You live your life day to day. Your days are more or less the same. It’s not like you wake up and terrible things happen (although sometimes they do). You have slight annoyances, little moments where you sigh, and periods of daydreaming about a better future.
“No big deal,” you tell yourself. After all, you have plenty of life to live, right? You can always change your situation. Over time, though, you’re overcome by the feeling of being stuck.
What makes being stuck so difficult to deal with? You didn’t get stuck all at once. It happened slowly and subtly. You can’t pinpoint one moment or one day where your life started to go in a direction you didn’t want it to go in. It sort of, just, happened.
Now you’re here. More or less, you have two options for your future. Stay the same or try something different. If you opt for the latter, you can ask yourself great questions to find out what you can do next.
This is just a blog post. Your life isn’t going to magically change after reading it, but it’s a good start. Although the post itself might be trivial, the consequences of your action or inaction are definitely not.
This is your life.
Genuinely ask yourself these questions and see where the answers take you.
What will staying in the same career do to your life?
The way you make your living is anything but inconsequential. If time is the most valuable commodity you have, your work is important, because you spend a lot of time working.
I don’t buy the idea you have to love your job to death every second of it, but work without purpose, a sense of contribution, or some level of enjoyment will harm you — I use that word literally.
If you have a soul-sucking type of job, it carries over into other parts of your life — you either know this by your own actions or have experienced it through someone else.
A fundamental disconnect between your work and your values is a dire situation that I’d address if I were you.
Start probing. Could the situation be improved by moving to a different department? Do you need to quit your job and start over? Can you go to night school? What are your options?
Is your health helping or harming your purpose in life?
Eating right and exercising solves a bulk of most people’s problems, yet we often look in every other direction than the obvious one.
If you feel bad physically, you’ll feel bad mentally. You can’t untangle the two from one another. I’ve told stories about lifting myself from depression many times. One piece of the puzzle I haven’t mentioned often was how large of a role physical activity played in that. The opposite of depression isn’t happiness, it’s activity.
Does the fact that you’re physically stagnant have anything to do with the fact that you’re mentally stagnant? It probably does. Ask yourself what you can start doing to be healthier — a minimum viable goal works here.
I know the idea of getting healthy is the most obvious thing in the world, but improving your life is a matter of doing the most obvious things in the world.
When is the last time you’ve gone outside of your comfort zone?
Have you been playing it safe? When was the last time you tried to learn a new skill that you’re unfamiliar with? When was the last time you asserted yourself and spoke your mind when you knew you had something relevant to say?
Like I said earlier, getting stuck isn’t a matter of dramatic circumstances, rather it happens when you have repeated inaction over a long period of time.
The idea of, “the devil you know is better than the one you don’t,” rings true. You might hate your job, but at least you know what to expect. You might not be in love anymore, but coexisting with your partner is easier than starting over to find a new one.
When I’ve been staying inside my comfort zone for too long I think about how long I’ve spent in my comfort zone.
You can startle yourself into action when you realize the answer is years, decades, or worse, your entire life.
What will happen if you continue to live this way?
What will your life look like five, ten, or twenty years from now if you continue to do the things you’ve been doing? Do you like what you see? It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day routine and lose sight of the bigger picture.
As much as possible, I always try to zoom out and remember why I’m doing what I’m doing — when I feel like my writing career is progressing too slowly, when I’m doing tedious tasks in support of my goals that I don’t feel like doing, when I want to quit and cry and break things (this happens.)
I remember the alternative to pushing through pain to a life I find meaning in pales in comparison to a wasted life — and I get on with it.
Are you using your strengths?
What are you good at? What are the skills and talents that are innate and unique to you? How often do you get to utilize these strengths? Is your career path aligned with your positive qualities?
The problem with doing something you’re not at least somewhat naturally good at is two-fold. First, you have a cap on how good you can be, and that cap is probably mediocrity. Second, you’ll be unhappy and passionate because passion comes from competence.
You can force yourself into a box to make money, but jamming a square peg into a round hole hurts, and if you do it long enough you’ll wear out the edges of your sanity.
What do you hate?
Figuring out want you want can be difficult. Figuring out what you don’t want and avoiding it is easier. If you can shed most of the negativity from your life you’ll be in a good place.
Humans tolerate what they hate for a greater good. You figure you can put up with x because it will yield y.
I had a job I hated once. I quit in six weeks. My self-awareness wouldn’t allow me to continue. I’ve had jobs I didn’t love and stuck with them, but life is too short to do things you genuinely despise, in my opinion, yet people do them.
What reward could be so great as to tolerate something you hate? I can’t think of a reasonable answer. You tell me.
What would you be doing if you had six months to live?
You can spend time doing what you love right now. I love writing, so I write. I love learning, so I learn. I have a great family. If I got wealthy maybe I’d travel more, but I’d spend most of my life spending time with people I love and pursuing my passions.
I already have my dream. I make money doing what I enjoy. I’m not at the pinnacle of where I want to be, but that doesn’t matter. I could die tomorrow and at least be able to say I went for it.
What if you were told that your time on earth was limited? You wouldn’t spend it sitting still and awaiting your final moments. You’d do all of the things you’ve been putting off. You may reach out to the people closest to you and spend as much time with them as possible. You would quickly figure out the most important areas that needed to be done and take action.
One of the best ways to get unstuck is to realize that you truly don’t know how much time you have left on this planet and live accordingly.
What are you so afraid of?
I’m afraid of feeling like a fraud. I’m afraid of being rejected and embarrassed. I’m afraid of uncertainty. I’m afraid of risk.
What about you? Those are probably the reasons why you avoid change, aren’t they?
How do I know? You’re human. Those are the things humans are usually afraid of because we were wired to be afraid of them. You didn’t evolve to follow your dreams. You evolved to pass your genes forward and avoid dying long enough to do that. These goals are at odds with each other, obviously.
With that knowledge as a baseline — the unquestionable acceptance of an uphill battle — get to the root of why you’re so afraid of making changes in your life. There are two types of people in this world — people who face their fears and people who don’t. The difference in the quality of their lives is dramatic. We’re all afraid of something. It takes courage to face your fears and push forward anyway.
Is what you’re facing truly terrifying or is it all in your head? Has anyone else made it through a similar situation and done the things you’re afraid of? If so, it’s possible for you to face your fears and do them as well.
What’s the first step you can take?
You know what would make me happy?
If you took one, teeny-tiny, laughably insignificant step toward a better life. After reading the book 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson, I just recently set a goal to keep my room tidy because of one of the rules in the book (keep yourself in order before you criticize the world). I’m productive and successful in a lot of ways, but I need more order in my life because my disorganization causes a lot of problems for me.
This is a life-long battle I’m on the losing side of. I could make a big pronouncement of how I’m going to organize everything in my life much better — my business, my career, my relationships, my schedule, my entire life — which is the end goal.
But I’m starting with keeping my room clean. Why? Because it’s both inconsequential and existential. That’s one of the main themes I learned from the book.
The little things you do over time — the trivialities — comprise your whole life. They build castles of achievement or prisons of fear and doubt.
Instead of unconsciously picking up a brick — like you, I, and every other person has done a countless number of times — pick up one consciously, spread enough cement of it to do the trick, place it firmly.
Then congratulation yourself.
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Originally published at medium.com