Favorites Friday: Ambitious, Talented, & Intelligent (repost from Quora)

I'm not exactly sure when I subscribed to Quora, but this week's Q&A was exactly what I needed to read - so much so, that I thought it needed reposting.

A Quora user asked the following question: "I am ambitious, talented and intelligent, but I lack willpower, discipline, and organization. I am an impulsive procrastinator of the highest order. What can I do to improve?"

And, Shana Tiang provided the following answer:

I've been in this exact situation.

I have always had big ambitions and goals and clear direction, but I used to lack everything else that would get me there. I used to play a lot of video games, watch TV for hours and prefer just doing nothing to what I should be doing. I'd feel guilty about being lazy but the guilt was never enough to stop my bad habits.

Today, I hardly watch any TV and I never just sit around. I utilise every second I can to reach my goals.

It only took me about six months to get to this level of productivity from how I used to be.

What you need to develop is a drive, and the thing that jump starts a drive is passion. You need to be as passionate about your goals as you can be. You say that you're ambitious, so what exactly are your ambitions? Do you have a clear goal that you want to achieve?

And the big question, How much do you want it?

This is the thing that I couldn't answer well before. I wanted it, but how much? More than I wanted to relax, more than I wanted to sleep, more than I wanted that instant gratification? At the time, as much as I didn't want to admit it, the answer was no.

So, instead of reading self-help books (that I was too lazy to read anyway) or repeating positive affirmations, or taking practical action straight away, I started with something much simpler: I focused on my goal. In my own head, I began questioning myself, asking myself if I really wanted it. And I also began visualising the worst case scenario. What if I went through life and never made anything significant of myself? I believed myself to be talented; what if I let all those talents go to waste? What if I die with nothing to my name, no success, no recognition, no respect? All those outcomes absolutely terrified me (and they still do). And as they say "fear is the greatest motivator".

From the moment I realised that those outcomes terrified me, they would constantly be on my mind. And they grew. They grew into an overwhelming need to do something, right now. They became a source of very strong motivation. I would spend my whole eight hour work day thinking, questioning and imagining and leave work feeling so pumped to start my "real" work. At first those feelings of motivation didn't last very long and I would slip back into something lazy after being productive for a short while, but the thoughts were never far away, and they never failed to motivate me again. Over time those periods of motivation and productivity grew and grew and now I feel like I could be productive every minute of the day.

Looking back on how I was six months ago, I realise I am still very much the same person. I'm just as tired, just as ready to relax and just as in love with playing video games, but none of those things matter to me anymore as much as my goal does.

Picture your worst case scenario. How do you feel about dying the way you are now, lacking willpower and discipline? That you describe yourself as a "rubbish human" tells me that you hate your current mindset. The only way to get out of it is to do something. Every second you work away from the person you are now, you become closer to the person you want to be. The mind is a powerful thing and it can push you. I guarantee that if you want something enough, you will work to get it. The first step is just realising how much.
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