A fan works, in the simplest terms, by little weird curvy blades swhooshing around really fast. In many ways, this should be our goal in life! To have a cycle and a goal and to carry it all out for the sake of someone besides ourselves. As we know from history, stories, and psychology, we are our best selves when we are focused on other people.
When we get overwhelmed with life, it’s usually because we aren’t looking at it from a community perspective. We see our own problems the easiest because they are the most salient to us. We know that we were late because we had a crazy morning that resulted in spilled coffee and the like. However, how willing are we to take that perspective for someone else who comes in late? We don’t see the morning, we just see the entrance and we assume that they must not care as much.
In a similar way, we can become consumed with this idea that if our plans aren’t fulfilled or carried out, everything will be over. We make our own life the be all end all. But how realistic is that? It’s actually a glorious thing that we aren’t the center of the universe. It means that we can ask other people for help. It means we can find a place to go if the worst case scenario rolls out. It means that even if our personal point A to point B can’t be connected, that we can make another plan. And maybe going from point C to point D is something you wouldn’t have expected to make you as happy as it does!
Other people exist. It’s a bit annoying at times, but it’s also an incredible gift if we have the right mindset. It helps us, but it also means that we can help other people, and that’s something really precious.
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.
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.
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.
Plenty of psychologists, economists, philosphers, and random individuals have tried to quantify relationships. There’s a MinMax principle that describes how we view relationships as what we give and what we get. Then you get poets and humanities based professionals who see relationships as immeasurable. Our actions and emotions are complex, afterall, and it seems to reductionist to judge all bonds off of what we directly get from the other person. However, most everyone agrees that friends are vital to living a full life.
Friends are like beds. You rest on them when you need the support, and you take care of your bed back. Afterall, we provide cushions and pillows and fancy sheets for our bed. However, the easiest test of how dear a friend is, is to see so effortless it is to trust them. It’s about feeling safe when the rest of life may not be. It’s about comfort when the conflicts of the day to day are uncomfortable. Things aren’t always easy, and the bed may prick you from time to time, but a friend is where you need them to be.
So appreciate your bed! Spend lots of money on blankets! Like our bed, friends are also not always acknowledged for how much they do. Its easy to take advantage of a comfy resting place. However, unlike a bed, people have feelings. No matter how friendship works, it matters. Friendship goes both ways, so think of yourself as some place that can be of solace them. Beds are amazing! But friends are even more so, don’t forget to hold them dear.
Being positive means one of two things: (1) facing the known and trying to find something worthwhile in it, and (2) facing the unknown and trying to look ahead to the good possibilities instead of the bad ones. Both of these tend to be incredibly difficult because our fears like to overcome our hopes. In terms of strength, negative emotions just stick around better! It makes sense to be prepared for the worst outcome, after all. The problem is that, as humans, we tend to ruminate on those negative emotions and it can paralyze us.
So what can we do to find the good in both the known and the unknown? The first step is to look at what we know. “Looking at what we know” may sound a little silly, but we don’t do it that often. We look at what we want to, and ignore other relevant information. So, make an effort to look at that relevant information! Things might go wrong, but you have things. One aspect of your life may be tremendously difficult, but that doesn’t make the rest of it unimportant. Acknowledging these parts of your life doesn’t mean that suddenly everything is easy or that you don’t have a right to complain, it just reminds you that this one problem isn’t the full picture. We are not the center of the universe, and that’s a good thing.
The second part of being positive is looking into the unknown with hope. This becomes more and more difficult depending on the life you’ve had to this point. Someone who has had their trust betrayed multiple times is likely going to have trust issues with their partners in the future because their experience is telling them their hope will not be rewarded. However, while experience impacts us significantly, there is still that unknown factor. That factor could be both positive or negative, but we want to focus on the negative because we’re not sure if we can handle it.
However, we can handle a lot more than we think. Mentally, we want to hold back because of all of those negative emotions. But we shouldn’t! We have situations that likely will turn out poorly, but we also have situations that will likely turn out amazing! Knowing or not knowing, the future is still something we haven’t experienced yet. All we can do is the best we can in our present, so leave the future to its own devices. You can do this.
Our experiences are tinted with all that we are, context, and natural human biases. Just misunderstanding the tone of someone’s voice can cause a massive conflict. Intent matters, but so does what actually happened, and what other people understood it to mean. We’re flawed, but so are the people around us.
My point is that your opinions and experiences matter– and so does everyone else’s. We cannot make a bubble for ourselves and give ourselves extra rights. But it becomes frustrating, because, as humans, we like to feel special. It’s our psychological tendency to blame context for our failures and give ourselves credit for our successes. Even though logically we know both choices and context matter, we ignore the role of whichever one is most uncomfortable to recognize.
We could do a variety of things with our lives, but at the end, we need to take responsibility of all our choices. Context matters. Environments can change personality drastically. We could want to be set apart and admired, but first we have to earn that and work towards that. We’re human! We mess up! The real question is whether or not we’ll chose to step up to the plate when the pressure is on.
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!