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.

aspiration, not constant label

We like to divide people up into two categories: good and bad. There are those who put in effort to help others and make the world a better place, and then those who are all for themselves and want to tear things down. Even though we can typically sense that’s an overgeneralization, we still live with those categories in our mind. The jerk who just cut you off in traffic? Bad person. The person that let you go ahead of you in line? Good person. Life is ambiguous, and we all know that there are different parts to every person, but we still want to believe that all of these things have points and overall, you’re more good than bad.

We have a positivity bias in this, that we all think we’re just a little better than average than everyone else around us. However, since everyone has this, statistically, that means you’re probably not. We want to believe in our goodness, but far more often, we ignore the bad parts of ourselves because we don’t want to deal with it. That, or we focus so much so on the bad that it paralyzes our ability to do anything.

No one is fully good, nor is anyone fully bad. We do both noble, selfless things, and cruel, selfish things. We have those categories of good and bad because it helps motivate us. No one truly wants to be bad, everyone is just searching for purpose and happiness and go about it in different ways. Some are more effective than others. Even if we want to be selfless, it’s hard to will yourself into having better motivations. We’re used to be selfish because we want to survive. We want the good things in life, and we also would greatly prefer to not have to work and wait for them. The labels of Good and Bad are dangerous because calling ourselves Good can make us think we don’t have to try anymore, and calling ourselves Bad can make us think there’s no hope. But there’s also a similar danger to labeling ourselves as Gray, because if everyone is a mix, you can justify doing something immoral by saying you’ll do better things later, or that you’re not so easily pegged down.

We have a deep understanding that it is good, it is better, to put others first. To think before we speak. To be kind, but firm when needed. To have self control. To have compassion and help those who are in need. Things are wonderful things to aspire to, and we should aspire to them because not only does it help others, but also it inadvertently givers the doer purpose as well. But being Good like this doesn’t mean that we don’t take care of ourselves, or that we rip ourselves down. Instead, it means we are comfortable enough with ourselves to focus on someone else. However, the process of helping others in itself helps make us more comfortable with ourselves. It’s hard work. We get distracted easily. We constantly face conflicts between our ambitions and helping others, but aiming for the Good, avoiding the Bad, and keeping in mind our Gray can help motivate us to be better people. We don’t have all the information on everyone else, so we have no place to judge them, but if we want to place things into categories so much, we should focus on how we can strive to be better ourselves.

the kinds of effort we put in

Work, at it’s core, isn’t very fun. It requires you to focus and pull away from what’s entertaining to accomplish some goal. Different parts of one’s work may be interesting, but for most everything, you have to be in the right mood for it. And no matter how amazing your job or school is, there will always be times when you just don’t feel like putting in the effort.

There is a strength required in being able to do what you don’t want to do. Its name is self-control, and it’s difficult to wrangle down at times. However, you can. We all have some amount of self-control, and you are no different. The trick is that thinking you have more of it helps you actually have more of it. If you tell yourself that you have little self-control, you make yourself feel less guilty for loosing control and giving in to your temptations. However, knowing you have high self-control keeps your expectations high, and helps you not give up. And you should want to be in charge of yourself!

Our emotions are not all of us, nor is our rationality. They are mixed together in order to help us live full lives.Giving in to whatever you want, whenever you want is fun, but it quickly makes you miserable. Our impulses are not always good, and not ever holding back tends to ruin our relationships. Your emotions shouldn’t always end up on top, just as logic is limited in circumstances. Denying your whims helps you get to your true desires, the ones that actually matter more to you. Work is hard and probably not that fun. That’s okay. Not every moment of life has to be fun or happy. Instead, we can be grateful and committed to our goals and relationships, because that is what’s important. Your effort matters, even when it doesn’t feel heroic or interesting.

what’s your relationship status with your goals?

It’s hard to balance the lessons of “It’s always greener on the other side!” and “Go out and get what you want!” . The bottom line is that things will always be better, there will always be ways to improve. AKA, sometimes life is going to suck. The real question is how much of that are you willing to accept? On one hand, have high standards! Achieve big things! But on the other, don’t drive yourself insane chasing Moby Dick.

The relationship we have with our goals is an important one, but one we don’t always consider. You don’t want to be in an abusive relationship ever– but also don’t be in one with your aspirations. Your dreams and goals are that, goals: targets to aim for and work for. If you beat yourself up because it doesn’t turn out precisely how you want, you’re harming yourself for no reason. If you really love it, you’ll try again and see if you can make it work out. If you can’t for some reason, than that’s okay. Your worth and your value are not dependent on how much you achieve, even if that’s how it feels. Rather, see it for what it is; You still took the shot and tried your best, and that means something. Your goals aren’t your entire identity.

The other common relationship we have with our goals is a casual one. In this scenario, you have big dreams! But then you don’t follow up on them. For whatever reason, you don’t take any steps to achieving it, or you don’t put in enough effort. If you’re being honest with yourself, in this scenario, you aren’t trying your best. Your goals are more, “It would be cool if…”, rather than, “I want to work hard to get ….”. In this situation, you say you care, and you think you care, but your actions say otherwise. Have all the dreams you want, but it means nothing until you do something with it!

We need to care about where we’re going and what we’re chasing down. The key is to look at your relationship with your goals. Do you act on your goals, consistently and to the best of your effort? If not, consider if it’s really a priority to you in the first place. Do you feel your goal is the entirety of your being, and preoccupies every aspect of your day? You might be a little too into your dream. We are complex beings, and we need variety! We need to be able to spend time with people, relax, stretch our minds– It’s good to have a purpose, but that’s not the only thing that matters.

 

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.

worth and the human’s work

We live in a society where oftentimes our worth is associated with our productivity. Yet in the broad spectrum of life, productivity for each individual means something different. If someone has to work extra hard to do task A, and another barely has to lift a finger to do both A and B, who is more productive? Externally, we’d day the second person, who did two tasks. However, the first person is more productive in that they’ve put in more effort. The question becomes, what kind of focus should we have, praising those who put in the effort, or praising those who get things done?

Theoretically, those we admire the most are those who work hard and get a lot done. However, psychologically, if we focus too much on the ends, we can end up with some very unhealthy situations. If someone doesn’t need to work hard, they won’t know how to work when the true obstacles come. If someone does things only to get them done, quality can go down. Yet, if only effort matters, what’s the motivation to actually bring things to a conclusion? Besides, wasteful effort isn’t helpful for anyone. The answer is that both effort and accomplishment are important parts of productivity, which makes judgement that only reflects accomplishment lopsided in perspective.

Yet, should we even be comparing worth to productivity in the first place? It’s certainly effective for businesses and schools. Still, is this the whole of life, what our education and career says of us? No! Productivity is a single measure of success, meaning there are other measurements and factors to it. Working hard is important for our well being! But let’s remember that productivity is one part of ourselves, and that even that isn’t so clear cut. Putting in effort counts for something.

we never actually reach tomorrow, so get going right now

Good things take time. The biggest trees can take centuries to reach their magnificent potential. Friendships are the closest when they are consider, “tried and true”. Books and long projects, they all require exercise, practice, and effort. However, one of the greatest mistakes we can make is to think that time is the only factor in success. Two others are hard work and taking well-reasoned risks; we need to be able to take the leap and flap before flying to Alaska!

We are always building something. Our lives are like houses that are slowly built every moment we are awake. Each choice is a nail, each piece of lumber an action. What we do matters because it is the formation of ourselves. Therefore, when we say “Not yet” and stop ourselves from taking risks and practicing what we want to achieve, we aren’t “stopping” our lives. Our lives keep going. The house keeps getting built. The difference is that what’s being built isn’t what we want it to be, it’s the boring routine we’ve found solace in. We then need to decide if we’re okay with that, with who we are right now and what we’re doing. If you’re not, time isn’t going to change that. You are the only one who can change that, and that starts right now, in the present.

Growing and building things take a long while. Global warming is a monolithic threat, yet we are able to ignore it to a preposterous degree because it’s not as fast or obvious as each scene of a TV show. In a similar way, it’s easy to forget we have time, but we do. The best we can do is our best, taking those risks and putting in the effort in this moment, in this time. Aim for lofty goals, be patient with them, but remember what’s going to build it is whatever you’re doing right now.

Wonderful times in Stress-land

The “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” is also one of the busiest. There’s finals for school, evaluations at work, cold to deal with outside, and cold relationships to deal with inside– December can be a lot to handle. While we want everything to work out perfectly, nothing does. Often times “I want to achieve these big goals!” turns into, “I want to make it through!” But you know what? That’s okay. 

Making it through doesn’t really get enough credit. For as much as participation trophies make people fume, not everyone does get a trophy, just everyone that shows up. Showing up matters because putting in effort matters. The problem is that it doesn’t always seem like effort matters. They say character is who you are when no one is looking, but if no one is looking, and you’re tired and don’t care, is the effort really worth it? Hypothetically we will usually say yes! Absolutely! We should always try! But in practice? Things become more nuanced somehow, and eventually we are able to justify taking the low road over the high one. 

Especially at this time of year, it’s important to remember that character does matter. Even if everyone else is elbowing you in the face, you don’t have to sink to that level. When things become busy and stressful, people lash out. If other people lash out, we want to lash out as well, it seems natural! But what is natural isn’t always good. It’s okay if your goal is to just get through it. You don’t have to be the biggest or brightest house on the block. But showing up, participating, and being there as much as you can is important. Your effort matters, give it, so you can help those around you.