On Friday, America will inaugurate its 45th president. With the dawning of a new presidency, the country is responding predictably. Half of the country is outraged and believes the election was rigged (“rigged system,” anyone?). The other half of the country is optimistic and believes that prosperity is back and a new era of American greatness is on the horizon.
Throughout American history, the future will rarely be as bright as the victor wants you to believe and rarely as gloomy as their opponents fear. It has a tendency to fall somewhere in between, being better in some ways than expected and worse in other ways you didn’t expect. If history is any guide, this will be the case for the next four years. The fevered euphoria and hysteria on both sides will almost certainly prove false.
If you are a supporter of President Trump (still getting used to saying that), you likely believe that he is going to turn our country around. His entire campaign was themed around a return to American greatness, focusing heavily on manufacturing and returning jobs from overseas. If you’re a factory worker in Michigan or Ohio who has been laid off from your plant, the hope that someone else, someone much more powerful than yourself (with flowing golden hair), will come and turn your economic situation around is understandably intoxicating. It’s nice to think that someone else will fix your problems for you. This is the pipe dream of the masses.
Like all pipe dreams, at some point you have to wake up.
The fact is that President Trump can’t fix your problems for you. It’s very likely that, even if we do see a macroeconomic lift, your personal wellbeing and prosperity will not shift in a meaningful way at all. If unemployment drops by a percentage point (which would be huge at this point), there’s only a 1 in 100 chance that you’re impacted. If wages rise by 5 percent, you’ll likely barely notice the money you spend. These macroeconomic trends are not going to radically change your life. Rather than waiting for the future administration to fix your problems, you should focus on the things you can change and improve right now.
Here’s a list of five things that President Trump won’t fix for you. Each one of these will likely impact your life exponentially more than the incoming administration. Mastering a single one of these will yield positive benefits in several of the other areas.
1. Your choices
You have a superpower: Your ability to choose. This rational power of choice is one of the key things that separates you from, say, your dog or the sponge in your sink. You have morality and rationality to wield to improve your life and the life of those around you. You have the ability to choose to learn a new skill, change careers, find a new job, move to a new city, and start a new relationship. At some point in adult life, we often forget that everything in our life is the result of our choices. We do have the ability to make different choices to solve our problems (which inevitably creates new problems).
Many of us make terrible decisions. We choose things on impulse or out of fear. We let our whims dictate what we do, rather than principle or character. We use our credit cards to buy our happiness. We focus on material things rather than relationships. Because so many things in our life are the direct result of our choices, learning to make better choices in the future is a key step towards improving your life.
2. Your discipline
Self-control is one of those topics that sounds a little outdated for our times. After all, words like “passion” and “motivation” are much sexier to describe the thing that keeps you going. However, while all this talk of passion is a good thing, your passion will only carry you so far. At some point, your passion is going to give out and wane. In these moments it’s your discipline that is going to keep you going. Discipline is a much better master than passion, as it is not dependent on external factors (as passion so often is). That’s why it’s important to cultivate discipline and rigor into all areas of your life.
It’s often noted that many of the most successful people are early risers. If you accept the concept that there’s such a thing as “night owls” and “morning people,” the fact that the morning people are so much more successful should seem strange. After all, if productivity is the driver, a night owl should be just as productive in the late afternoons and evenings as the morning person is during the early hours. I find a much more persuasive idea to be that waking up early cultivates discipline much more than staying up late does. By flexing your self-control muscles and forcing yourself out of bed, you create a cornerstone habit through your discipline that leaks into every other area of your life.
3. Your beliefs
What do you believe is true about the world and the people who live in it? Your beliefs fundamentally change and transform both your posture towards the world and your interactions with others. Your beliefs drive the type of financial strategies, career choices, friends, educational opportunities and more.
The nice thing about beliefs is that you can constantly question, critique, refine, and expand them. By learning new things, you can modify your previously-held ideas and shape them into newer, better ones. Thus your beliefs are intrinsically linked to your willingness to engage in new ideas and to learn. Exposing yourself to multiple viewpoints on topics will help shore up and hone your beliefs.In changing your beliefs, you will change your framework that you process reality through.
What do you believe about yourself? What “type” of person are you? How do you know this is true? Often, our beliefs about ourselves are the most powerful shaper of the people we become. Some of these beliefs were cultivated and instilled in us as children. Critically examining the beliefs you have about yourself and then systematically working to change those beliefs just may change your life.
4. Your habits
Habits are one of the strongest forces in the world. Our entire brains are set up on tracks to run the same loops over and over and over and over and over again. Your habits determine whether or not you exercise in the morning, whether you choose a burger or salad, whether you spend time reading, whether or not you space out or engage in conversation when you get home from work, and more. Over ninety percent of your day is habit. Which habits do you have that are damaging to your health, your peace of mind, and your sense of purpose?
Often, people focus on habits that are huge and difficult to change, passing up on many micro-habits they could develop in the process. With habit formation, there’s a compounding effect in that the smallest habits, when practiced over time, can yield huge results. For instance, one of the habits I’ve started doing is to do three sets of pushups before I go to work each morning. While individually, this small habit only takes about 5 minutes of my morning, the cumulative effect over a year is astounding. I am currently doing around 85 pushups each morning (and will only do more as time goes on). Multiplied out over a year, this is over 31,000 pushups. While I don’t expect to be trying out for Mr. Olympia, this small, seemingly insignificant investment can have huge consequences.
Your habits are the same way. The compounding effect of habit and its consequences on every area of your life cannot be overstated.
5. Your friends
By surrounding yourself with people that are the type of person you want to become, you will greatly increase your likelihood of becoming that person. The inverse is also true.
The people you choose to spend your discretionary time with says more about you than the people you are “forced” to interact with (via work, church, etc). Are your friends pushing you to improve, to become a better person, and to strive towards your goals? Or are your friends a toxic part of your habit cycle that get you depressed, unmotivated, and lethargic. If your preferred activities with those friends are destructive or damaging, then it’s time to find new ones. If your friends continually pull you back to their level, it may be time to let go.
In today’s hyper-connected world, a lot of us don’t actually have that many true friends. We have seas of acquaintances but very few people we could call if we, say, needed help burying a body. One of the first steps to improving your circle of friends is to be the type of friend you’d want to have. That means responding to text messages, being the first to reach out, and giving back.
By focusing on each of these, you will be prepared to succeed regardless of macroeconomic data. Even if the economy tanks, your personal economy will be insulated from these effects. Rather than worrying about a Trump administration, you should start right now to change and to grow into the person who is prepared to handle any situation. By taking personal responsibility for your own wellbeing and state of affairs, rather than shifting the blame to others, you will grow and prosper regardless of your circumstances. That’s the sort of thing that will change your life and, just maybe, make America great again.