Honestly, it doesn’t matter if you haven’t done what you want yet. It doesn’t matter if you’re a wreck right now. It doesn’t matter, because it’s not the end. Every moment doesn’t feel like a new chance, but it is. Most of the time, the bars and limits we have are those we put on ourselves. If you want to do something more, you can achieve that.
It’s easy to think that couldn’t be the case. We think that if we want to go see a new movie in theaters, we have to go with friends. You don’t, you could go yourself. We think we can’t switch careers, because we wouldn’t even know where to start. Fine, you don’t know where to start, but knowing that means your first step is finding out what the steps are. We think that if we don’t stay or become a certain way, we’ll be alone forever. Surely, there is an importance to listening to what others have to say and heeding their advice, but at the end of the day, there is a line between listening to others and letting them rule your life.
Everything to this point matters in that it has built you up into who you are right now, but that doesn’t mean you have to play your hand out exactly like it’s expected. We are in a processing of growing, and its going to take a while to get to where we want to go. It’s terrifying to abruptly change, and there are many things that seem way beyond us– and that’s okay! Changing overnight is a difficult and natural thing. What is good is teaching yourself, step by step, to creep towards those goals of yours, pushing what’s comfortable for you. This moment is a chance. This moment too. If you don’t take it now, seriously ask yourself if you ever will.
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.
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
Like batteries and every other animal on the planet, humans need to recharge and rest. The problem with it is that we often don’t rest enough or in the proper way. Adults need 7-8 hours of sleep, teenagers 8-9. That sleep should be bookended by an hour without technology right before we get up and right after.
However, that’s not all! We also need time away from our normal work hours doing something that’s not work. The human attention span is about 15 minutes, so work hard for 15 minute segments, with short breaks inbetween them. In the breaks, do something that’s different from your work. If you sit down at work, get up and get a cup of water, and try to move around. If you’re doing manual labor, sit down for a bit. Rest is so important but we ignore all the signs and try to push oursleves through it.
The bottom line is that running yourself ragged makes you far more unproductive, unhealthy, and miserable. It may seem counter intuitive that sleeping for 8 hours vs. 5 hours will give us more time, but being truly awake for 12 hours is far more meaningful than being a zombie for 18. Sleep the proper amount, give yourself time to relax when eating meals, relax afterward, and you’ll be able to do far more and far more productive work.
We overlook an important factor when we say, “Don’t try to please other people”, and that factor is that we have to live with people. To some extent, we do have to adjust our behaviors to fit into the norm. For example, we typically are pressured to wear clothes, be hygenic, etc. However, more than that, we have a mighty desire to get along with people! And part of getting along with someone is pleasing them to a certain degree. While these are all important facts, there still remains that feeling that giving your life to “please everyone” is wrong.
We are social, caring, and relatively altrustic creatures. It makes sense to do something for another person so that they are more pleasing to you. Yet we can get too caught up in it. We can give and give and not want to express our true feelings for fear that the relationships we have will change too dramatically. It’s way easier to scream and make a scene on your last day of work then on your first, and the reason is that (assuming they don’t fire you) you’ll have to live with everyone afterward. Whether we want to admit it or not, being yourself and expressing your opinions is a risky activity. It provides space for crtique, for disappointments, conflict!
But without conflict, critique, or disappointment, we cannot grow. We should aspire to be respectful in whatever situation to make it smoother and facilitate understanding, but people are going to disagree. If you take a risk and say what you think, sure, you might ruin a relationship or make it awkward. But being in a true, geniune relationship of any kind requires honesty. If it’s awkward, you’ll eventually figure it out and be better for it. If it ruins the relationship itself, there was likely something missing in the first place. The relationships we have with other people should be sincere. Not being true to yourself hurts you but also the integrity of your bonds. So take the risk! Express yourself and be assertive! You can do such great things!
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.
Growth isn’t easy. It’s like pulling a stubborn donkey along in a crowded city. You keep trying to take the next step but you’re held back by this braying obnoxious creature and everyone is staring at you. The identity of that obnoxious creature changes with one’s mood; first it’s self doubt, then it’s fear, then it’s the opinions of others. And often we want to give in, and let the donkey go where it wants to and just follow behind it. But we shouldn’t!
Growth is hard because you can work super hard and still not see any change. You can do all the right things and wait and wait and it still doesn’t seem to be getting better! You can study for the test and still fail. You can work out and still gain fat. You can try to be kind and still catch yourself saying something cruel. But when you get stuck in those situations, you have two choices: stop trying or figure out a new strategy. And that is very much a choice, to stop. You could absolutely give up, it’s your life and prerogative. The question you have to ask yourself, however, is if your goals mean that little to you. If you’ve been struggling, there is something you’ve been struggling for. If you never work through the pain, you’ll never get to those big dreams.
The second option is to try a new strategy! If the first way doesn’t work, try again, but differently! Research some tips. See what other people have done. Ask for advice! You don’t have to struggle alone. Growth is definitely hard, but it is not impossible.