Gary John Bishop makes it clear in no uncertain terms: You are currently living the life you want to live, whether you like it or not.
Bishop says our brains are wired to win, and so we naturally and subconsciously act in ways that support our view of ourselves, even if that view is negative or harmful. Doing so keeps our psyche comfortable because it reinforces what we have experienced in our past that got us to the current day alive. Even if we want more out of life than what we are getting.
To truly progress, we must confront our self-talk and self-image and challenge them in ways that allow us to move from where we are to where we say we want to be. It all starts, Bishop says in “Unfu*k Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Life,” with language.
‘I am,’ not ‘I will be’
“In simple terms, the language you use to describe your circumstances determines how you see, experience, and participate in them and dramatically affects how you deal with your life and confront problems both big and small,” Bishop writes.
The words we choose signal to ourselves and others how seriously to take our statements.
“There’s a massive difference between ‘I am relentless’ and ‘I will be relentless,’” he writes. “One of those statements intervenes in this moment of your life, the other lives more like a description of what’s to come rather than what’s here.”
“Unfu*k Yourself” offers seven power statements to shift your perspective and force you to take action with purpose and drive. It offers a framework for transforming your life by encouraging actions that lead to discomfort, which is where Bishop says all progress is found.
“In fact, the greater degree of discomfort you experience, the greater the difficulty, the greater the sense of personal accomplishment that comes after,” he says. “And that’s exactly why great accomplishments and extraordinary successes are so rare. Because most people don’t like being uncomfortable.”
Accepting risk as the price of admission
We loathe discomfort because it indicates we are taking on some sort of risk. It’s a biological response hardwired into our brains from a time when the world around us was fraught with peril at every moment.
We adapted to avoid risk because it could meana life-and-death situation. But we have not yet adapted to recognize the difference between life-threatening risk and ego-threatening risk in our modern world. Thus, we avoid things that put us in uncomfortable situations because our brain is signaling mortal danger.
Risk is not an impediment to success, it is the path to it.
This is one of the areas of “Unfu*k Yourself” that most spoke to me. I’ve talked about how during my mini-retirement I want to get outside of my comfort zone and explore new experiences. And largely I haven’t in the two months since I quit my job.
Bishop says this is natural, and it’s a big part of the reason people end up “stuck” in an existence they don’t feel matches their expectations. (More on expectations in a bit.)
Another fascinating aspect Bishop highlights: When we take on challenges, and when we push ourselves in new directions, it’s not only challenging for us – it also challenges those around us. Even those who love us.
“They’ll say you can’t do it, you’re making a mistake, it’s impossible, you’ll fail. The more unique and out-of-the-box your endeavor is, the stronger the pushback can be. Why? Well, mostly because the other people in your life have gotten used to relating to you as a specific ‘kind’ of person. So anytime you attempt to break out of that mold, you’re not only messing with your own world, you’re also messing with theirs.”
I know I’ve been guilty of that. I’ve seen people try something and not been totally supportive. While I thought it was concern for their well-being or status or safety or whatever, maybe what I was really subconsciously doing was wrestling with how that person was changing in my mind and that triggered discomfort.
That’s an area I really need to think about in the future, both in my reactions to people and in my response to their reactions of things that I do.
Another way we drown progress is by setting up grand expectations in our mind and then comparing our progress to those expectations.
We allow the expectation to overshadow the progress, and if we don’t meet those expectations we see the journey as a failure rather than as the success that it is. Let go of expectations, Bishop says, and recognize that you are a person who is constantly growing and evolving.
“When you expect nothing, you’re living in the moment. You’re not worrying about the future or rejecting the past. You’re simply embracing your situation as it comes,” he writes.
“That doesn’t mean you are okay with it or that you agree with it, but simply that you are owning it and in charge of it. Remember you can always change something when you can take ownership and responsibility for it.”
By wallowing in the chasm between expectation and result, we lose the power to pivot and continue toward our goals. And we give up truly feel-good moments in our lives.
Growth begins with the first step
Ultimately, the power to change lies within everyone. We each have to own our current situation, recognize the limiting beliefs and negative language that has got us there or kept us there, and set a new course for our lives with intention.
“The better you understand your patterns the better shot you have in altering them,” Bishop writes. “When you have set our the goals that you are claiming as yours in life and, more importantly, relentlessly taking the actions to produce, it’s only a matter of when.”
It is the essence of action that conquers the negativity and self-doubt in the end. To push through those feelings, we must simply ignore them and advance in pursuit of our goals. Eventually, our brain will realize we are learning, changing, growing and becoming what we set out to become.
Bishop shares this thought from Dale Carnegie: “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
“Unfu*k Yourself,” despite its attention-grabbing title, is not a foul-mouthed diatribe. It’s a no-nonsense examination of the typical way of thinking that traps so many of us in comfortable lives. You need not be unhappy with your life or depressed to get something out of this book. You can take his advice to move from good to great, or great to amazing.
The actionable tips are plenty, and Bishop’s direct writing doesn’t allow you to find loopholes or excuses as to why these things don’t apply to you. No one is special, he says, there are just people with different levels of commitment to achievement. You choose your level, and therefore you have chosen the life you have.
I definitely recommend this book, especially for younger readers who are more apt to get fired up by the direct language. There are many good lessons in this fairly quick read, and things you can start doing today to make progress.
You can check out “Unfu*k Yourself” from your local library, or if you’d like to purchase it for yourself or someone else you can use my Amazon affiliate link. It’ll cost you the same, and I’ll get a few cents for referring you.