I’ve been a self-determinist since I was about eight years old. My dad told me that I could do anything I set my mind to and I took him for his word.

I love the idea of having control over my life and creating my own destiny. That’s why I love movies like The Matrix and Cinderella Man, where individuals overcome astronomical odds to create their own destiny.

I’ve always known intuitively that my thoughts were the most powerful creative force in my universe, and I proved it over and over to myself by accomplishing things that no one else thought I could.

I’m fascinated with the handful of humans in history (like Buddha, Jesus, and Ghandi), who achieved the absolute pinnacle of self-determism.

External Determinism

As I grew older, I became more and more aware of the powerful forces that were at work against my own self-determinism. Biological, social, environmental, economic, and psychological factors all form barriers to my goals.

I still believed that these forces could be overcome with self-determinism, but I started to respect the power of these forces.

Biological Determinism

The DNA in my body is out of my control and can either help or hurt me on my way to my goals.

When I was younger, I wanted to be the fastest person on my football team. Because I was a self-determinist, I believed that I could overcome by own biology by sprinting up hills every day. I became obsessed with it and pushed myself to work harder than everyone else.

I became quick, but I never achieved my goal of being the fastest on the team. Still a self-determinist, I felt that I just hadn’t tried hard enough.

Social Determinism

As children, we promise ourselves that we’ll be nothing like our parents when we grow up, but the older we get, the more our parents come out in us.

A lot of people blame their parents for their problems by saying things like: I was abused, they didn’t believe in me, and they were divorced and it screwed me up.

The more you blame your parents for your faults, the more you allow those faults to exist.

Ultimately, a person has the power to overcome social-determinism, but it’s very difficult. Social forces are some of the most powerful obstacles we face.

Environmental Determinism

Have you ever been in a good mood just because the sun was out? Have you ever felt gloomy because it was raining? If you have, you know what it’s like to let your environment determine your fate.

Ultimately, you decide your own mood, not the weather.

The thing about the environment is that you can’t escape it. It will always produce obstacles. The city you live in, your current job, your boss, the people around you; there are an infinite number of reasons you can’t accomplish your goals.

A self-determinist ignores these obstacles.

Economic Determinism

The rich just get richer, right? It takes money to make money. Sounds like a perfectly good reason to just quit.

It’s frustrating that the already-wealthy have a huge headstart. I’m sure a lot of people feel this way, but there’s nothing we can do about it except create our own wealth.

Psychological Determinism

Sometimes your most powerful enemy is your own subconscious. Bad habits can slowly chip away at your vision.

Procrastination, over-spending, over-eating, poor confidence, and addiction can make it impossible to achieve anything.

Again, ultimately, a self-determinist can overcome these obstacles, but it can be very difficult.

Cumulative Effect

We might be able to overcome a few of these obstacles, but add them all together and the odds are stacked against us. Each of us has the power to, but few of us have made it to that level. So what do we do?

Formula For Success

When I was younger, I made the mistake of believing 100% in self-determinism without respecting the power of external forces. I didn’t realize that determinism was a classic duality with the competing internal and external forces.

As with any duality (like conservative vs. liberal, masculine vs. feminine, or creativity vs. business sense), critical thinking is required to make any sense of it.

After years of thought and observation, here’s what I’ve come up with as the best way to be a self-determist.

Live like a Self-Determinist, but Protect Yourself as if You’re Not

In other words, trust yourself completely, but set up policies in your life as if you don’t trust yourself.

As an example, if you want to get into shape: push yourself to workout every day and eat right (self-determinism) but get all the junk food out of your house and workout first thing in the morning to minimize distractions (environmental forces).

As a comparison, if you were taking a completely self-determinist perspective, you would trust yourself to workout every day regardless of the time, and avoid junk food even if it’s in front of you. Some people have the power of such self-discipline, but why force yourself to summon this energy? Get rid of the forces against you so you can focus your energy on your goal.

If you were taking an entirely external-determinist perspective, you wouldn’t think you had any control of your goal anyway, so you wouldn’t try.

Energy

Achieving a goal is a matter of energy. If you dig deep enough, you can find the energy to overcome any obstacle; but if you are constantly forcing yourself to overcome unnecessary obstacles, your mind will get tired and you’ll run out of energy.

The goal is to eliminate as many obstacles as you can so that your mind can focus all of its energy on your goal.

Obstacles

Money

If you want to get rich, don’t put yourself at a disadvantage by going into debt. Drive an older car, live in a small apartment, eat in, and cut expenses where ever you can. Don’t put yourself in a position where you have to make a lot just to get out of debt.

Fidelity

Take responsibility for yourself and your relationship by being true to your partner. Be trustworthy, but don’t tempt yourself unnecessarily. Yes, you should be able to resist the temptation to cheat, but don’t test yourself by getting yourself into questionable situations.

Addiction

If you have a tendency to shop impulsively, don’t go near malls. If you have a tendency to abuse alcohol, don’t hang out at bars. If you can’t avoid the internet, don’t put a computer in your bedroom.

While all of us have the internal power to overcome addiction, save your energy for your goals by removing the temptation.

Procrastination

I used to be the king of procrastination. I never finished anything that I started. Part of the reason I was such a procrastinator was my strong belief in self-determinism. I thought that I didn’t have to do something right away because I would make it happen in the future.

That was until I realized that the best way to get something done was just to do it. Today, I put all of my undesirable chores first on my to-do list. Each morning, I work out, wash the dishes, and clean the cat-box: things that never got done in the past. I start my work-day with my least-favorite chore: accounting.

Finances

Take control of your financial life by coming up with a great financial plan, but don’t trust yourself to follow it! Set up an automatic withdrawal each month from your checking account to your savings account don’t trust yourself to remember to do it.

Separate your business account from your personal account. I recommend setting up at least five separate accounts to compartmentalize your money. Putting up dividers between your money protects you from yourself.

Habits

Successful home-business owners have good habits. Set up business hours for yourself and stick to them. Don’t trust yourself to get around to it.

Why is it that we bend over backwards to be on time when we’re working for someone else, but when we work for ourselves, it’s so easy to take time off?