime what is that? Nothing. By all means when you have a girlfriend, communicate that before you get down to sex. For the purpose of someone with experience being able to support you having a good time. Expectations are stressful. But other than that don’t worry about it. Being honest about your experience is going to be important to having a good time.
S: Okay I’ll remember that.
E: It’s not necessary to pretend anything. You’ll just feel worse if you make anything up.
S: But that’s distant future.
E: For now it’s not important.
S: I think posture and gain weight will be my focus. If I do that I’ll lose anxiety. Then I can get a job.
S: My face is shit but hopefully being tall and muscular will beat that.
E: Friends… Are easier with interests in common. Feel free to ask around, tell people when you are looking for a job you are also looking for a new friend group.
E: I am sure you have a face and it’s fine. But your anxiety about how you look matters to you. And that’s fine. You can work on it.
S: No this is not my depression its a really bad face. But I don’t want to talk about it.
E: Sure. I just have to believe you. That’s fine.
E: Depression and anxiety can be treated and managed with CBT and medications and by listening to the underlying concerns and validating the feelings that come up.
S: Well if I go to therapy here I’ll have problem getting a job later.
E: Self research online. Mindfulness stuff is good for a lot of people. Headspace app is well talked about.
S: okay Thanks E, I wrote all down. Must sleep now to wake for college. I’ll place my phone away from my bed, haha.
E: Good luck. Come back when it fails. Continuing to improve is part of the process.
I want to emphasise this was just a normal conversation. There are people in this world that think like S, all the time. They just need a bit of help. I don’t know if I was ever as in need of help as S but I know that I couldn’t have solved all these problems when I started my journey. It’s been people, videos, books, experiments and so much more to be able to get to a place where I feel like I have answers to every problem.
Meta: the conversation in the wild took about 45mins, the tidy up took an hour and extra annotation/edits took another hour.