If you’re asking, “How do I get my life in order?” you’re probably sick of the same old tired advice.
Advice like “remove clutter.”
“Visualize the person you want to become.”
“Remove negativity from your life.”
Sure, those are good tips.
But are “tips” what you really need?
I say no.
The thing so many “self help” listicles are missing is some straight up talk about what “order” actually looks like.
So if you’re dedicated to restoring order in your life, let’s dive into what this really means.
What it really takes.
And just how dang easy it can be when you skip the listicles and get to work.
(There’s a reason listicles have the “ick” sound in them, after all…)
How To Get Your Life Together Fast
It was 2011. My life was in shambles.
I was going through a long divorce, drinking like a fiend, strangely trapped in a surprisingly unsuited relationship and missing a front tooth on the bottom row.
Worse, I was sleeping on two delicately arranged rows of cardboard boxes containing all of my books.
It looked like a coffin in the dark basement suite a fellow author had let my pathetic little self occupy.
Then there was the fact that I didn’t have a job and I was stuck in an eternal pity party. See, I had recently finished a major research grant.
But no one cared. Three major universities in the Vancouver area told me I had impressive credentials, but waved me away with a ‘no thanks.’ The missing front tooth probably wasn’t helping.
So what did I do?
Well, one thing I had to accept up front was the fact that life is messy and we’re all hypocrites.
So, noting that listicles contain the word “ick” in them, I’m going to poke fun at myself and share with you my best tips in the form of a list.
There’s a tip on why such “self ridicule” is so important to creating order in your life, so please stay tuned.
One: Define Order
There’s no way to exaggerate how important this step will be for anyone who wants to experience the order of life to any significant degree.
I resisted definition-making for far too long.
See, I went to university for a long time. And philosophically speaking, categorization and definitions often create more problems than they solve.
But not always. There’s a real use for them, especially when it comes to getting it together.
The problem is that we cannot look to others for a definition of order and expect it to work for us.
As Gary Weber puts it in Happiness Beyond Thought, trying to emulate the journey of anyone else is madness.
You need to create your own.
So how do you define order? To help yourself answer the question, learn to journal for self improvement. Writing is one of the surest and fastest ways to get things sorted for yourself.
Two: Understand the Role of Desire
The world is full of imitators.
Instead of desiring what you really desire, it’s so easy to desire what other people have.
The marketers know this. It’s why they tend to have expensive watches, cars and homes in their videos.
But you need to take this one step further.
Understand that often what we desire is their desire itself.
You bet, but most people lead lives of disarray because they can’t see this issue. They think they want the material belongings, but it’s really the energy of the owner they’re after.
(I’m not sure, but probably part of the vampire myth comes from this psychological issue. You’re like the undead when you’re trying to feed off the energy of others.)
It took me forever and a day to see itself, and sometimes I still fall for this trap.
But it’s rarely the cars and the watches we want. It’s the desire that drives others to take the necessary actions needed to get them that we want.
One thing that helped me see this issue was to study the Stoic Virtues. Although I can’t say I’m a big fan of Stoicism, realizing that I was desiring the wrong things made it so much easier to structure my life correctly.
Three: Fears, Opportunities, Strengths
There’s a simple mind mapping exercise that will help you identify what you’re afraid of in your life.
Once you’re familiar with your fears, you can list the opportunities you have once they’re out of the way.
Then move on to identifying your strengths.
You can then apply these strengths to taking consistent action towards your goals.
Four: Follow the Right Goals
You now know that you might have a problem in what you desire.
But no matter how psychologically healthy you get in this department, it’s easy to pursue the wrong goals.
For example, I once worked really hard to make a girlfriend happy. I made it my goal to give her what she wanted.
This meant that I shoved what I wanted to the side.
I’m sure glad I realized my mistake in time.
It was journaling that revealed my error to me, and enabled me to start journaling about what I really wanted.
Once I was aligned with the truthful goal and probably aligned with the energy of desire, it really didn’t take long to realize the results.
Five: Show Up
No one will ever do the work for you.
Okay, maybe some entrepreneurs are skilled at getting things done through others, but I’m sure they still have to show up for many things in their lives.
The fact is that most of us aren’t entrepreneurs or ever going to become one.
So how do you show up? After you’ve whittled away all the wrong goals, you can use your journal to describe the most logical steps you need to follow.
Having simple goals and breaking things down really helps.
But it’s also important to not oversimplify things. People often make their goals impossible by transforming them into fantasies of ease and fun each and every day of their lives.
In reality, not everything is fun, nor must it be. There’s a lot of growth that comes from just getting things done even when they’re hard.
When you journal daily, you’ll give yourself visual, tangible proof that you can do it.
This is order. And it feels great, which is why I use a snapshot journal daily.
Six: Make A Freakin’ Mess Already
I can’t stand all these anti-clutter posts.
Sure, maybe some people need that.
But I’ve been helping perfectionists forever and a day. Their lives are in shambles because they won’t let go of the reins.
Or they over analyze every last thing and jump ship when showtime arrives.
I learned the hard way that you have to make a mess if you want to bring order to your life.
When I work on a project, I have multiple tabs open and a desktop littered with files.
My desk looks like chaos to my wife, but it’s productive madness that helps me get things down.
There’s endless time to clean things up later. But when it’s time to execute on projects, don’t let the tidy get in the way of the done.
Seven: Forgive Yourself When You’re The Negative One
I’m not sure what it means to be “authentic.” That sounds like corporate-speak cooked up by marketing execs.
The fact of the matter is that living life involves breaking eggs and stepping on toes.
I had an experience recently where I collaborated with someone who wanted to “help” one of my businesses.
It didn’t go well, and on one level, there’s no way I look good in how things went.
When it came to jumping on a webinar together, this person wanted to know what the theme of the webinar was going to be so he could do a “good job.”
My inner diva came out and I got more than a little miffed. We had worked on this project for months. Now, three hours before the launch party, I felt like I was being asked to remind him of the core ideas related to the project.
I could see the hurt in his eyes when I said I just wanted to have fun, hang out with people and wing it. “This is the band,” I said when we ended the strategy session and unfortunately we haven’t spoken since.
But I’m able to forgive myself for being disorderly in front of a friend. And I have to be because carnivore dieting seems to have only made my chronic pain and mood issues worse.
In my life, no amount of pre-planning or post-apologizing is going to change the fact that I make mistakes. I did apologize, and it’s a tough little situation because I’m not sure I really had to, given certain features of the situation, a situation which might just be permanently un-figure-out-able.
So self-forgiveness is a must when things get out of hand, because that’s just the way things go sometimes. Acceptance is a form of order, so accept what you must and call a spade a spade as often as you can.
Eight: Share The Sob Story Consciously
I’ve just talked about my chronic pain and mood “disorder.”
It’s not a sob story, I swear. 😉
But taking a moment to pause and analyze it for any whining and crying is useful to do.
We also symbolically sob from time to time.
This blog, for example, involves a level of self-therapy. I’m sharing some of my adventures in trying to get through life, and a lot of it is unfiltered and in the realm of “oversharing.”
The order you can discover comes from what you might call Radical Metacognition.
You’re letting yourself produce whatever experiences arise in you, without letting them rule the roost.
You’re labeling them self-reflexively, which allows for a certain Epicurean enjoyment while one Stoically weeds out what doesn’t belong.
Labeling shall set you free.
Nine: Get A Coach, Already
Many people let themselves drown without taking the simple risk of asking for help.
Does it take a bit of time and moolah to find a coach? You bet.
Is it highly likely that the first coach, or even the second or third won’t be what you need? Yes, indeed. That’s part of the risk of life.
But if you don’t invest, you miss out on the perspective of others.
You don’t have to act on what others suggest. And in fact, you often won’t be able to do so.
The value of one of my best coaches didn’t switch on for at least a decade. I just wasn’t in the right place to hear him.
But the value of what he taught me has been huge nonetheless, despite the delay.
And if you get into some of the memory exercises I share on my memory blog, you’ll be better equipped to remember your investments in the future.
Ten: Re-Define Order
The process never ends.
New factors enter the game frequently, requiring ongoing reassessment.
And in order to innovate, you need to “perform” your assessments publicly, or at least with a coach or some friends.
We all need external feedback. Without it, we simply cannot perform the metacognition that helps us pivot practically and based on knowledge outside of ourselves.
Restoring Order In Your Life Requires Having Some
There’s an interesting book called The Trick To Money Is Having Some.
It’s a cutesy title, but the general idea works when it comes to order.
You really do have to get some, and that means you have to start somewhere.
Probably anywhere will do for many people.
It sure worked for me, and in case you’re wondering, I wound up becoming something like an “international online professor of mystery” quickly. I simply followed the steps I’ve just shared and continually revisit them.
It’s meant going to some uncomfortable places. You’ll likely have to do the same.
If an addiction is in play, that might mean counseling or even cold turkey.
If you’re broke, you might have to get off your butt and start a business. Because as John Michael Greer recently pointed out having a job is getting less and less desirable.
Lots of things in this world are getting less desirable… and all the more so because people hardly understand what “desire” really is…
(Notice the sound of “ire” in it, anyone?)
There’s definitely hope, though. And lots of it.
Dig your hands into reality and pull it out by the skin of your teeth if you have to because action reveals and stasis conceals.
Staying still is a sure-fire means of making things worse, so get out there and let taking action reveal the way!
And if you’d like more activities that help reveal the way, please consider going through my Daily Discipline Masterplan guide and video course. It’s free: