Choose Yourself

By: James Altucher



Between the years of 1998 and 2008, James Altucher continuously hit rock bottom. He failed at about eighteen businesses he started. He switched careers five or six times. He lost multiple jobs. He was depressed, desperate, and anxious.

And then, he realised he had to choose himself.

You are stuck in the same cycle. You are chasing the American Dream – you want more money, faster cars, and bigger houses. But your life is drifting away from you and you aren’t truly happy.

You can no longer afford to rely on others and repeat the same mistakes from your past. You must choose yourself in order to succeed. If you choose yourself, and take care of the “four selves,” you will find true happiness in life, and ultimately create a living doing something you love.

How to Choose Yourself

Everybody wants freedom. And there are two important basics for harnessing that freedom. There are no excuses for not doing them. They are free, and they are easy. If you can harness freedom, you will succeed in the Choose Yourself era.

Only Do Things You Enjoy

The first basic is to only do things you enjoy. It may sound obvious to you, but it isn’t obvious to many people.

Only say yes to the things you enjoy doing. If you agree to things you don’t want to do, you will resent people, you will do a bad job, you will have less energy for the things you were doing a good job on, you will make less money, and you will waste valuable time in your life.

The only real fire to cultivate is the fire inside of you. Nothing external can feed the flame. You need to fuel it yourself. The greater your internal fire is, the more people will want it. They will try to light up their own dark caves with your fire.

However, every time you say yes to something you don’t want, your fire starts to go away. Eventually, if you keep this up, the fire will burn out.

You may be thinking, “I’d love to do what I enjoy but I have to pay the bills!” That’s fair. You have mouths to feed, responsibilities, retirement to save for, and many things keeping you from saying “no” to everything. Don’t worry about that yet.

The second basic will make everything clear so you’ll know if your “yes” or “no” comes from a place of deep, internal satisfaction.

The Daily Practice

The second basic is the daily practice. We spend our lives afraid of emptiness. We put all our effort into filling our emptiness with love, money, pleasures, or anything that makes it go away. But nothing will never make the emptiness go away.

The best way to fill that hole is not to try to fill the emptiness with external motivations, but to ignite the internal fire that will never go out.

Image that you have three other bodies alongside your physical body: your emotional body, your mental body, and your spiritual body. Imagine a life force that flows between them and through them, much like blood flows through your physical body. Imagine a central core that must keep everything healthy, like your heart keeps your physical body healthy.

You must keep all four of these bodies healthy and exercise them on a regular basis. This is the Daily Practice. You cannot choose yourself without having a foundation of health in all four bodies.

The Physical Body

Our physical body is the shell that we must take care of to live. It’s simple to take care of it, but hard in practice. We often make excuses and put off treating our body well for a time when it will be “easier.” But it doesn’t work that way.

You don’t need to have a six-pack or look like a super model. You just need to be healthy.

Don’t eat junk food. Sleep seven to nine hours a night. Avoid excess alcohol. Exercise.

Exercising doesn’t need to be running five miles every morning. It can be walks. Take a ten-minute walk after you’ve been sitting for ninety minutes. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Do ten minutes of yoga. Every time you take a break, take a walk.

You can never really get enough exercise, and nobody has ever complained about too much walking.

Don’t eat too much. Try to eat only two meals a day. Nobody has ever died from starvation for skipping dinner. If you eat too late in the day, your body has trouble digesting it at night. This affects your sleeping and your metabolism in the morning.

The Emotional Body

Try to surround yourself only with positive people that inspire you. Learn as much as you can from them. And strive to be that beacon of light for those around you.

It is important to avoid people who bring you down. You don’t need to be cruel about it, but engaging with people who are constantly draining you of energy is something that should be avoided at all costs.

If someone is a drag on you, cut them out of your life. If someone lifts you up, bring them closer.

If you cannot avoid a person, acknowledge that they are driving you crazy. With observation, they will have less control of your emotions. And the less you engage with the person, the less overall effect they will have on you. Figure out ways to not engage. Put a limit on how much you can complain or feel upset about that person in a day, and then don’t let yourself dwell on them beyond that limit.

There is an experiment that helps limit the effect other people have on you is. Try to be quiet as often as you can. If you limit your speech, you will choose more carefully what you say and who you say it to.

Taking care of your emotional body will make you beautiful on the outside too. Stop letting your insides be filled with the ugliness of the people around you, and you will get rid of your own ugliness inside.

The Mental Body

Your mind desperately wants to be the boss of you. It needs you to be very busy so it can do the things it is good at doing: obsessing, worrying, being depressed, forward thinking, backward thinking, and constant thinking until you are burnt out.

You need to tame your mind or it will tame you until you are a slave. You can tame it through focused use. Set a goal of coming up with ten ways that you can have more time for yourself. Or come up with ten ways you make your job easier. Or ten business ideas. Think hard, and make your mind sweat so it gets tired enough to be done for the day.

Tire your mind out so it can’t control you. Make a list of ten ideas. And then think of ten more. Try to write down so many ideas that it hurts your head to come up with more.

Your “idea” muscle can atrophy if you don’t exercise it enough. You need to exercise that muscle. It takes about 3-6 months to build back up once it atrophies. You don’t want that.

The Spiritual Body

There are many ways to help your spiritual body, and they don’t necessarily relate to god or religion.

Take some time to be grateful for the things in your life. Practise forgiveness. Think about the people that have done you wrong, and visualise gratefulness for them.

Meditate. It can be difficult to sit still for more than a few minutes, but take some time to sit quietly and watch yourself breathe. It’s okay if you get distracted. Just pull yourself back to your breath. Try it for five minutes. And then try it for six.

Many people obsess about regrets in their past or anxieties about their future. This is a waste of time because the past and the future do not exist. They are memories and speculation, and you don’t have any control over either of them. Don’t waste your time thinking about the past or the future. Live right now.

It’s easy to get sucked into worries. But none of your worries exist. It is only your mind pretending they exist.

You cannot control the past or the future. All there is is now.

Burnout is not inevitable. Surrender and accept the beautiful stillness around you. Give up all the thoughts about the past and all worries and anxieties of the future. Surround yourself with similarly positive people. Tame your mind and keep it healthy. Do these things and you will be free.

Trust that you’ve done the right preparation. You’ve done all you can do. Now, surrender to the results. The right thing will happen.

Think about the things you worry about. Nearly every single time you look back on a particular fear, you realise how useless it was to worry about.

This doesn’t mean you will never be in a bad mood. It means you will be able to recognise a bad mood and go back to making decisions about the present.

Devoting yourself to a Daily Practice will help to build astounding improvements in your life, even if you only notice tiny increments at a time. They will build up. And they will ignite the fire inside you so it can’t be burned out. You will brighten the galaxy and add brilliance to the lives around you.

Simple Daily Practice

If you feel overwhelmed by the Daily Practice, it’s okay. Take it one step at a time. First, you need to acknowledge that it is not your external life that needs to change, but that external changes flow from the inside.

For now, do ONE thing every day that makes you healthier physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually.

Try one thing from the following list each day:

  1. Sleep eight hours.
  2. Eat two meals instead of three.
  3. Do not watch TV.
  4. Do not eat junk food.
  5. Do dot complain for an entire day.
  6. Do not gossip.
  7. Return an email from five years ago.
  8. Express thanks to a friend.
  9. Watch a funny movie or stand-up comic.
  10. Write down a list of ideas. The ideas can be about anything.
  11. Read a spiritual text – anything that is inspirational to you.
  12. Say to yourself when you wake up, “I’m going to save a life today.” Keep an eye out for that life.
  13. Take up a hobby. Do something that takes you out of your current rhythm.
  14. Write down your entire schedule, the one you do every day.
  15. Cross out one item and don’t do that anymore.
  16. Surprise someone.
  17. Think of ten people you are grateful for.

Slowly, you can make healthy choices every day to your physical body, emotional body, mental body, and spiritual body. You can choose yourself and live a life of happiness and success.

It is easy to feel unhappy when you are relying on a job, a marriage, a relationship or anything external to make you happy. This reliance on others has come to an end. Choose yourself instead and you will find true happiness in life, and ultimately create a living doing something you love.