doing good things: it’s a bore

The question of good and evil is a big one. Most people would like to think of themselves as “okay”. Maybe not terrifically good, but at least not terrifically bad. Sure, people make mistakes and are cruel from time to time, but we each like to believe that our good mostly outweighs the bad. Religions often emphasize and try to encourage people to be moral, with greater or lesser success. Even people that consider themselves horrible people still tend to count some of their actions as beneficial to the whole good, and even people that consider themselves ultimately saints know in their hearts that they’re imperfect.

Adding onto this difficulty, there are questions of circumstance. If someone is struggling to survive, surely it isn’t necessary for them to help others since they are exerting so much effort in other worthwhile things? But also, we tend to overestimate how busy we are to make ourselves feel less guilty for not doing more. Helping the poor. Giving comfort to those in need. Being kind and compassionate when there is no external motivating factor like the desire to be seen as socially good.

Some argue that all humans are good, just get pushed down the wrong path by a terrible situation. Some others argue all humans are evil, and we have to fight our instincts to accomplish something good. Still, others feel that a binary of right and wrong is too simple and we should act with the understanding that circumstances are almost always morally ambiguous.

We might not know, and there will almost certainly be disagreement about the particulars, yet regardless we must realize that there is a drive, either internally or externally to do good things from somewhere. If there wasn’t, how would our species have survived this long? What about all of the cooperative relationships and groups that operate every day? Humans can be altruistic, at least to a limited degree. The problem with the argument is that there are so many options and opinions flying around that it becomes easy to justify doing nothing, even when we can do far more. It’s easy to feel like Injustice is so widespread that an individual can do nothing to help. But this isn’t the case. Even if an action is nominal, a good act can still impact someone else’s life for the better. There’s the hope that individuals will all do little things on their own and together that kindness and compassion will make the difference on the whole. However, it’s difficult to feel fulfilled as a tiny dot on a giant balance. Furthermore, even the most basic actions can have many results; who decides the overall absolute value of “goodness”?

Discussions of morality make people uncomfortable because it is almost always associated with shame. We feel like we haven’t done enough. Frankly, we probably haven’t, and if we are honest with ourselves, we know that our behaviors likely won’t shift in the future either.

So what’s to be done? In our hearts, we know what we have to do, and it’s boring.

The way for most humans to realistically enact change isn’t exciting. Not everyone can or should join the Peace Corps or start a charitable nonprofit. What impacts people is donating to charities who have actual pragmatic goals and ways to achieve them. What impacts people is joining a local club that does blood drives. Working at a soup kitchen. Being around people who are in need is uncomfortable, and we don’t want to deal with the realization that they are human as us. You don’t have to give up everything in your life, you just have to give consistently and practically. It’s dull. It won’t make you feel like a saint, it will more likely make you annoyed because you have yet another commitment to tack on to a large pile. It matters anyway. We can always do something good for others, our situation just dictates what kind of good we are capable of giving. We should do what we can, and what that means will probably change over time. Doing what we can where we can is a much better option, however, than being paralyzed with shame that helps no one.

keep your eyes open

It’s easy to drudge from day to dull day. The regular routines we follow typically aren’t exciting. We get up, work, eat, maybe have a tiny bit of fun, and then go back to sleep. However, a lot of the dread we have around work is a monster we’ve created ourselves.

We struggle throughout most of lives, so how can we find joy in that? By changing our perspective as much as we can, and if need be, our circumstances. There is always something we can do to make life a little brighter. When I say dread is a monster we create, I don’t mean that we can somehow snap our fingers, change our attitude and float away on a magicial pink cloud. No matter what we do, sometimes life sucks. However, we can make it seem worse than it is when we constantly think to ourselves, “I don’t want to do this, there’s no meaning in this, I just want to go home…” Wherever you are, you’re there. You exist in that location. This is a part of your life, and it can be just as precious as any other part of your life. Focus on the good things to get you through, to distract you as much as you can, even if you have to start being thankful for dandelions in the sidewalk.

If the situation is really that bad, then get out of there. That’s not always possible, but it may be more possible than you realize. We often convince ourselves that things lie in a certain fixed pattern and there’s nothing we can do to change that. However, is it? Look at where you are again. Research your options. Talk to other people, maybe there’s a solution you’re missing.

At the end of the day, yes it’s just another day. But it’s also another day of your life. We may be experts at making ourselves miserable, but we don’t have to stay that way. Slowly, we can change our outlook on life. Maybe we can’t escape a situation just yet, but that won’t always be the case. Have hope! Keep your eyes open.

the most brilliant of plans

I had this brilliant plan to wake up at 6 am and go to the gym. It didn’t work out. The reason it didn’t work out is because I was really tired and my sleep has been shallow and problematic of late. As I see it, there are three primary responses I could have here. 1. Say it isn’t a big deal, people break their gym goals all the time. 2. Say it is a big deal and chide myself for being so lazy, I should have pushed through. Or 3. Say I want to be better and next time actually be better.

Out of all of these, I’d say the was last one is the most healthy response. Why? Because I can think whatever I want. Thinking matters only so much as my actions here. Whether I chide myself or excuse my actions, the fact is that I didn’t carry out the promise I had to myself. It doesn’t matter if my reasons are truly justified, I have to deal with the fact that I did what I did.

We tend to get caught up in our heads. There’s worlds you could build inside there and never come out of. However, we live in This world, as messed up as it is. It’s not very fun. For most people, we spend the majority of our days doing something boring that we have no interest in. By the time we get home, there seems to be nothing else to do but watch TV or sleep. That doesn’t feel very much like living.

Most times, however, we can try to find our best self even in our worst life. We have plenty of dreams, but what are we doing to actually achieve them? Maybe its a pipe dream to show up on Ellen, but if you want to make an impact big enough that talk shows would show you off, you can’t do that by making excuses. For better or worse, whoever we are today is who we are. Parts of us can improve, but the “us” in the equation never goes away. Don’t try to be something you’re not, make yourself do something you want.

A/C is life

The most ironic part of summertime is that if you’re indoors, you spend most of your time freezing cold. Subsequently, just the matter of staying at a decent temperature requires a constant readjustment of layers. While some might be able to avoid the battle of the thermostat and sweater, for most, there is no choice if you want to be able to make a living. But even in our times of alternating shivering and sweating, we can find some item that reminds us of how we can see the world.

That item, or perhaps system in this case, is air conditioning. More specifically, life is like air conditioning. Whether we want the cold, coming in from working in the hot sun, or we want it to rise to some decent temperature as we wriggle away under the blast, the a/c is constant. We can’t schmooze the a/c into being kinder to us. Assuming we can’t touch any temperature controls and we aren’t allowed to fix the system manually, the a/c is going to do what it wants, and so does life. The only real thing we can do is try and be prepared.

We can be prepared for life in a few ways (I call them “1, 2… and so on but they aren’t ranked. The numbers are just for organizational clarity). Number one, we can be financially responsible. Whether we like to admit it or not, how much money we have drastically affects our mobility and ability to deal with emergencies and unfortunate situations. Seeking to be our best in something so boring can make a massive difference in an event down the road.

Number two is relationships. We need people, and we need relationships we can depend on. Being alone is miserable, and it’s not how we’re built. Relationships work best where there is open communication and respect. It’s work, but fulfilling and necessary against the cold.

Number three and last major way we can deal with what life throws at us, is a healthy combination of cautiousness and action. If we do not act, we will stagnate and close in on ourselves. If we are not cautious, we may jump into a minefield. Consider the dangers that different behaviors bring to us. If it’s not worth it, don’t be an idiot: but if it is, take the risk. Be smart about the choices you make.

Life can be cold and unforgiving. We can’t yell it into being fair. What we can do is be prepared, and come with layers! By being financially responsible, socially respectful, and pragmatic, we have mobility in whatever life throws at us.

oh ugh. Excercise.

Exercise is a funny beast that most of us hate. There are those who make going to the gym their life, but there are the rest of us too, who try to rationalize walking to the fridge as a decent amount of physical exertion for the day. It’s natural, afterall. Excercise is uncomfortable. It’s hard and it feels weird when you aren’t already fit.

However, getting out there and being physical every day is amazing for you. It lowers your risk of practically every disease, makes you more attractive, and improves your psychological staye! Working your muscles makes them stronger, and lowers the chance of things going wrong. Furthermore, people who practice self control by working out also tend to eat more healthy too, since they’re exerting all that effort in the first place. It helps your mood too, not only that day, but overall! There’s plenty of studies out there, and practically all support the thesis: exercise is a vital and wonderfully beneficial part to include in one’s routine.

The problem is, of course, that we hate it. Especially in America, it tends to come down to those who exercise like crazy and those who don’t exercise at all. We tend to go for the extremes, when it’s not a competition! We don’t need to look like models. We don’t need to be super muscular and thin. All we need to be to healthy, and that can be accomplished through small habits, building up to something moderate and sustainable. It’s good to want to be healthy, but actually do it. Get started. Start working out. If you don’t want to deal with the looks, work out in your room or a private space. Go for a bike ride if you have the means. Walk for a bit if you can. Be healthy for you, because it will make you happier, prettier, and stronger. People may do as they may, but you might just save your future by putting that effort in.

what are your stats?

We struggle, we learn. We do it again. The difficulties lie in all the other things that make that process complicated. Some mistakes can’t be taken back or changed or fixed. We can tell the truth and people may still think it a lie. We can fall into bad habits and not realize how much it’s hurt us until we’ve suffered something incredibly painful.

There’s always something we can do. There is always an ability to move on and learn from situations. However, it’s best to avoid making your life miserable in the first place! And the key step to that is looking for what we can improve. Do you need to be more bold? Less cocky? More kind? Less rushed? More ambitious? Try to look at yourself objectively. Then look at your relationships. Are you honest with the people in your life? Have you told them recently how much you care for them? What can you do to make their lives better? Do you need to give them more space? Maybe you need to move in closer?

Mistakes will happen and we may end up making errors we can’t ever change. However, taking a little status check every once in while is key to staying on your game. You are never too old or too young to learn and grow! It’s a process that helps give life meaning and develops us into people who are better than the people we were yesterday. So ask questions! Be honest with yourself. Give yourself a status check.

you’re such a player

Life is similar to video game in that we’re sort of dropped here with a certain level HP and we need to find the quest. However, one of the basic lessons of gaming that even I, someone not highly qualified in that area know, is that a lot of story games involve talking to the characters. In order to learn anything or progress in the game, you need to talk to random people and get a grasp of the situation. While most humans don’t repeat a single line over and over again, its surprisingly relatable to our own lives: We need to talk to gain information about the setting we find ourselves in.

We need to get some information about the world we are in, the situation we are in. We miss plenty of opportunities simply because we don’t realize they are there! So search them out! Talk to people around you and learn about what you can do to help them. Learn about them and more importantly, learn from them. You won’t garner a fishing pole from every conversation, but you never know what you can learn from someone that might help you out later on down the road. However, more than that, we can learn about ourselves too.

There are some people in this world who naturally think of other people. They give to others and have to learn with time how to not be taken advantage of. There are also people who are given to thinking about themselves. They tend to be driven but they can run other people other and make themselves miserable in that way. Each of these inclinations can go awry, one isn’t better than other. Rather, it is simply a part of us that we need to tame. For some people, that means prioritizing self care more. For others, it means working to bring the focus off yourself.

But if you don’t try to learn, you can’t get anywhere! We need to talk to people, assess the situation, find out what problems we can help fix! But we also need to evaluate ourselves. You’re player one in your own life after all.

find your reason oatmeal cookies

Every day is a gift, but since you get a gift every day, how valuable is it really? That is what’s tempting to think. Some people claim every day needs to be amazing and full! But most likely, it’s not. Most of the time, days are just days. They can be good or bad, but usually they just “are”.

However, the difference in people who live their lives and people who simply let life pass them by, is the difference in how they address the problem of ordinary days. Anyone can hype themselves up the day they graduate or give an important speech. How will you motivate yourself when it’s just another day following your same routine, and not an Indiana Jones adventure? You find a reason to wake up. You find a reason to go to the gym. You find a reason to work through the projects you don’t want to do. If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s going to be hard to get somewhere!

So as hackneyed as it may seem, write down your goals physically. Paste it on a wall, on multiple walls! Sure, the gift of the regular day isn’t unusual. However, the point is that you don’t know what it will bring. Maybe it’s not an amazing gift, but you get the chance to make it into something more. Not every day has to be stunning or amazing or marvelous! But making the choice to follow a higher goal makes a day more likely to be something special.

why thank you

Gratitude is weird. It’s like a human reboot, your self thought-processes get reset by the realization: “Wow. I can’t do anything on my own, these people have supported me so much! ” And it’s the truth! As individualistic, self-starter, and ambitious as we may be, we can do nothing alone. Our psyche is made to work and connect with others! When we are at our best, it’s because we’ve had the social support to get there.

However, gratitude is something we need to actively fight ourselves for. We need to be thankful, but it can be really hard to drag ourselves away from the tired thoughts of the day. It takes practice to stop, just sit still, and appreciate how far you’ve progressed and how much of that is due to other people. It takes self control and it’s a skill that you build up over time.

However, there is a tendency to shy away from gratitude because of egocentric tendencies. After all, if you work hard, you want to be acknowledged for that work! We’re biased because we always experience how much trouble a task is for us first hand, and the trouble other people face second hand. Sure, other people have given us support, but our pride wants to play it down because it will make our own worth seem less. However, why do we want that worth in the first place? Or rather, who are we trying to impress by waving around how valuable we are? Being grateful doesn’t take away from you, it only adds to others. So be thankful! Make a little list and personally thank some important individuals in your life! We can achieve great things, but never alone.

“for the aesthetic!” We cry

You can do things simply because it sounds cool that you did them. You can go to a fashion show, hate it, and still brag about it simply because you went. You can paint something not because it has some deep meaning, but just because you wanted it to look pretty. You can do whatever you please, not for some grand reason, but because you feel like it.

This concept comes easy to some people, and brilliantly hard to others. Of course you can do what you want! However, it doesn’t often feel like that because things get in our way. Obligations, ethics, even physical things at times, they all can form a mental prison. However, most times we do not decide things rationally, but decide emotionally, and then justify it with logic afterwards. Emotions shouldn’t drive everything, and hopefully we are well practiced in disciplining our feelings. And yet, there is a power in knowing that we are naturally rather irrational creatures.

We do things that don’t really make sense. We have subconscious drives and biased perceptions! So of course, our behaviors aren’t precisely clean when it comes to why we do certain things. However, if we know we are operating on emotion, we can either let go or reign ourselves in a bit more. We can more honestly gauge our decisions for what they are! We can see how we need to regulate ourselves more or less. Being honest is a journey, but it’s worthwhile. Sometimes you need to do things for the aesthetic.