not just a work bod

There is so much more to life than work. There is so much more to life than looking a certain way and achieving some ideal you aren’t actually happy with. There is so much more, and yet we still get stuck on these basic things of loving ourselves and being content with where we are.

We fundamentally feel empty when we reach grand milestones without the backing of social support. If we aren’t making a difference, if we aren’t paying attention to the people around us, it’s just hard to have any motivation at all. We can strive after money, freedom, success, all of that, but we are nothing if we are alone.

Granted, money, freedom, and success are all nice. But we feel like we are using our money wisely when we can support ourselves and those around us. We feel free when our bonds to others are healthy instead of constricting. We feel successful when we are able to feel secure financially and are connected to others. Sitting alone in a pile of gold has a similar feel to sitting on a pile of rocks alone.

We struggle with motivation at times because we’re often going about it the wrong way. We try to use fear, but fear wears away. We try to use logic, but logic isn’t very inspiring. We try to use self-discipline but that’s something we need to build up over time and for the right reasons.

It’s true, we need money to survive. This shouldn’t be a spot of shame on us. We might not love what we do– that’s okay. If we are miserable, over time we can work to see if there is a better path. It’s easy to fear getting stuck. Midlife crises are unfortunately common. There’s that terrifying idea that we will blink and our life will have passed us by. But if that is your fear, then act. Take charge of your decisions. Whatever you chose in life, chose it willingly. Chose it without regrets. We are forced into all sorts of situations, but we take responsibility for who we are, we are empowered.

Life will be difficult in some way, no matter what. There will always be boring situations. The key to being okay with that is realizing that even the boring moments are moments of our lives. There is a beauty in everywhere if we look for it. There is always something interesting, and when we open our minds to it in the little moments, we can begin to trust oursleves that we’ll find it in the important moments.

the dumbest saying

There’s a phrase, “Failure isn’t an option”. This is one of the most frightful outlooks to have. It encourages a sort of rampant perfectionism: either you win or you fail completely and you’ve destroyed this whole thing.

What human never fails? It aims high, yes, but it also punishes whoever doesn’t reach a ridiculously high standard. We should all do our best, but the fact is, sometimes that best isn’t good enough to reach our goal. This runs counter to how people want to tell the tale, “Work hard and you’ll get there!”.

Not to be macabre, but effort can be useless if you don’t wield it effectively. For example, it doesn’t matter how many hours you play chess if you only play with three-year-olds. You’re not going to become a grandmaster chess player unless you’re also three and there happens to be a grandmaster chess player for three-year-olds.

Even if you set apart the time to work on something, and you put your heart and soul into it, people can still critique it. Furthermore, they can be right.

Failure is a natural part of life. Everyone fails, and I mean every single person who has ever existed. If failure isn’t an option, neither is success, because the choice doesn’t exist. Sometimes people mess up. Sometimes people are mean and selfish. Sometimes people try their best and it doesn’t get them where they want to be.

The key factor in this is the fact that: just because you fail doesn’t mean you won’t succeed again. We can learn from everything, and not taking the risk in the first place makes us miserable people. Sometimes we need to feel sad and confused because the circumstances are sad and confusing. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed to be a bundle of joy and happiness, but it also isn’t guaranteed to be a horrible soggy mess of a day either.

Failure is always an option, but so is Success.

And in most situations? Those labels aren’t effective shows of what you’ve gained from the situation. Things are as they are. We mostly struggle in some parts and do well in others, but it’s a mixed, patchwork of results. That’s okay. Patchwork is what makes us real, live humans with purpose and meaning.

the “but what if” worries that are haunting your heels

Worrying about the future seems ingrained in some people. Others may care not for what comes, they just integrate themselves into wherever they are and trust the flow of the universe to bring them to where they need to be. The worriers, however, can’t. It’s a matter of control, what if I’m not prepared and I lose what matters most to me?

We do what we can to prepare for the future, and we want to be reasonably ready for any situation. Some people are where they need to be already, and just need to learn how to let go. They need to trust that things will work out, trust themselves that their work is enough. Their efforts are enough, and their worry serves no good. It’s a reminder that some of us need to hear: there can always be more work done, but if you’ve put in the work you can, you need to trust that that is all you can do.

However, not everyone has that luxury. Sometimes people are below a certain financial line and know they can never be reasonably ready. That’s the problem with telling people to, “Just don’t worry about it”, because the same situation could ruin one family and be barely a dent for another. It’s the privilege of the rich, for good or ill.

But how do we live, knowing we aren’t ready? How do we live, knowing that we aren’t safe if something goes wrong? How do we trust things will be okay when we know if one thing goes wrong, it won’t be?

Poorer people have lower IQ. This is not a cause to their poverty, but rather a symptom of it. When put into demanding situations, our ability to see the larger patterns are limited, and for good reason. The stress forces us to focus on right now, to get through the day. It’s survival, and we can’t to sit back and luxuriously view the options without care. The issue is that sometimes we need to be able to see the larger pattern, the bigger picture. Our minds need to rest a bit so they can understand the context.

It is not wrong to worry. For some people, it’s the driving force that keeps them on top of their crazy life. It’s the grounding factor that keeps people from making reckless decisions. We shouldn’t be angry with ourselves for worrying because it is an action that makes sense in a lot of situations, and a coping mechanism for handling the variables of living.

As with most things, the issue is in how much we engage with it. If we can’t get out of bed, if it takes up most of our thoughts, that’s when our concern becomes concerning. If it’s lowering our IQ, that’s a problem. Yet, with the financial aspect, how can we get out of it?

That’s the issue right there. We shouldn’t see worry as something to “get out of”. We are the things that worry. It is our choice. Even though habits may take our will out of the equation, we can take that will back, slowly but surely. There is a line between using our worry to make our lives more productive and prepared versus letting it overwhelm us. That’s why it’s important to remind ourselves 1. what we can control and 2. what we cannot.

If we can control it, we do our best. Then step two is the difficult part, we try to let it go. We let it be. Maybe the world will fall apart. Maybe the worst will happen. Take that outcome in mind, truly face it: if it happens, life will still go on. Or it won’t, and there’s nothing we can do about that either.

Those who worry are used to the face of their fears. We know their enemy. We’ve imagined its face a thousand times and then some. If something happens we weren’t expecting, we necessarily never would have been able to expect it. If the worst happens, that’s not the end, because as long as we are alive, we can take steps to make things better. It will be different, but it can still always be better, and that’s something to cling to.

Your worry is not your enemy. You are in control of what you can control, and everything else is irrelevant to your headspace. Things will turn out. They may not turn out how you want, but they will always turn out some way, and you are more ready than you know if you’re considering it in the first place.

dear person who doesn’t know what they’re doing with their life,

No one knows what they’re doing. Through experience, asking around a lot, failing repeatedly, and being lucky, some people learn how to do some things. Maybe people get to the point where they can develop an achievable grand goal. For the most part, we’re guessing. We’re taking risks and hoping that our past experience is enough to base the future off of. Perhaps there are individuals out there, hiding under rocks and behind fake plants who genuinely know what they want to do, love it when they get there, and keep doing it for their whole life. What’s important to realize is that most people don’t fall into that category.

Consider how many atoms there are. Now consider how many electrons there now. Now think about quarks, leptons, antiquarks, antileptons, and realize that we are incapable of grasping how many atoms there were; how could you physically grasp how many quarks there are? It’s beyond us, we have no frame of reference to understand how tiny and numerous elementary particles of atoms are. Here’s the important question: does it matter? Functionally, no. It didn’t matter that Anaximander and rest of the ancient Greek philosophers didn’t know what elementary particles were, they still were made of them. They still lived full lives, had a great impact on the world, and got the chance to share some really interesting perspectives with those around them. We don’t need to understand every facet of the world to live a good life in it. We couldn’t physically do it, and it would be a waste of time even if we did.

Why don’t we see our lives in this way? There are so many factors milling about, forming our existence. We can’t know what is ahead of us. The unknown will never go away. Being afraid of the unknown is irrational because we can’t know the nature of it. Living in fear will make us less effective at everything else, and that’s still assuming fear makes us more prepared. Maybe it makes sense if you’re wandering around in neolithic times, worried about a tiger pouncing on you. In the modern world, it’s largely a stumbling block. If you’re afraid of getting fired, you being afraid won’t make being fired any less difficult to find another job after. There’s a potential that the fear might make the failure more easy to deal with at the moment, but dealing with problems effectively doesn’t require it. We will always be unprepared for something, and that’s part of life, not necessarily a stamp of shame.

At the same time, even if we know our fears are irrational, it doesn’t mean we stop feeling them. Getting angry at ourselves because it’s irrational or pretending like it doesn’t matter doesn’t address the problem. We get angry. We become anxious and stressed. We can be incredible balls of negative energy when we feel like it. The trick is to ask ourselves why we feel the way we do, to understand why we’ve gotten ourselves worked up. If it’s something we can fix, then we should try to fix it. If it’s something we can’t, we have to learn to let go. Neither of those things is easy. Learning to deal with our emotions is something that will take a long while because they are integral to who we are. It’s something we work on, little by little, doing what we can where we can.

We don’t know what we’re doing, but what is easier to answer is, what are we doing right now? We can start with realizing that we are breathing. Then we can realize what position our body is in. Then slowly, we can work our way out to the room we’re in, the time of day, and start to consider things that are broader. What are your typical activities? What are you currently accomplishing where you are, in your job or education or in whatever your present situation is? Those are practical things, graspable things. That is what you are doing with your life, regardless of your past and your future plans. When it comes to the future, it’s a matter of looking for opportunities to the best of your ability, to try and take them when they come your way. Maybe you’ll eventually be able to start planning for a big goal, but the priority is in the present. Do what you can. Focus on what you can accomplish right now. If you take opportunities that you end up hating, then learn from it and try something else. We are limited in many ways, but if you assume the doors are locked, you’ll never find the one that isn’t.

Dear person reading this, I don’t know what you will do with your life, and you don’t either. However, what you do is up to you. The unknown is scary, but it could also be wonderful, and at the very least, parts of it will be boring. Focus on now, and keep going, because the other options are miserable and frankly, dull.

tactics to solving uncertainty

Uncertainty is like being on the outside of giant inflatable bouncy house. You run around the perimeter, checking the folds and flaps but if there’s no one actively leaving the bouncy house, it can be hard to tell how to get in. It’s seeing a goal, having a desire, even knowing the basics of how to get in, but being unable to do so because you’re missing something critical. So what do we do when we are unsure? How do we survive?

One of the first things we can do when we become nervous and unsure of what to do, is to calm ourselves down. As stereotypical as it is, deep breathing is a wonderful tool to doing so. In addition, try to block everything out for a moment. Get some silence, some area with stillness, so you can think properly. When there’s chaos around us, it becomes easy for there to have chaos within us. Stimuli also takes energy and focus to understand, so getting away from that gives you more cognitive resources to put towards solving that uncertainty.

Then ask yourself, what do I know? With any problem, there is context. Try to map out what you understand and what you don’t. From there, it’s easier to make an educated guess about some of the gaps in your knowledge. In short, zoom out on the problem. Put that uncertainty in its natural broader environment. Then, if you can, do something to solve your uncertainty by getting more information.

If you happen across a strange dog at night, there are different solutions that you could come to, but you could solve that uncertainty of what to do in a pretty quick fashion. Not all uncertainty is like that. Sometimes it’s longterm because its a big question. The tactic doesn’t change too much however. Put it into the broader context and try to get more information. Uncertainty can be a harsh, powerful emotion, but you can tame it with logic.

the coordinates of right here, right now

We are who we are. No matter who we want to be, and no matter who we’ve been, right now you are the person you are. There’s both good things and bad things about our current state. Maybe we’re forward, which makes us easy to get to know but hard to deal with at times. Or, maybe we’re too soft spoken, too willing to let people talk over us, but can really get along with others.

There’s no ‘perfect’ combination of traits inside a single human being that makes them inherently better than anyone else. We all are surviving the best we can with what we have. All of our vices have virtues, and all of our virtues vices. The real question is this: What are you going to about it? If you want to be something you’re not, the best way to get there is to do the things that that person does. Don’t buy a yacht just because you want to be a billionaire, but ask yourself what part of that lifestyle you want. If it’s for the materials, then become hardworking by working hard on what’s in front of you. You might not have the strappings of a billionaire, but you can have the ambition, drive, and work ethic of self-made one. There will always be cause to do anything; we are masters at justification. So do what you know you need to do! Pay attention to your conscience and people’s advice.

The first step to anything is realizing where you are. No matter who you are, there is something you can fix about yourself. However, there’s also some good, some talent in you too! We tend to overlook our natural talents because for us, there’s always there. Math is incredibly difficult to a lot of people, if you can do that? That’s a skill! That’s something good about your abilities! Maybe it’s not math, maybe it’s writing, or being a good friend, or being hard working, or being creative, or any of a multitude of things! Yes, go out and be the person you want to be– you have that capability. You are who you are, but that doesn’t make that place a rut, nor does it make it the only place you can be. Life is a journey and we’re progressing whether we like it or not. Actively decide where you want to progress to, because you have talents to get you places if you look in the right places.

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.

making a good plan

It is good to have a plan. It’s helpful when that plan is well thought out. However, the most effective plans are the ones you’ve both thought through and carried out. If you say that you want to be more healthy and make a plan to run every day, you should run every day. If you say you’re going to do something far in the future, like be a programmer, you should start learning right now. The bottom line is that if you don’t do what you need to right now, how are all the other “right now”s going to be different?

When we look at our lives and want something different or better or both, that is the first step. We need to look and be honest with ourselves about what we want to change. This can be open and vague at first, but put your finger on what’s causing your dissatisfaction. Then, get specific. What about this is making you feel unhappy and frustrated with your state in life? Is this worth changing to you? Then the big one: this problem, whatever it is, matters to you, so how are you going to fix it? Research people with similar problems and see what seems to be the best solution for them. Look at your resources and what you can reasonably expect yourself to do. Then assume you’ll do about half of what you think you’ll reasonably do.

With the plan in place, there’s no more excuses you can give that will ring sincere. Perhaps extraordinary life events will get in the way, but these sorts of things are rare. You know what you have to do. Whatever it is, there will be reservations. Being human, we question things. We want to make sure we’re spending our time wisely. This is a good instinct, and can be extremely helpful! However! Before you shirk out, stick to your plan. Commit to it for at least a month. If you hate it, it’ll be a practice in self control. Yet look at your life and honestly evaluate if it’s making it better, if it’s making you into a better person.

Plans are wonderful, but we have to stick to them. If we change our minds suddenly before we get anything done, all we’ve accomplished is wasting our time. Even if you’re unsure, stay with it and teach yourself to commit. You can do this.

an interest in having an interest

If events change so your original plan doesn’t work out, you change the plan. The way you get there matters, morally, but in terms of fun and interest? There’s plenty of ethical ways to get to your goals, we just can’t always see them. That’s why its good to keep our minds open! Many successful people are successful because they’re able to connect with other people.

The bottom line is that socializing may always be hard for some people, but think about how much that difficulty can be minimized! Talking with anyone is a matter of knowing their language. You should hopefully be speaking the same language broadly, but I also mean in terms of understanding your perspective and ideas.

Some people need a short story to see how you emotionally came to a conclusion. Other times we need to introduce a foreign topic that’s deep inside a discipline in a simplified manner. Or, we may need to pick up what the other person means. Does “in a minute” mean in 30 seconds, after I’m done with this other problem, or never? They may say vague things that you’re not sure are relevant to your task. That’s why it’s so key, in the ambiguous and challenging art of conversation, to be tactful, respectful, but also honest.

If you don’t know, ask them what they mean. Ask for an example! Explain where you’re coming from and be willing to work to understand where they’re coming from. The magic skill in conversation? Listening. Pull out the major point they’re saying and ask them a thoughtful question about it (make sure its something that they haven’t answered, or haven’t discussed in great depth) on their take of it, or why they think it’s important. Somehow reaffirm what they’re saying, maybe repeat it back to confirm you’re thinking the same thing. Ask questions and then truly listen. Make social connections! Plans change, but good friends are constant.

when you don’t know what you don’t know

The most problematic aspect of uncertainty is that it doesn’t go away even after you acknowledge it. For most other problems, once you recognize and diagnose it, you can begin to solve it. If you’re tired, get more and more consistent sleep. If you know you aren’t healthy, the next step is usually pretty straight forward: drink water, exercise, get a good amount of sleep, eat a balanced diet, etc. If you aren’t doing well on a project, you assess why. Maybe you look up youtube videos or read a book to learn what you don’t know, or try to communicate better with your group. Realizing you aren’t sure? How do you “fix” that, where’s the solution?

The initial intuitive key is to learn more. If you don’t know what you don’t know, then you can find out by trying to “know” more. But where do you begin? If you are trying to learn about a new subject, it’s good to try and get an overview of things first. You can read articles and watch videos that sum it up, then look at what famous people in the area say about it, and from there start using key words to find out about more of the details. What if it’s more than that, however? What if it’s an emotional, relational situation? Things get messier when you start throwing humans into the mix. You have to respect others and their experiences. Still, just because they think a certain way and have a line of opinions to tell you doesn’t mean that you have to agree with them. We have to balance respect and self-respect, communicating tactfully while completely and truly listening to what they have to say. However, the uncertainty question comes back again: How? How do you be assertive and yet respectful when you aren’t ever 100% sure of how the other person thinks? Or sometimes, how do you just be respectful when you find their opinions despicable?

Sure, you can realize that you are uncertain, but when the next step isn’t clear, things are plain difficult. And the most terrifying but realistic answer is that we don’t ever truly know the next step. We will always have to deal with some level of uncertainty. What we can do is try to move past it. You don’t know what you’re doing, or even what questions to ask? Tell someone you don’t know what questions to ask. Wing things if you need to just get them down. If you try something and it doesn’t work, you’ll know for certain at least that that particular route doesn’t work. Diagnosing the fact you are uncertain doesn’t feel like a huge step compared to diagnosing other things, but it actually is a bigger step than we realize. If we think we know and we don’t, we can’t have the opportunity to fail, and if we don’t have the opportunity to fail, we can never learn. The next step may be foggy, but that’s okay. Just take that step anyways and try to learn what places to avoid.

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