We get in our own heads so much that we don’t realize how difficult we make things for ourselves. Spending 80% of your energy criticizing yourself for being indecisive about something, means 80% of your energy taken away from making a decision. A lot of times, our own dread makes our responsibilities 10× more difficult. At the core, we tend to make a huge fuss emotionally and mentally, when it’s really not that big of a deal.
But it can be a part of your wiring! How do you suddenly not care about things when you’ve been in the same mindset and same pattern of thoughts for most of your life? It doesn’t matter if it isn’t a big deal if you make it a big deal. We can’t let ourselves think that there’s no escape, however. Probably, we will always be inclined to thinking too much. However, what we can change is how we react to things, and in the process, our own thought patterns.
We can change. We can always change, even if it feels like we won’t ever. Furthermore, we can always change for the better. There is always hope as long as we are alive, but the point is to capitalize on that. The first step is to be thankful. Forcing yourself to be grateful puts you in a mindset that looks for the good things. Make a list of ten things you are grateful for every day! The second helpful step is to meditate or pray, getting yourself away from the small picture problems and putting things into context. Then, trying to be positive. It’s hard. It takes practice and it doesn’t come easily, but forcing yourself to be positive is the practice that helps it become easy. If you need, therapy is helpful to anyone and everyone. But for things you can do on your own, be thankful, put things into context, and be positive. It’s weird, and it’s hard at first, but it really does make a difference in your life.
We have goals of the kind of person we want to be, but even if we achieve parts of that goal, we don’t fundamentally change. That’s because our ideal image is typically stereotypical. We don’t imagine being us as a doctor, so much as a broad image of a doctor. This can be both good and bad.
The good is that having a broad stereotype to go after means you can get there in multiple ways. It doesn’t close you off as much, and you can be more comfortable with a type of specialization within it. For example, say you want to be a surburban-home living engineer; that still leaves a lot of options of which location you’ll live and what sort of things you’ll design. The bad of having a broad stereotype as a goal is that it might not feel like you. Humans aren’t simple beings. Even the least complicated of us have nuances and subtleties, and we rarely fit into the “typical” perfectly. Even if you achieve becoming an engineer and living in a suburban home, it might feel off, because it’s you that’s the engineer.
We idealize the future because we want to believe we can improve things, and we can! But even improved, our future will still have difficulties and conflicts. We aren’t going to be wonderful people all the time, and sometimes things come up out of nowhere. It is so important to have goals and work for them, but we also need to realize that they probably won’t turn out like we want. That’s not to say we won’t be able to appreciate the outcome! Rather, if you’re asocial and slightly misanthropic, you might become more generous and connecting a person, but don’t force yourself to be some outgoing people-lover you’re not. Achieve your goals, but keep yourself in it.
There is a conceptual delight to the idea of a robot. A continuously productive machine with no gross emotions or feelings or biases is a wonderful thing. However, strange as it is, we are not machines. We need constant recharging, for hours and hours at a time. Even at our height, we are still not as efficient and effective as machines. We are volatile, events can harm us without direct physical contact. Humans are just so problematic compared to machines!
And yet! Being human is such a unique experience because we are aware that we are. We might not be as productive as machines, but what basis is there to assume our productivity equates to our worth? In some settings, we may begin to feel like that’s the case. However, there is more to us than that! We are creative and adapative. We can think outside the box, and use our associations to connect ideas. We can make wonderful things like machines in the first place, and emotionally connect to other people! Even we aren’t sure ourselves how we can do all of these things. It is something special to be a human.
While we love to connect to other people, part of being a social creature means we become jealous at times. We begin to compare oursleves to other people, and it goes downhill very quickly! But like machines and humans, part of being distinct entities requires there to be differences between them. Because you are an individual, you are different from those around you. Because we are varied in style, shape, and character, there are going to be differences in what we are good at and what we struggle with! You are not a machine, and that’s a good thing because you can do so much more than you are programmed for! You are also a “you”, and that means you are also able to bring something beautifully distinct to everything you do.
Having good friends is like being treated to a five star meal. Being able to relate to another person’s struggles, being able to support one another: these things make such a massive impact on our lives! There needs to be people who we can be causal with, but can also be there for you emotionally. While expressing emotions can be taboo in certain social customs, being able to rely upon a friend and express those feelings is the key to not breaking down.
However, if we want to have good friends, we first have to be good friends ourselves. The first step to being a good friend is being sincere; if we want to have high quality interactions, we need to find people who we truly care about and can relate to. We can become friends and be friendly with most people, but having a deeper relationship requires a stronger basis of interaction. The second step is being compassionate and loving. Romantic relationships aren’t the only relationships that need care. Platonic love may seem counter intuitive, but it is incredibly important and a potent force. Sex doesn’t have to be involved to have a strong bond with someone, nor should it replace a strong bond.
The third step to being a good friend is listening. As shocking as it may seem, sometimes the world does not revolve around us. It’s easy to say and hard to follow, but truly we are better people when we aren’t so concerned with ourselves. If someone talks to you, they have a reason for doing so. If it’s a friend, you should care about what they say because that reason was enough to motivate them to confide in you. Granted, some reasons matter more than others. But listening is a skill, and motivations are complicated things. How can you know them and how can you help them if you don’t listen to what they say?
Good friends are more precious than silver and gold. When we are sincere, loving, and ready to listen, we can be supportive to those we care about.
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.
It’s important to rest– really rest. It’s more than stilling our physical bodies. You could sit on the couch for hours and still not really rest. Recuperation involves every bit of your body. Physically, we need to be still. Mentally, we need to put down the work for a while. Whether that work can be homework, work from the job, work for the club, or even a distracting phone, we need to stop a while. Emotionally, we need to give ourselves a break, by either being around people or getting away from them as is your preference. The key is resting your whole self, not just a part.
Prayer and meditation are found throughout many cultures, in different forms and for different purposes, yet they remain underestimated as a tool. Each culture has some version of being still and ordering one’s inner self because everyone is a mess. You can be non-religious and learn to meditate or pray. You could also be highly religious and do it! Especially in our modern age, we find the more screen time an individual has, the more likely they are to develop anxiety and depression. That’s terrifying! But it also gives us a good reason to set the phone or laptop to the side, at least for a bit. Just physically separate yourself from distractions, spend some time alone, with no bright entertaining things to dance for you.
Without recharging, we are nothing. We cannot operate 24/7. We rush from thing to thing and get angry when we find we can’t rush rest. Slow down so you’ll have to strength to get things back up to tempo! We only get one physical body for sure; it’s smart to not wreck the only vehicle we have for our soul.
I was a strange kid. I felt this constant frustration when I was a child because I didn’t have to ability to do what I wanted to do, or to know what I wanted to know. I don’t mean staying up watching tv and eating ice cream for every meal, but wanting to have a job, travel, and be respected for my opinion. There is a huge, defining factor that looms above us throughout our entire lives, something that we rarely talk or think about: constraints from age. I don’t mean physical contraints, but social ones. Again, I was a strange kid, but I don’t think it’s uncommon at all for people of any age to desire respect.
The young are naive, the old are too stubborn to change. Young people should be happy and ambitious, old people should be wise and good teachers. There are both negative and positive stereotypes for most ages, but we are heavily strapped in by them on all sides. Talk to a 40 year old and they’ve already decided that they can’t change. They can’t learn or take risks, they’re too far gone. Talk to a 14 year old and try to understand the constant undermining of the validity of their emotions. Imagine, or recall the time when you had lots of emotions you couldn’t control, life is hard, and yet no one takes you seriously but you can’t complain because people chalk it up to your age. Think about people in their 80s and 90s, who have experienced so much and now have to deal with people treating them like babies not just physically, but emotionally too.
At certain ages, we need to be cared for physically. Still, our physical and our psychological situation do not always align. Children don’t have the experience to give advice like a 70 year old, but both deserve respect. Even if their opinion seems crazy or irrelevant, they might share something that can shed light on the situation. Or, maybe it is completely insane and useless, but it isn’t to that individual who desires communication and connection like the rest of us.
Ageism tells us that we are too young or too old to change. We can’t make a difference, we’ve not the experience or too much in that one area to make a revision now. But screw it, even if it seems ridiculous, you can always start living better. You can always do more than you think. The most important part is just taking the leap and going for the gold. Go for this! You can do it.
I was just watching Sean Connery in one of those old James Bond movies, and frankly, his character seems like a psychopath. Of course he is suave and cool under pressure, but it’s legitimately frightening once you start seriously considering how many people have died around him and his constant “cool”. He shows affection towards his coworkers, but it’s more respect than genuine connection. He almost dies and is surrounded by danger all day, every day, and yet he doesn’t show severe psychological trauma as a result.
But even so, there is something intangibly fascinating with his character. His intellect, cunning, charisma, the gadgets, the fact his efforts make a difference– James Bond is cool because he seems to be the version of ourselves we want to be: exciting yet put-together. In most instances, we have to choose if we want to be responsible or want to have fun, and neither will make a difference like busting a diamond-smuggling ring. Compared to that mirage of 007, our lives seem to pale in comparison.
The key then, is to stop comparing. While there are definitely key aspects of the James Bond myth that are unreasonable and lacking, one of powers Bond seems to have is the power to act. Being a psychopath should absolutely not be our goal because it doesn’t make us cool, it makes us lonely. However, he thinks on his feet and goes with it. He gets things done. People are flawed, even fictional characters are flawed, but if we learn anything from a flawed James Bond, it’s that we can always do more than we think if we just go after it.
One of my favorite movies, perhaps my most favorite, is a ridiculous, campy heavy handed masterpiece called “Joe versus Volcano”. It stars Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, with Meg in three seperate roles and special effects arguably worse than Power Rangers. Tom Hanks is a miserable man who finds out he has a “brain cloud” and will die in six months, so he makes a deal with some corporate quack to jump into a volcano as a human sacrifice. One of my favorite parts of the movie is how absolutely stuffed with symbolism it is, but the most important part is the message, and it’s ridiculous, an absolute bonkers lesson that means a lot.
You only live life once. Every second of life doesn’t have to be exciting and interesting, we all have little odds and ends that need to be tolerated, but we shouldn’t just be “tolerating” our entire lives. We need to be starry-eyed a bit, just a little, and ask ourselves what our dreams are, our goals. We are never too young or too old to accomplish things. What things we accomplish vary, but we are always more capable than we think.
Everyday life isn’t stunning, it’s not usually all that fun either. What it can be, however, is up to us. We can talk to others, listen to our favorite music, clean up to de-stress, and really live. Chasing after your dreams is hard, but the hardest part is keeping that dream alive enough every dreamy to chase it every day. Relationships take work, careers take work, even relaxation takes some work, but putting in the effort is worth it. You can do this. Watch a ridiculous movie every once in a while, remember to get excited about this stupid, little things, because that’s sometimes the best part about it.
Idealism is a trait that’s considered a plague of folly or an eye for incredible things. It’s often associated with youth, and so with it, we assume that idealism is the same as ignorance. Is this really true, however? After all, some of our most important leaders have been said to be idealistic, even over their many years of existence. In one breath we might put down youth and praise our finest leaders with the same trait. The question is, why is there is such a distinction between who has this futuristic, utopian mindset? I would argue, experience and what people do with that idealism.
Anyone can be idealistic. You sit or stand anywhere you please and imagine a future that’s better than the present you’re in. We tend to begin thinking idealistically around our teenage years because it’s a part of understanding ourselves as individuals whose actions can make a difference. As the years go by, however, we learn what to expect, and it’s often less than the spectacular image we wanted. This is where the distinction is developed: anyone can be idealistic before they’ve seen the world, it doesn’t take a special mind. However, to remain optimistic, even after you’ve seen the bad and ugly, is a strength.
It’s a strength that we should all try to encompass a bit more. It’s less about expecting something outlandish, and more about trying to get the world as it is to reach a place beyond where you thought it could be. In the original Star Trek series, at one point, Spock and a small crew are stuck in an orbit of a planet with very little fuel and no way of contacting the mother ship. Spock, very logical and calm, decides to use up the rest of their fuel in a manner that gives the ship a visual signal but will leave them for dead if it doesn’t work. It’s a big moment in the series for the character because he decides to take a risk that isn’t carefully controlled for like all the other risks he takes.
What a logical person learned from his human, emotional companions, is that we are capable of more than we think when we are able to be a little foolish and idealistic. If we close ourselves off, we are closed. We are unable to reach our fullest potential. However, if we see a better future and work for it, we can do some amazing things that people would not have expected. We should never underestimate our emotions.