The Stifled Soul

We all go through awakenings.  It doesn’t matter what kind it is, but each of us many times in our lives go through periods of time where we start to realize that something is changing within us.  The old way has become unbearable, and we need to lash out at the world to break free from the oppressive weight we’ve been carrying for so long.  In our desire for safety and security, we hold on tightly to the horror we know in hopes that we won’t be subjected to anything worse.  There is nothing more evil in the world than a soul that has been stifled by its own expectations.

We live in a world today where things like creativity and art and all the things that make life worth living have become sidenotes to practicality.  The world has become so efficient at spitting out product and forcing us into mass produced molds that we struggle to know the slightest bit about who we really are.  Millions of people spend lifetimes grinding away at a goal set by others that they never really wanted, all because we have been ingrained from birth with the values of industriousness, conscientiousness and a worshipful nature toward the almighty dollar.  It is a hollow existence.

You can’t teach this fact to anyone.  It isn’t something you can lay out on a chart or graph, nor is it something you can measure with a ruler or microscope or beaker.  No one can walk up to you and point to the sky and tell you about it.  It can’t be seen, it can’t be heard, and it can’t be given.  It is something that must be experienced.  Whether through your own life experiences, or by becoming inspired by the life experiences of others, you must live it to truly understand it.

I am just beginning to emerge from the long sleep of the stifled soul.  My life has been routine and rules and following the crowd, always afraid to be singled out and embarrassed.  I am an introvert, always looking inward and afraid of what others might see.  But there is a part of me that longs for the freedom to be whatever it is that I am without any reservation whatsoever.  After nearly forty years of life, I find myself yearning to start living.

We were all taught the phrase “carpe diem”, but most of us never really know what that means.  “Seize the day” sounds amazing when you just say it like that, but when we actually consider what we have to do in the real world to live that philosophy out, most of us shrink back in terror at the awful risk and responsibility and horrible freedom implicit in that simple phrase.  It is the essence of working without a net, a single mistake thrashing you against the rocky shore to be crushed to bits that you ever dared to dream in the first place.

How many years do we waste waiting for opportunity to come knocking at the door?  How many opportunities are just out of sight, waiting for us to take that single step forward to find it?  If we could look back on our lives and see all the times we passed right by them, how much regret would weigh down our hearts?  Even the most conservative guess scares me down to the bottom of my soul.

Some figure this out early in their lives and go on to do amazing things for both themselves and the world around them.  They find a way to become unfettered by the expectations of others and strike out on their own, blazing a trail for others to follow.  Many burn bright and fast, flaring out in a blinding flash, but the shortness of their time is balanced by the brightness of their light.  The truly lucky ones get a lifetime as a shining beacon in the darkness the world tries to impose on us.

For others, such as myself, it takes a lifetime just to get to where we even want to find a spark, but finally something changes within and we can’t simply sit in the darkness any longer.  Our souls yearn to see, to be uncluttered by shade and twilight and to view the clear, beautiful vista that the dawn brings.  And we imagine it to be all the sweeter after living in the dark for so long.

Will this spark last, or will it be drowned out by the darkness of doubt?  The peril of predictability?  The yearning for a safe harbor?  Or will it flare up into a raging fire to be viewed with awe in its full glory?  Can it be a guiding light that not only saves my own soul, but that of others around me?  I cannot say, but I view the world through this new dawn choosing to believe it isn’t the last one.

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Performing When You Don’t Feel Like It

I’m starting to hit that wall where enthusiasm runs out and you have a choice to either continue on the path or decide it’s just not worth it. It happens so often in my life, and my usual choice is to set aside what I’m doing and look for something else to do. As a person who grew up in an instant gratification world, it’s so hard to stick with anything when you aren’t getting what you want, let alone something that by definition isn’t likely to turn into something big enough to be sustaining as a career. Where do you draw the line between patience and delusion?

Of course, my rational side knows I haven’t been doing this nearly long enough to assume it won’t go anywhere. I know it’s my impatient side trying to get the better of me. I want amazing results right now, and unfortunately it just doesn’t work that way. You have to put in the time and effort and only after you do both of those things can you find out if something is going to succeed or fail. There are no shortcuts in life. Well, except maybe winning the lottery or something like that.

So what do I do with this knowledge? This is where the perseverance part comes in. I have to decide to get on this blog and write another post. Do I have other things I could talk about? Absolutely. There are a million different things going on in the world I could write about. But the biggest thing on my mind today is the fact that I knew I needed to write something and a part of me thought “why bother? You only have a few followers and your voice isn’t really heard. You’re wasting your time with this.” That hopelessness from the previous article is rearing its ugly head yet again.

The problem with that attitude is that several of you have chosen to follow this blog because it apparently has some kind of meaning to you. We tend to get focused on what we don’t have without valuing what we do. I think it’s probably the content creators who truly value the people who follow them that find success in this kind of business. They aren’t really focused on making lots of money, but creating a relationship with the people they are creating content for. I know I’m not like that yet, but I also know that I need to move myself to that place if I want to have even a chance of turning this blog into a writing career.

I appreciate those of you who have chosen to follow this blog and read these articles. I know that as this blog slowly continues to grow, it will start to become easier to motivate myself to keep writing, especially when it gets to the point where I start getting consistently positive interactions from the community. I have to keep in mind that it doesn’t all come at once; it’s a marathon, not a sprint. I have to exercise these things I’ve been posting, all of which I wrote mostly as a reminder to myself that I shared with all of you.

The title of this post says it all. I don’t feel like writing, and that’s exactly the time when I need to force myself to sit here and write the best article I possibly can. I need to sit here and put down honest words with careful thought and continue imparting whatever meaningful information I have to share. I don’t have to be an inspiration that sets the internet on fire; I just have to show up and practice what I preach. Most of us want to follow someone who is dynamic and powerful and charismatic, but what we really need is someone who tells us what we need to hear and is consistent about it. The best leadership is by example. We respect it more.

One of the encouraging things for me is that I sit down with no particular layout for an article in mind, just a vague idea, yet I’m able to put together several paragraphs that clearly lay out what the idea is and how I think you should approach it. This is not to brag about my writing skills, because I certainly don’t think I’m a great writer, but to remind myself that it is a type of validation that maybe this is something I’m good enough at to turn into the meaningful career I’ve been searching for my entire life. The lesson I hope we all take from it is that if we can find that silver lining that everyone talks about, it can really make a difference in sticking to the things we choose to pursue. The fact that these words are here at all show that this is the truth.

So today’s post is partly about me, but also about you, reader. What do you have in your life that you’ve started, or would like to start, that you want to give up on because it just doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen? What parts of that have caused you to become apathetic about your goal? Have you found the strength to force yourself into performing, even when you don’t want to? I think today’s post is an example of how just forcing yourself to get started can have much more of an impact than we think. I started with “why bother” and ended with eight paragraphs of self-motivational text. If we can find the ability to do this consistently, I think this is where we have a real chance to pass from part time hobby to full time success.

Like many things in life, it’s all in the attitude.

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Wisdom Trumps Ambition

When I was younger, I used to think that I wanted to make sure I did what I needed to do to become as successful as possible as early in life as possible. I thought about wanting to acquire certain things that most people don’t get until much later in their lives in my twenties. The thought process was that I wanted to have those things early enough to still be young enough to enjoy them. Being too old to truly do things at the best level seemed a waste to me. How naive.

One of the things that young people universally need to overcome is the impatience of youth. I’m not talking about our previous discussion about having a goal and being unable to stick to the long game. I’m talking about the kind of impatience that leads to angst later in life because you set unrealistic expectations for yourself and then fail to meet them. We all have ideas for what we think our future should be, but almost all of us have a completely unrealistic time frame for how long that should take. If it could truly come so fast, we would retire at thirty. It simply isn’t the case.

One of the most important lessons I want my children to learn is the concept of setting realistic expectations for their life. Unfortunately, truly understanding this idea can only come with age, because it is only when we gain the wisdom of our years that we are able to truly understand anything. I hope my children will listen and make decisions for the long term rather than a short gain, but if they are anything like me they will jump into adulthood expecting their desires to be delivered to them in the first few years of work. They might take my advice and slow things down, but they won’t be able to truly get it until they’ve experienced enough life for it to truly make sense.

That’s the thing about wisdom. A person can make wise decisions, but it is only through making decisions that we can test things and figure out what works and what doesn’t. We can certainly absorb knowledge through education or reading the words of others, and this can help accelerate the process, but there is vast difference between knowledge and wisdom; theory and application. We can theoretically know that something is wise, but we don’t truly understand why it is wise until we find ourselves in the situation and take a course of action. It is when we see how it either works or doesn’t that the knowledge becomes wisdom.

If our education is any good, our entire childhood is spent learning the theory of how the world works. Up until the point we become adults, we are immersed in learning about all manner of things from science to social studies to physical activity, storing up knowledge that we expect to prepare us for the world. At the end of our formal education, we are proud of the accomplishments we’ve made and jump out into the world assuming we are ready for anything.

Our twenties are our first lesson in the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Our early ambition is thwarted by the world around us and we start to realize that maybe we don’t know quite as much as we thought we did. The career we chose might not be as glamorous as we hoped, or perhaps bad decisions were made that set us back. An inability to exercise discipline in our spending might have placed us in a sticky situation with our credit. Whatever the details, it is in our twenties that most of us truly start gaining real world wisdom.

When we look at it like this, we start to realize that, aside from the rare exceptional person, it is only in our thirties that we really start to push toward our life goals. This is the time that we have built up enough experiences to know what works for us and what doesn’t. It is the time of our lives in which we have demonstrated who we will be for the rest of our lives and everyone around us can know who we are and what we stand for. It is the time in which we become confident in our decisions because we’ve made enough of them to have a pretty fair idea of how those decisions will turn out.

As the title of this article states, wisdom simply trumps ambition at every level. Ambition without wisdom invariably leads to failure. You may make some short term gains making blindly aggressive decisions, but eventually your luck will run out and all your efforts will come crashing down around you. Ambition tempered with wisdom can be a very powerful force, and approaching life with the goal of slowly incorporating wisdom into your makeup will get you to your goals far faster than impatience can.

What do you think about wisdom? In what part of life do you find yourself? Are you just getting started and want to learn how to be wise? Or have you already experienced enough to know what you want and where you’re going? Self reflection is an important part of learning to be successful, because if you don’t even know who you are, you can’t make decisions that make sense for you.

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Dealing with Disappointment

A lot of my posts recently have focused on trying to stay positive and move toward a goal, but what do you do when it seems like life is just out to get you? You don’t have to be living in terrible circumstances to feel like things just aren’t working out. Many people in our society struggle with depression specifically because they had dreams and aspirations that just didn’t work out and now they are stuck in a situation they never wanted to be in. Some of them are even very wealthy, and they still feel trapped by this feeling. Many people will say that this is some sort of privilege and to look at people who have it much worse than us and we should be grateful for what we have, but those words never seem to make us feel any better.

How do you deal with a constant feeling of disappointment? This article isn’t intended to provide you with specific advice, reader, as I have struggled with this form of depression for most of my adult life and I feel no closer to solving it. For myself, a large portion of it stems from the fact that I just don’t know what I want to do with my life, aside from a couple of crystallized ideas that have formed over time, none of which have to do with my career. Perhaps the worst form of disappointment is being unable to find a sense of purpose for your life, or maybe feeling like there are things you could probably do well but circumstances just don’t work out for you.

Many people will tell you that you just need to pick yourself up and start doing something. Try different things and see what sticks. It seems like good advice on the surface, but I liken it to treading water. You put in a lot of effort just to stay afloat but you’re not actually getting anywhere. Sometimes putting in the effort only to find it was a complete waste of time pushes you further into depression. Trying things can actually be detrimental to your mental health if nothing ever seems to stick. You feel more and more lost every time something new fails.

Disappointment is a hard thing to overcome. It is in direct opposition to the concepts of perseverance and patience, and as long as it has a strong hold on your life it will be an impediment to your ability to find peace and satisfaction in your life. It encourages that insidious laziness we discussed in a previous article because it becomes harder and harder to summon the energy to do anything if you have come to believe that anything you do will end in failure. Why waste the effort?

I don’t believe there are any solid suggestions that can be given to help stave off disappointment. If there were, it wouldn’t be such a widespread problem. Disappointment is one of those things that is unique to each of us, and it requires a unique solution to figure out how to get past it. “Gurus” could probably give you a list of ten things you can do to work to overcome it, but in the end your disappointment stems from personal failures in your own life. You can’t apply a template to a unique problem.

So what does this mean for us? It is simply that part of life is struggle and failure, and unfortunately there is no easy way out. It again brings us back to perseverance and patience. Learning to accept that feeling of disappointment without allowing it to crush our resolve is one of the most important thing we can do to find meaning in our lives, especially when we find ourselves in situations where we are not happy with how things turned out. You will always have a part of your life you wish were different, and learning to live with that is key to finding peace. The way you do that is up to you. No one can figure it out for you.

For myself, part of my motivation to start this blog and make a serious attempt to keep writing it stems from the crushing disappointments in my own life. My way of dealing with disappointment is to share my thoughts and hope that it makes some kind of difference, not only for myself but for others who are struggling to figure out their own lives. I have certain ideas about things, be it political or otherwise, but part of my goal is to start putting together something that is coherent and meaningful and that maybe starts moving my life in a different direction. It is when we find meaning in something that we are able to overcome disappointment. Otherwise we are lost.

So what about you? What will you start doing today to fight back against disappointment? Do you agree that there is no standard solution that applies to you?

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