What to Do When You’re Falling Behind

April 24th, 2015 by Steve Pavlina

When I was a kid, it took me longer than I would have liked to learn how to ride a bike. I kept using a bike with training wheels and I didn’t practice much, so of course I didn’t learn how to balance.

One day I observed that my sister (younger by 2.5 years) was getting close to figuring out how to ride a bike. She wasn’t quite there yet, but she was clearly much closer to balancing than I was. I couldn’t let her beat me to it!

So I grabbed my bike, pushed it out to the street, and decided that I was going to learn how to ride it then and there. I hopped on — sans training wheels — and swerved all over the place like an out-of-control maniac. I tried to stay near the grass when I could muster some degree of control, so when I fell, I’d hopefully crash onto the lawn instead of the street or sidewalk.

After many short-lived attempts, I finally learned how to balance. Then I was off and riding. I rode my bike a lot that summer and have had the skill ever since.

Up until that point, I’d been making a big deal out of the whole process. It seemed scary and daunting. I was afraid of falling. But once I confronted the fear and mustered the courage to risk getting hurt, I quickly emerged on the other side with a whole new skill. From the moment of decision to the time I emerged with the basic skill was probably less than an hour.

What finally motivated me to face the fear and take action? It was the feeling that I was falling behind. My peers were leaving me in the dust. They could ride and I couldn’t. If my younger sister got there first, I’d no doubt be unfavorably compared to her, and I really didn’t want to deal with that.

That build-up of pressure worked to my advantage. I was capable of facing the fear and developing the skill, but I’d been delaying. I was letting fear get the better of me. That pressure gave me a much needed kick in my complacency.

Many years later, I found myself in a similar situation. When I started college, I didn’t take school seriously and goofed off a lot. I basically triple-majored in shoplifting, alcohol, and poker… and was eventually expelled. By the time I had a second go at it, my old high school friends were all starting their senior year, while I was starting over as a freshman. I was three years behind my peers, and I really felt the weight of that.

Once again, the feeling of falling behind become a powerful motivating force for me. Instead of taking four years to graduate, I made a huge commitment to master time management and tried to earn my degree a lot faster. I took about 3x the normal course load, and I earned not one but two Bachelor of Science degrees (in mathematics and computer science) — in only three semesters. Additionally, I received a special award for the top computer science student (as selected by the faculty) when I graduated.

I had no idea I was capable of that, just as I had no idea I could learn to ride a bike so quickly. The feeling of falling behind served as a powerful motivator. Instead of trying to squelch those disappointing feelings, like I’d been doing up to that point, I allowed myself to feel the weight of that pressure. I used those seemingly negative feelings to motivate action and overcome resistance.

The Positive Side of Social Pressure

There are many ways to deal with social pressure, especially when you feel you aren’t measuring up to some external standard. You can question or reject the standard, which is often the best option for standards you disagree with. Or you can agree with the standard and use the pressure to elevate your performance.

I’ve seen other people leverage this same kind of pressure to their good advantage. People who’ve been languishing in their careers unleash dormant ambition. Shy or socially awkward people push themselves to master social skills. People who’ve been mired in scarcity unlock financial abundance.

Very often, these people succeed, sometimes remarkably so. They turn the feeling of falling behind into a powerful source of motivation. They redefine their old relationship to their peer group. Instead of being the late bloomer, the laggard, or the underachiever, they become the fast learner, the leader, the performer.

Accelerating Your Growth

Using social pressure to beat yourself down is pointless. Using it to motivate fresh progress is powerful.

When you perceive that you’re falling behind, how can you leverage this feeling to speed up your growth?

First, let yourself feel the heaviness of the pressure. Stop trying to repress it, minimize it, or distract yourself from it. Feel the pain. Feel the disappointment. If this makes you feel like a complete loser, let those feelings flow freely for a while. Own those feelings. They’re temporary.

Once you’ve had a chance to let those feelings circulate and you no longer feel like you’re repressing those emotions, then pause and forgive yourself. So you fell behind. It happens. It’s okay. Acknowledge your humanness. Say, “I forgive myself fully and completely.”

I recommend dwelling on the forgiveness step until you really feel that you’ve forgiven yourself. Try journaling about your decision to forgive yourself. Write or type, “I forgive myself fully and completely,” over and over again. Keep your attention on forgiveness and self-compassion until you feel some emotional release, especially some tears. If you truly forgive yourself, you’re likely to feel some relief and lightness afterwards.

Forgive yourself, but don’t let yourself off the hook completely. It’s okay that you slacked off in the past. It’s not okay to keep slacking off. Resolve to be done with that dissatisfying past behavior. No more falling behind.

Realize that you can get caught up. You can go faster. You can redeem yourself.

Accept that it won’t be easy. It doesn’t need to be easy. The challenge will be good for you. It will help you grow. It will wake you up. It will help you raise your standards.

Now turn your attention to creating a positive vision of fresh action going forward. Redefine your short-term vision of success as a vision based on action, not on immediate results. One reason we fall behind is that we make a big deal out of failure. However, many results (such as learning to ride a bike) practically require you to fail — sometimes a lot — before you can succeed. So don’t put so much pressure on yourself to achieve a specific result just yet. Instead, feel the pressure to take simple actions. Turn this pressure into movement.

When I committed to learning to ride a bike, instead of focusing so much on the end goal, I pushed that desire to the back of my mind. I focused on facing the fearful action I was dreading. For me it was trying to ride and falling and getting hurt. So I made the commitment to go ahead and try my best, to fall as much as I might have to fall, to endure the scrapes and bruises, and to quickly get back on the bike and try again. I accepted that there might be some pain and blood, and if so, I’d hurt and bleed and keep going. By accepting the possible outcome I feared, I reduced my resistance to action. I decided I’d rather be a bruised and bloodied boy who could ride a bike instead of a pristine boy who couldn’t.

What’s the equivalent bloodied version of yourself that you’re avoiding and thereby causing yourself to fall further and further behind? Is it a vision of yourself having to work or study for long hours? Is it a vision of yourself being repeatedly rejected? Is it a vision of yourself making mistakes and losing money? You can endure all of those things. And you can keep right on going after they occur. They’re all petty fears to begin with. You’re strong enough to handle them.

In college my commitment was to sign up for as many classes as I could schedule on my calendar. I decided I’d do my best to attend those classes, do the assignments, take the exams, and learn the material efficiently.

Doing Your Best

Define success as doing your best. Face the fear. Make the valiant effort. Don’t worry so much about the end result.

One reason you may feel like you’re falling behind is that you haven’t been doing your best. It isn’t the perception that other people seem to be passing you that’s such a bother. What really gets under your skin is believing that you could have prevented it. The consequences of not doing your best can be very unsettling when they finally catch up to you.

Ask yourself the question, “What would my best look like?”

This is a powerful question to ask, but so often we don’t ask it because our answers will shed light on those situations where we clearly aren’t doing our best. And that’s where the feeling of falling behind starts creeping in.

Let it creep in. Immerse yourself in those feelings. Feel the unpleasant heaviness and disappointment of falling behind.

Then define your best in the form of simple and direct action. What is the best effort you can make? What can you do? What’s the action to take?

You can try and fail. You can try and get rejected. You can try and learn.

If you keep making your best effort again and again, you’ll power through old fears and sniveling worries faster than you thought possible. And soon the results you desire will become visible… and then fully realized.

Where do you feel like you’re falling behind? In which areas of your life are you underperforming? Let yourself feel the weight of those disappointments. Forgive yourself. Identify what your best effort could look like. Then go take action. Make the attempt. Fall. Get bruised. Get up and try again. Persist until you create your desired results.

It’s just like riding a bike.



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The Journal - Record your life lessons in a secure private journal
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Life on Purpose - A step-by-step process to discover your life purpose

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The Spiritual Path of Veganism

April 22nd, 2015 by Steve Pavlina

At the time of this writing, I’ve been vegan for more than 18 years (vegetarian for 22 years). I’ve already written about transitioning to veganism, which I did during the 1990s. This time I’ll share some thoughts and feelings about what it’s like to be vegan as opposed to becoming vegan, especially with respect to living in a non-vegan world.

Perspectives and Attitudes

I see animals as beautiful living beings. I don’t see them as products, consumables, or entertainment. I don’t want to relate to them with force, control, or violence. I could overpower them and take their flesh, eggs, and milk from them like many humans do, but I choose not to. That isn’t the relationship I desire to have with the animals of this world.

I prefer to cultivate a more peaceful and loving attitude towards animals. I see them as my extended family. They’re my brothers and sisters, fellow life forms sharing a journey together on this earth.

A hummingbird lives in a tree outside my home office. Almost every day, I hear the buzzing of her wings as she floats in the air near the nest she built. I can’t imagine stealing her eggs — or those of any other bird — and turning them into breakfast.

Yes, she’s a different species, but she’s still my sister. She is beautiful to me… precious… amazing. I am delighted to connect with her. I feel lucky that she chooses to make her home so close to me. Her presence brightens my day. Sometimes she chirps. Sometimes I talk to her. We may not understand each other’s language, but somehow we still understand each other.

Her entire body weighs less than an ounce. My three-pound brain is orders of magnitude more complex than her tiny one-gram brain. I could look upon her with superiority, but that would only stem from ignorance. How superior can I possibly feel while she so gracefully floats and glides through the air while I remain glued to the ground?

Even with her tiny body and brain, she has better hearing and eyesight than I do. She can see ultraviolet light. She’s one of the smallest birds on earth, but she still flies faster than the fastest human can run. Her wings beat 70 times per second. She can fly sideways and even upside down. She can remember every flower she’s ever visited, and she can accurately predict when each one will have more nectar for her. That’s especially impressive given that she’ll visit about 1,000 flowers per day. Many plants depend on her for pollination. If I’m more of a genius than she is, I have a long way to go to prove it.

Earlier this year I spent a week on a small farm in Southern Spain with a dog, chickens, and baby goats. I loved connecting with these animals. Spending time with them was delightful and restorative. I’m fascinated by the beauty, intelligence, and elegance of animals, including the ones that people turn into products.

It saddens me deeply that other humans can so easily dismiss the wondrous nature of these amazing beings, treating them as mere objects to be manipulated on the dinner plate — as weaker species to be overpowered and controlled.

In the USA alone, about 10 billion animals are killed for food — by humans — every year.

How can I close my heart to that much pain? I cannot. It genuinely hurts.

Relating to Other Humans

My relationships with animals greatly affects my relationship with other people.

I find it difficult to experience genuine closeness and intimacy with people who feel they have the right to treat animals as products to be eaten or worn. Even after so many years on this path, I still find such behaviors painful and stressful to observe. I feel sad and disappointed when I see people treating my extended family members as casual consumables. It’s like being in a family that’s at war with itself.

I don’t find it realistic to avoid such people completely, and I have no desire to go to war with them, but their violent attitude towards animals makes it much more difficult for me to see their beauty, elegance, and intelligence the way I can so easily do with animals.

I see myself as a social person, and I like connecting with friends, but I find it difficult to cultivate deep friendships with many people due to the way they relate to my extended family. So I generally keep such people at arm’s length. I limit my exposure to their attitudes and perspectives. Over-exposure is painful.

I crave honesty and intimacy in my relationships, but it’s risky to share my true feelings with others. Sharing how I feel about animals can be perceived as an affront by those who productize them. Some then feel a desire for revenge. Some have acted on it.

I’d rather not go that route with people, so I tend to opt out of situations, as well as friendships, that seem to be at risk of reaching that point. I do my best to allow such people to forget that I exist.

People know that I’m vegan of course, but they usually don’t see just how deeply I care about animals. I let them pretend that watching them eat animals or wearing their skins doesn’t affect me, even though it does. With a low enough frequency of contact and enough casualness in the connection, this degree of self-delusion can often be maintained for several years. But in the long run, if they don’t cut things off first, then I’ll eventually do so. It becomes too difficult to care about someone who maintains an abusive relationship with others I also care about. I find it easier to let go and start fresh with someone else.

Admittedly, these connections feel a bit hollow. They give me opportunities to socialize, but they aren’t very satisfying, so I usually don’t put much effort into maintaining them. One casual connection fades, but nothing of substance is lost. Another soon takes its place, but nothing of substance is gained.

Love

Of course there’s another side to relating to other humans, one that’s much more positive and which more than balances the scales.

This is the ability to experience deep and abiding love with a fellow vegan who relates to animals in much the same way I do, such as my girlfriend of 5+ years. Being in a relationship with her is pure joy. Whenever I see her, my heart smiles. I feel tremendously grateful for her presence in my life.

It’s indescribably beautiful to connect with someone who sees what I see and feels what I feel, someone who wrestles with the same challenges and endures the same sorrows and disappointments. When I bear witness to her nonviolent spirit, my shields fall, my heart is exposed naked to her, and I cannot help but feel intense love for her. And she loves me deeply as well, but not just me. She loves my extended family too, and she treats them with reverence and respect. And so the love I feel from her is magnified tenfold.

I’ve come to see that it’s impossible for someone to truly love me if they do not love animals. It’s impossible for someone to be a true and genuine friend to me if they do not love animals.

Those who productize their relationships with animals also productize their relationship with me. I can only be a casual connection for such people at best. If they cannot see the beauty and majesty of a bird, a cow, or a pig, they won’t be able to see me either. I can only handle so much attention from people who don’t see me. I’d rather bask in the love of those who can see me… because they see my entire family, and I can only be truly seen within that context.

These are difficult admissions to make. My heart wants to reach out and connect with other people — with all people. It wants to be a part of humanity, to be treated as a valued member of the human family, to be an insider as opposed to an outsider. But I cannot sacrifice my relationship with my extended family by siding with other humans in their ongoing war against the rest of the family. My allegiance is to the greater family, not the smaller one.

In my heart I truly long for a global transformation in the way humans relate to animals. I long to live in a world that recognizes the beauty, elegance, and intelligence of other species. I long to see humans honorably refrain from using their superior strength against family members that have no hope of defending themselves. I long for an end to the war on animals. I long for the day that I can say, “I am human,” without feeling ashamed of it.

I can still feel peace in the world as it is, but I must shrink the world in order to do so. It’s just me and my girlfriend… just me and the hummingbird… just the beauty, elegance, and intelligence that I see in this moment. I can enjoy timeless moments in which there is no violence, no reductionism of life into product, no disconnection — only harmony and oneness. In these moments I can breathe.



Steve Recommends
Here are my recommendations for products and services I've reviewed that can improve your results. This is a short list since it only includes my top picks.

Site Build It! - Use SBI to start your own money-making website
Getting Rich with Ebooks - Earn passive income from ebooks
Lefkoe Method - Permanently eliminate a limiting belief in 20 minutes
PhotoReading - Read books 3 times faster
Paraliminals - Condition your mind for positive thinking and success
The Journal - Record your life lessons in a secure private journal
Sedona Method (FREE audios) - Release your blocks in a few minutes
Life on Purpose - A step-by-step process to discover your life purpose

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