Self-doubt. Fear. Excessive worrying.
These words sound all too familiar to me.
In the last 28 years of my life, it’s not uncommon for me to doubt myself, fear the unknown, and worry excessively. Even my loved ones have told me so. It’s not something I’m particular proud of, but neither am I ashamed.
I’m sure a lot of people out there are faced with the same struggles, especially so when changes are taking place so rapidly these days and everyone seems to be moving ahead in their lives but you.
Technological advancements have also modified the nature of work (digital this, digital that, digital everywhere). What used to be highly sought-after skills may no longer be as valuable in the next few years. With all these changes happening, how can one not be worried?
Before you get all flustered, take a deep breath. I’m with you.
What’s important is that you need to know how to gain control of these psychological shackles (self-doubt, fear, excessive worrying). Don’t let them catch you off guard. You need to know how to keep up in this rapidly changing world. You need to learn to think rationally to make good decisions.
Keeping up with the K
In order to keep up, I spent a lot of time the past few years reading articles on personal growth, psychology, technology, and well… basically everything. I enrolled myself in multiple digital courses. I learnt to code, learnt to product-manage, and learnt almost every form of digital marketing there is. I picked up a new language, Korean, when I lived in Korea for two months. I learnt how to cook Thai dishes when I helped out at a Thai restaurant every Friday night while I was living in Canada. I learnt how to cut my own hair. I learnt how to open up an iPhone to replace its battery and screen. In the last few years, I probably spent a whole chunk of time learning about a lot of everything…
…but it just felt like it was never enough.
That’s when it hit me a week ago.
I asked myself, “how do I know what I learnt didn’t go to waste? How do the most rational people in the world make their decisions on what to do for the future? How can I learn to be like them?” With these questions in mind, I sat down and did some research. Turns out the answer to my question was something I’ve been doing all along.
The solution is really simple…
Just keep learning.
Embrace mental models
Before you decide to embark on learning everything there is out there, remember that learning should be a fun process. You shouldn’t learn for the sake of learning.
Instead, learning should be a mindset that you want to commit to for life. To make help grease the wheels, I will share about how I learn – specifically on the learning techniques I adopt.
Let’s get started.
What I find really important is to get familiar with mental models. The older you get, the more mental models you should learn and accummulate. It’s like storing a depository of tools in your head that’ll only appreciate with time.
Mental models help with collecting and organising the necessary information you need in order to make calculated decisions in your life on a daily basis.
Let me give you an example.
A mental model we’re probably quite familiar with is the Sunk Cost Fallacy. The sunk cost fallacy causes us to hold on to things unnecessarily, only hoping they will become better. Some scenarios include staying in a toxic relationship just because you’ve been together x number of years, staying in a stable paying job that no longer offers you any personal growth, and not wanting to sell an underperforming stock that was simply a poor investment decision made a long time ago.
In short, the sunk cost fallacy holds us back from moving forward, since we’re so focused on holdong on to what we have already accomplished.
Interested in more mental models like the sunk cost fallacy? There are a lot more of them to learn about and believe me, they will help you in your daily lives.
Here’s what you need to get started on mental models. I like this introductory article on mental models from Princeton and also Berkshere-Hathaway’s Charles Munger’s latticework of mental models.
Use fear to your advantage
Even though fear can be crippling, it can sometimes be used to help push us further (i.e. fear of losing out). Take for example the following situation.
You’re faced with a potential threat to your job as someone from another department was brought over to assist you, and you know there are some ongoing labour cuts in your department. Your bosses speak highly of that person assisting you. On several occasions, you felt like you were outshined by that person during presentations at work. A lot of credit was given to that person.
Sounds familiar? I’m sure you know of someone who has been through something like this, maybe including yourself. The scenario above is a description of what could materialise into a fear of job loss/fear of losing out. If you were in that position, what do you think you should do?
If you do nothing, you’re waiting for something to happen that isn’t in your control. If you do something, you could turn that fear into an advantage. Buck up. Learn more about the job. Improve your skills. Improve your workplace relationships. Ultimately, anything you do could improve your position in the company. If it doesn’t, doing something else could work too. Perhaps you could begin looking at other companies to work for should you be affected by the labour cuts.
In a nutshell, it’s always good to do something about your fears. Take some action. It could be a way to physically be active so as to not get distracted mentally. Simply put, do not let your fears cripple you to do nothing.
Prioritise, prioritise, prioritise
The 80/20 Rule is something I try to live by. It’s how you use 20% of your resources (input) to achieve 80% of rewards (output). An example would be to ask yourself at the beginning of each day, “Of all the things I need to do today, what are the 20 percent that will create 80 percent of rewards?”
However, don’t be too fixated on tangible rewards such as the amount of work you’ve completed, or the number of hours you spent mastering a skill.
Remember to include intangible rewards – the feeling you get after helping someone, or the feeling of loving and being loved in return after spending quality time with a special someone. Every kind of reward counts. It’s up to you to find out what makes you tick.
Every morning as you wake up, get a cup of coffee/tea, and take time to plan your time. Prioritising what matters everyday is key to mastering your time and energy optimally.
Even when you have mastered level 99 of “Rational Thinking”, there will always be days where, well, irrational things happen. It’s inevitable that life will throw you some of the sourest lemons you can possibly imagine.
This is when it’s helpful to turn to others for support.
Think of it as a going to a trusted group of people who challenge and inspire you. The group of people that gives you the necessary boost of motivation. The group of people you should never be worried about showing some vulnerability to.
[P.S. If you haven’t already watched Brené Brown’s TED Talk on “The Power of Vulnerability, I strongly urge you to do it now. It’s completely changed my perspective on how I view communication in relationships.]
If you’re not yet convinced, even the most successful people have a support network. Sometimes it’s their family/spouses (e.g. entrepreneurs like Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, and Elon Musk are all married). Sometimes it’s an “A-Team” of highly skilled individuals that they build around them.
Whatever it is, I find that it’s a blessing to have the social support from family and friends when you have your moments of weakness.
In my life, my best friends are my pillars of emotional support. Wherever I am in the world, they never fail to provide me with a listening ear. I also maintain relationships with a special group of individuals whom I seek wisdom/knowledge in their area of expertise. I am thankful for my mentors that are at least twice my age, who are also friends I respect and care for. There are also people I work with – bosses and colleagues – that are ever so willing to listen and/or share.
In this rapidly changing world, we constantly question ourselves if the decisions we make everyday are the best ones. The thing is, we never truly know if they are.
The best thing to do for ourselves is to keep learning, so we’ll just get a little bit closer to some of life’s greatest questions.
Simply put, every atom and particle is constantly moving and changing. We can choose to change altogether all the time, or get stuck and wait for answers to come. Let’s take action and just keep learning. Learn more about ourselves, about others, about the society, about the world… and we may just find ourselves looking at something deeper.