Here's an exercise you can do without standing up from your computer. It's not going to burn any calories, it doesn't involve lifting anything and it's easy to do, but the results may be powerful all the same.
I also didn't invent it, I stole it from David Wong, a writer on a great website called Cracked.com.
Find a piece of paper - just a scrap of something will do - and write down the five things that are most important to you right now.
You're writing this for yourself and no one else - so don't try to sound like a wonderful person.
You'll end up with something like -
1- Progress my career.
2- Have a happy relationship.
4- Spend time with friends.
5- Be healthy.
Your answers may be different but just be honest. This is a list of what you consider to be your values. Your life philosophy.
Now make another list. This time write down what you did yesterday, except for essential biological functions like eating, crapping and Facebook stalking your ex.
Now it's probably more like (and honestly I'm not judging here, just go with me) -
1- Work, 8am-6pm
2- Netflix 7-9pm
3- Facebook / Twitter 9-10pm
Or whatever, but you get the idea. Again, I'm not holding myself up as some paragon of productivity or claiming I don't have days like this too. But the point is this: You can basically tear up the first list, because the second one is your real life philosophy.
This sounds incredibly judgemental and condescending. Yesterday might have been an unusually lazy day or you may have been knackered from teaching underprivileged badgers how to read the previous night. So go back over the last week, or month and repeat the exercise. I think you'll see a similar disparity between the first list - your desired life - and the second - the life you're actually living.
What's the point of this, besides making you feel like shit?
This: You are what you repeatedly do, NOT what you believe about yourself. The first list is a bunch of nice ideas. The second list shows you who you are and who you'll be in ten years.
So, obviously you can change that, that's where a lot of articles like this would end. If you want to crush your career, ditch all that Facebook time and spend an hour a day pursuing your career in goldfish wrangling / palaeontology / whatever the hell it is you want to do. And it'll work. Start doing that now and you will soon be far closer to living that first list.
But there are a couple of important things to understand: All of the things on the seconds list fulfilled an important need, in fact they were the things you wanted to do MOST in that moment. Faffing about on Facebook, however trivial it seems, still provided a social connection and allowed you to wind down from work.
Okay, but what if you're a heroin addict? Your second list may have read -
1 - Try and get hold of heroin.
2- Take heroin.
Does that mean you want to be a heroin addict? Absolutely not. Nor am I saying your addiction is your fault, or any of that judgemental crap. But in a purely biological sense, the point stands: The heroin was fulfilling a need, an incredibly powerful one. For complex, horrible reasons and through no fault of your own It was the most important thing to you in that moment.
That's a huge subject and beyond the scope of what's supposed to be a fun little blog, but it was important to clear up.
Here's a less depressing example: Your first list, your list of what you think is most important to you, says; "I want to look like a fitness magazine model". And your second list, the things you actually did yesterday said: "spent the day dressing and feeding the kids and ferrying them around".
Again, that second list tells you what your actual priorities are, what was most important to you in that moment: Looking after your kids - and rightly so because you're a good parent rather then a narcissistic asshole.
So here's my point: If you want to move toward the goals on the first list, you need to change something about the second list. BUT, you also need to recognise what you will LOSE by changing something on the second list; That you will be giving up something that may sound trivial on paper but still fulfils an emotional need.
In the example above, don't think; "I want to look like a fitness model". Think; "I want to spend less time with my kids and look like a fitness model". Because, as shitty as it sounds, that's the reality. Something needs to be bumped off that second list if anything's going to happen.
The point is not to discourage you but to illustrate what it takes to actually change. Do this and you'll realise that some goals are worth cutting certain fun activities out of your life for and since you now appreciate that those activities fulfilled a need, you can prepare yourself for how tough that transition will be.
But guess what? Some other goals, when you look at what it actually takes to achieve them, may not actually be worth it...and that's okay too. Try it and see.