Edited version of an article originally published 2020-11-15; it’s still fairly iffy, so feel free to ignore if that is your wont
TL;DR Work and play hard, relax, and enjoy life by setting goals which matter to you and that are achievable; If you don’t succeed, try again, “fail better”.1
Definitely don’t get too stressed that you are not an omni* god. Instead, remember you are a human just doing their best in a crazy world.
Barring certain dire circumstances2, or a medical condition such as ‘clinical’ depression3, one can avoid the dangers of dissatisfaction by recognizing one’s own capabilities, abilities, and means to achieve what is what what matters to oneself, and use this in creating a flexible plan to improve.
NB: You’ve probably realized already, though, that this post isn’t meant to guide you on a hyper-serious ‘get your life sorted out’ kind of exercise. Nor is it intended to be like a BS Goalcast® ‘will yourself to success and greatness’ video. I’ve only written some some rather random ideas to get you thinking, hopefully entertain you, and maybe help you.
Basically: Keep it light; just think about this article enough if, and to the extent, it helps you enjoy life a little more (and avoid traps demagogues and populists like to use).
One could aggressively (i.e. being determined to find the positive) take stock of what skills one has, what positive ’network’ one has (i.e. who one knows that either is a social positive, a professional positive, or both), what physical items one has, and what economic resources one has, or to which one has (legitimate) access.
In Case of Empty Shelves
If one is really struggling to come up with any of this kind of ‘stock’, then one might confront the question of whether the shelves are really that empty, or whether one is struggling with depression or similar illness for which the best help is to seek medical assistance from a licensed medical professional, or to assess if one is in a situation one otherwise needs help to escape. If either of those is true, put your efforts into getting the help you need.
Determine Your Endgame
What do You Want to Imagine as the Rest of Your Life
Ignore for the moment where you are and what you have, or what you think is achievable. Imagine how you think you would want to spend the remainder of your time on this mortal coil, should you have the option to live as you wish. Then consider why. For those who dream a life of leisure and ease (admittedly I have to stretch my mind a little to think of this scenario, as it’s not my dream), consider questions such as those below.
- What is it about a life of leisure and ease that seems appealing?
- Memories of pleasant times?
- Does part of the appeal depend on the social situation in the leisure life being positive / pleasant?
- Pleasant physical environment / situation / etc?
- Lack of pressure / distress?
- Contrast to physical / mental discomfort or distress to one currently or often experiences?
- How long would this really be pleasant?
- E.g. if you’re dreaming of sun-soaked days by the pool or beach, how long before you’d get bored?
- Are there other elements that would be required for to enjoy / be satisfied with the life of leisure and ease?
- Would you start of feel like you were lazy or negligent in helping others?
- Would you feel like life was pointless or that lacking?
- Would you need activities where you felt competent / skilled / accomplished?
What Really Matters
It’s probably obvious that the idea is to tease out what really matters to you, and what is only a pleasant daydream that wouldn’t really satisfy long term. Once you’ve thought a little about what it is that you’re actually wanting versus the myths we’ve been sold, or daydreams that quickly fade, you’re in a better position to seek your version of ’the good life’.
Set Some Goals
They’re You’re Goals; You Can Adjust When and Why You Need
A quick preface: You’re not creating an unbreakable pact for the rest of your life. The purpose of this is to give you a sense of structure and purpose that meets your needs.
It’s About What You Want
It would be counter-productive to make this a high pressure situation where you become stressed from the outset or truly upset if you miss one or more targets. All that’s intended is a tool to help you have the confidence that you can live your life in a way where you not only survive, but feel like your are living life a way you feel ‘right’ about, and that you feel like you can do / achieve what really matters to you. By doing so you avoid being prey for populist and demagogues, not mention you get to enjoy life.
Ok, Goal Setting
A reminder: This is rather random and definitely not professional advice.
- For this particular purpose, just two, or maybe three ‘items’ on the list.
- Identifying these first is only meant to give yourself ’enough’ of a guide that you can make reasonable short and medium term choices (since, as humans, we are unlikely to have to time to do all things we think we want to do, or even that we think we ought to do) given what you want in life.
- Should be specific enough to guide choices, rather than merely ‘aspirational’.
- Instead of ‘Become prime minister’, the kind of goal I’m suggesting might look more like:
- “Identify and act on ways in which I personally can ethically influence and achieve political decisions that improve life for my fellow humans, with as wide a reach as I and allies are able to achieve.”
- I consider this more than aspirational because one can identify medium and short term ways in which one can act on this goal.
- At present, in Ontario, one could,for instance, identify a more immediate goal of monitoring the various one’s provincial and municipal ‘consultation’ websites and opportunities and participating in them, as well as contacting one’s local representative(s) on those (and other) issues
- Another, connected, more immediate goal, might be to participate in public discussions of issues (though I’d caution against spending too much time and energy on ‘social media’ such as Facebook and Twitter, as my personal impression is that individuals have very little ‘reach’ on those platforms, except very occasionally, and that those platforms tend to change the rules to increasingly decrease the opportunities to ‘go viral’, especially for ‘free’ accounts).
- Another example might be:
- “Experience loving and being loved in a long lasting, healthy, romantic relationship.”
- It may seem odd to view this is a goal with short and medium term goals, but unless one has an unrealistic, and/or unhealthy notion of romantic love such as the ever popular Disney®, Hollywood, or trashy romance novel versions, or a concerning fixation on taking this approach with a specific individual in mind, one can increase the odds of finding such a relationship compared to the serendipity approach.
- I think an important more immediate goal though, in many cases, is: “Become comfortable enough with myself, and on my own, that I do not mistake the need to escape a sense of loneliness, desperation, or unworthiness with a healthy relationship — I want to be ‘in love’ not in ‘in desperation’”.
- Other steps might include, identifying how one thinks of romantic love, or what a healthy relationship looks like.
- Also one probably could benefit from thinking about what efforts or changes one needs to make for a relationship to last, since the reality is that it doesn’t ‘just happen’ by ‘magic’.
- At the same time ensuring the healthy relationship part may mean recognizing when a relationship isn’t really a relationship, but a situation is which one is being played. Rarely is this clear and obvious to the played. One thing to keep in mind though, is that if one is feeling, or being made to feel, like one is not trying hard enough to keep the relationship together, that’s probably a sign the relationship is unhealthy, and that, at the very least a sign one needs to take some time to be on one’s own to gain some perspective — if one’s partner rejects that notion outright, whether they are afraid or angry, or both, it’s indication they have their own issues that are interfering with a healthy relationship. It also make it clear that real change, probably on both your parts, is needed. A way to look at it is, even if one’s accusing partner was actually correct and that most of the relationship issues were the result of one’s own failings, one should definitely question how it is healthy for a partner who feels that negatively about oneself, or the relationship, to insist on staying in that unhealthy situation. And of course the mirror situation applies as well.
This isn’t about detailing every task you ever want to do in day, or week, or month, etc, whether created all at once, or updated daily, or as you see fit. Here were are looking at setting specific milestones for relatively short periods of time (depending on the milestone it could be less than a day, a week, a month, or even three months) that one identifies as leading to achieving one’s long term goals.
- One should identify how the goal is relevant to the long term goal(s) one has set.
- One should identify how when knows one has completed the immediate goal (if it’s open ended it’s more likely to be a long term or aspirational target than an immediate goal).
- One needs to identify any prerequisites goal achievement. If not already met, those prerequisites become immediate goals that need to occur prior to attempting the goal with which one started.
- Does one have the money and necessary resources to achieve the goal? If not acquiring them, or changing to goal to one’s reality becomes a prerequisite.
- One needs to identify when and where one can work on the goal.
- And is this a goal that is easy to motivate oneself, or does one need to use self-rewards, or other mechanisms to motivate action.
- One should have a means to identify progress (or lack thereof) and/or completion or failure (or limbo).
- What are the consequences of failing to achieve the goal (and how to keep them minimal, and to be able to recover, and try again)? When/how does one decide a change in goal or approach is required?
Work at It
No explanation required. Just remember you are human and to not beat yourself up if you run out of energy, whether physical, mental, or emotional. Using more resources than your mind and body have available can hurt you, so pace yourself even if that means your rate of progress is not what you would like.
Celebrate Success or Manage Failure; Be Prepared to Fail Better
Depending on how much one is pushing one’s (or one’s situation’s) boundaries, one may not succeed. Especially when pushing hard, be prepared to fail, and to fail again, only better (that is having learned
from the previous attempt). Rinse. Repeat…
Remember to enjoy yourself along the way. Find what gives you meaning and satisfaction, knowing that it is not ‘all up to you’. Whether your part in current times is large or small is not what is important, only that you make the best effort you can, with the capabilities and resource you have. Those who would judge you are quite likely privately afraid others will examine them and find them wanting, so don’t worry about them. Work to meet your own standards that you keep realistic for you.
“Fail better” is not original to me, but I don’t remember where I first heard it. Another version is “fail bigger”. ↩︎
E.g. an abusive relationship — in which case the goal is to survive and get out — or deathly ill — in which case the goal is to get through the illness, or if the odds or low, to set one’s affairs in order, make one’s peace, and generally manage one’s mental health in a difficult time. ↩︎
In which case one should seek professional help. If necessary seek any publicly funded help that might be available — also keep in mind that drinking is not only expensive, the numbing is temporary and one is more depressed afterwards. It is similar with other ‘self-medication’, one ends up worse off than where one began — save yourself a bad trip (sorry about the bad pun) and avoid ending up as a ‘concurrent disorder’ statistic. If truly desperate, choose life; go to your local emergency department! You won’t be committed for life (even if you want to be), because there is not enough funding for such a ‘solution’. ↩︎