The person who is best prepared to live your life is you. Other people may be better swimmers or be smarter or whatever, but we have each adapted to our environment. The experiences we’ve had make it so that wherever we end up, there’s been a path of moments to lead up to it. For example, you don’t just end up on stage giving a speech. Somehow, somewhere, you have to have been good at something, even if that something is getting past security.
Think about the toughest people you’ve ever met. They are confident and know what they are doing and we think that there must be an incredible character behind it. However, having incredible character isn’t innate. It’s a matter of choice, consistently making decisions to take the higher and more difficult road.
When we find ourselves overwhelmed or ready to underestimate ourselves, stop for a moment. Think about what’s happened before. You have overcome every difficulty in the past. You never died (or if you did, you made it back). In your life, surely you’ve made decisions that were tough for you. Yet all of those efforts you have taken are now tied to You and your character. Today isn’t so bad because you’ve faced worse. And imagine, theoretically, that you are in a completely novel situation: by definition, you can’t have been prepared for it. There’s too much out there to learn and do, we can’t know everything.
And that’s okay. The “tough” person decision is deciding to try your best. Even if you don’t know what to do or how it’s supposed to go, you are never walking into a situation blind. Behind you, you have every moment of experience to lead you to it. You are meant to take hold of your life and live it. You can do this.
*photo creds to Cathy Barnard
Sometimes it seems like the point we need the most motivation is the point we have the least. It’s easy to have the drive to do amazing things in the middle of the peptalk, in the middle of the conversation. However, when we need to wake up or push through, motivation somehow disappears through the window.
It is at these moments where we need to pull through and make our own motivation. No human can magically show up everytime we need it. Instead, we need to find the motivation to motivate ourselves. When we can’t focus on our task, we need to instead focus on finding the way to get to that point. Look up quotes! Listen to some intense music! Jump up and down!
We can do amazing things, but only when we have the strength to pull through. Even if you think you don’t have that power, you can build it up. Our willpower is like a muscle. You can’t go straight to the 500 lb. weights and expect to not hurt yourself. So challenge yourself with something that still seems beyond you but that isn’t too far out. Then do it. Take the time. Take the risk! Motivation doesn’t always come organically from within and that’s okay– find it elsewhere and push through.
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.
In our worst moments, it’s easy to get caught up in yourself and your own problems. If there’s something horrible happening to you, it seems massive after all! It takes up your time and energy, and consumes your day. However, one of the wisest courses of action we can take is trying to back away from it all for a moment. As surprising and unfortunate as it is, an individual human is not the center of the universe, and if all we happen to know about the cosmos is wrong, it’s at least not you.
Other people suffer. This can sometimes be taken as discouraging, since it tends to indicate, “Other people are worse off, therefore you don’t have a right to be upset or hurt.” That’s not necessarily true. The fact is, everyone struggles, and this is beautiful solely because it means you’re not alone. In the most challenging times, we come together as humans, not seperate and bicker about whose situation is worse. The reason is because the distinctions are not that important at a certain level.
Some people suffer worse than you. This is a fact. But that doesn’t mean you can’t feel pain or be upset. What we can learn from others, however, is that our situations are survivable. Even in the most terrifying circumstances, we can grow and we can live. Everything can still be overwhelming! So make connections, and standing together, it’ll be easier to see how big the problem is compared to the rest of life.
Who are we? What do we look like from other’s points of view? What impressions do we make upon strangers? Are we funny? Are we peculiar? Are we boring? Are we bland? We ask these sorts of questions, we wonder them all the time. The truth is, we will never know what every single person thinks of us. Nor will we be able to truly experience oursleves as strangers. And yet, the real problem is this: why do we wonder so much about ourselves, give ourselves so much leniency and thought, and miss out so completely on other people?
We tend to mistake humility for self-hatred. Being humble usually somehow “equates” to saying that we are awful people. The truth, however, is that humility isn’t about putting yourself down. Its about being selfless, supporting and encouraging others. On the contrary, when we put ourselves down, the task is very active and makes us focus on ourselves even more. Being humble means sincerely thinking about other’s needs before your own, not ignoring your own.
Being humble is hard. It’s not the natural mode of most people; we like to think about ourselves. But it is also incredibly important. If we desire to know what others think of us and see us as, other people might want to know the same exact thing about themselves. It’s about forgetting about yourself for a while and helping others because we’re all in this together. The great things we want to achieve are impossible alone.
People genuinely love different things, it’s truly a fascinating thing. A conversation about cells can either be thrilling or utterly boring, depending on the person. Furthermore, so are talents; an athletic person might actually desire to go out and commit exercise? It’s stunning, frankly.
And yet there is this argument within ourselves: do we pursue what’s easy and fun for us or what’s challenging and grow? There’s a philosophy that if you do what you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life. However, not everyone has a passion that directly translates into money, and even if it could translate into money, that person might value a more safe option. It’s great to have a purpose and mission, but if you only want to work a dream job, you’ll most likely find yourself poor and out of luck. There has to be a balance between what we love, what we value, and reality.
Humans are lazy. There’s a reason sloth is included in the seven deadly sins; we like to do nothing! I think in our hearts, we know when we are giving up too easily. We need to fill our days with something that has meaning to us, that hopefully is enjoyable and fun. However, we need to pick among the activities we enjoy and pick the ones with “meat”, the ones that we can do a lot with and will impact our lives for the better. We should pick though. We should pick what we want to accomplish in a concrete manner and actually commit to achieving them. Pick something you love, that challenging, meaty thing, and go for it! You’ve got this.
Everyone is a hypocrite on some level. No matter how sincere or kind or honest, we hold double standards for ourselves. While we might be doubly hard on ourselves, a piece of us that is deep within us is our sense of hope. If we do something cowardly, there is always a hope, even if it’s tiny, that tomorrow we will be brave. We become hypocrites because that hope doesn’t tend to hold for others. We can run away or give up a hundred times and not lose hope, but if we might not give someone else a second chance.
It is good to have hope. Even if it seems a little delusional, hope means something because we can change for the better. We can take action and move out to accomplish more than we did yesterday. The problem is that if we don’t change, that hope truly is dismally delusional. An even bigger problem is that we rarely extend our faith to other people. Even if an individual absolutely hates themselves, they have to exist through themself; therefore it makes sense that we have a default within us that likes to be optimistic, as puny as it may be. For others, we don’t have to like or live with them, so we feel free to assume they can never change.
Still, we need to remember that how we treat others and how we treat ourselves is related. If we keep trying to extinguish that hope inside us, we won’t be able to see the good in others either. Everyone inevitably make mistakes. If we want to be in a better place, we have to take the opportunity our hope gives us and act on it. Furthermore, we need to extend that hope to others, so that we don’t close off the opportunity for others to so the same.
Our bodies and feelings are connected, not in some mystical, intangible way, but in a manner that directly affects our everyday life. Smiling makes us more prone to becoming happy, punching things makes us angry, and nodding your head yes makes you more likely to agree; many times our physical actions reaffirm our emotions and make them more powerful. While we like to think of our minds as powerful rudders that guide our bodies, our emotions and physicality are more like two oars on the same boat.
Thoughts mean nothing by themselves. Yet, because they are connected to our bodies, they mean everything. Sure, thinking about killing your boss might not make you kill them. However, it would be foolish to assume that the culmination of those negative thoughts doesn’t impact you. Where we focus is what we value. What we value is what we end up putting our time and effort into. What this means is that you can’t say you value honesty and spend most of your time lying. You can’t say you value kindness and be cruel to people don’t do what you want them to. You can’t say tomorrow you’ll be different if you didn’t put in the effort today.
Or rather, you can’t act in that hypocritical way and expect anything to change. The basis of solving or changing anything is realizing there is a problem. Only by seeing the mistakes you’ve made can you begin to fix it. If you truly want to be better, you have to begin thinking the right way and acting the right way. If you really care, that will come out in how you behave. And you can do this! It’s terrifying to admit your errors. Looking at where you are and where you want to be is like staring up at some colossal giant who’s ready to smash you under their heel. But Jack Beanstalk is the hero at the end of the day. If you want to make a difference, you can. You do it a little bit at a time, making little changes, slowly but surely becoming better than who you were before.
We are in a unique time, in terms of history. But we are also in a unique time in terms of identity: right now. Right now is the strangest concept we could ever even think to perceive because we are always perceiving it. We can’t really wrap our minds around it, but somehow it is always “right now”. When we consider quantum physics and relativity, the essence of our linear existence is beyond baffling. So what?
One of the most beautiful parts of being human is that we like to operate like we’re in a story. We see things as having beginnings, middles, and ends. We write ourselves mental narratives and spontaneously mental time-travel to make everything make sense. In stories, we ignore the details of the doorknobs unless describing the doorknob has some deeper meaning to the theme. In a similar fashion, somehow if we don’t process the information we see, it’s like we never saw it. It passes through our visual memory and dies within milliseconds.
Right now and the narrative of life are important because they are how we exist. When we get too caught up in the overarching story, stuck on some page way back, or keep speed reading for the paragraph we want, we lose our “right now”. When we focus on the right now excessively, we can be forgetful, not plan ahead, and that can be miserable to look back on. Whether we like it or not, this is us. Who you are right now is who you are, for all your flaws and virtues. You can change that for the better, you can aim for some shiny ending, but you have to do it right now. It will never be easier, but it will always be better than doing nothing.
Last night, from bits of conversation I accidentally eavesdropped, I heard this comment: “Social Media gives you the illusion that all artists are better than you– but that’s not true.” I think there is a good lesson to this. Social Media doesn’t show you the average. Think about it; we don’t post our normal photos, we post the best ones with the best filters. When an artist becomes popular and has thousands of followers, it’s likely because they are professionals. Those professionals show up easily in search engines and explore pages because lots of people like them and they have excellent work. However, their work is something that took years to cultivate.
Even if you don’t care about artists at all, think about professional photographers, writers, models etc. What is popular is not always realistic, and rarely is. The more time we spend on social media, the more we spend becoming discouraged. After all, it seems like the world around us is doing significantly better because the extremes are what we like to share and talk about. We don’t see the best photo in the county, we see the best photos in the nation. It trivializes effort if your not careful, because one begins to think that 1. What they see is easy or 2. They can never achieve that level.
Life is hard, and it’s hard for everyone. Trying to compare who has it worse is a waste of time because you’ll never truly know. Furthermore, if someone is really suffering, we should be trying to help them, not feeling bad that they’ve experienced a worse fate than us. What we see isn’t always the truth because there is more to it that we cannot see. Keep your eyes open then, try to remind yourself that a lot of your feed is likely an illusion. It does not represent the average. You are doing just fine, keep going! Keep progressing! Let the work of others be inspirational, not detrimental to your personal journey of growth.