Henry Thoreau said most people live lives of quiet desperation. We have every intention to move forward, progress, grow, take a jump, or risk something. However, there is a stronger force that convinces us to do nothing.
You may be stuck in a bullshit finance job that is sapping every ounce of joy from your life – but the money is good and you have a huge mortgage. You want to tell your boss to fuck off and pursue your dream of opening a business restoring and selling vintage motorcycles. But you are blocked by a tsunami of doubts and hesitations. What will my friends say? What would my nagging unbearable wife think? My mother would freak out and my father would write me out of his will. With the accumulation of weeks, months, and years you become more anxious and disgusted by yourself.
You have grown so accustomed to your comfortable, mediocre life that has been engineered to please everyone on the fucking planet except for yourself.
This is what you need to do to rectify this situation.
1) Stop Worrying About What Other People Think
One of the secrets of life is controlling things you can and not giving a fuck about things you cannot – and knowing how to differentiate between the two. You cannot control what other people think of you, so stop worrying about it!
Take a few seconds to think of how your concern for other people’s opinions paralyzes you. For example, you are about to close the deal of your career but the prospective client is not returning your calls. You know that if you keep pressurizing, he will sign, but then you get self-conscious. You are concerned that if you keep calling, the prospect will think you are a dickhead. WHO CARES WHAT HE THINKS – he needs what you are selling so close the deal!
I understand this is easier said than done, especially with regard to people close to you like your parents. It is one thing to say you are going to stop giving a fuck about the opinion of your next-door neighbor, but completely different when it comes to your parents. You need to approach this topic with greater sensitivity. How about this, when telling your mother you want to drop out of law school to trade cryptocurrencies: "Mom, I love you with all my heart, but if I become a lawyer, I am going to become bitter, twisted, and resentful. I respect you but I need to forge my own path and I hate to say this, but I don’t care what you think”.
2) Stop Being a People Pleaser
This is a pattern of behavior riddled with problems. You spend your life molding your life around the expectations of others. This manifests into agreeing to plans you hate. You may have come from a long line of medical doctors. Your father, therefore, assumed that you too would follow his path and go to medical school, however, you always wanted to be a professional ballet dancer. This means you never express your authentic ambitions – you are living a life that is a desperate lie. If you look at this in the cold hard light of day, you are a liar – but you are not doing this for your own pleasure, but rather for the pleasure of others.
3) Learn How to be Selfish
Being agreeable and selfless again means you are catering to everyone other than yourself - can you see a pattern here? This leads to resentment. The problem that most people encounter is they cannot differentiate between good and bad versions of selfishness. It takes wisdom to sometimes give priority to yourself. It takes confidence to be forthright about your own needs. And there is the counterintuitive byproduct of good selfishness – you actually will better serve the people in your life with good selfishness than you will with selflessness.
Take the example of parenting. To be a good parent, you may need a couple of hours per day to yourself to attend to personal matters – go for a run, go to the gym, shower, read, meditate. This helps the parent to recharge and thereby better fulfill their parenting duties. The problem is that most parents do not do this – they power through like zombies and soon become ragged, bitter, and resentful. This can turn them into highly disagreeable and ineffective parents.
Good selfishness (which comes through wisdom) is the knowledge of what we need for ourselves to maximize our utility to others. We may need to back away from things people would like us to do. People that say yes to everything eventually explode into a vindictive rage. To avoid being labeled as selfish, you need to become a better communicator of your intentions.
4) Don’t Be Afraid of Happiness
This may sound like the dumbest sentence you have read all day. Who in their sane minds would be afraid of happiness? It is more common than you think. Maybe someone very important to you as a child was deeply unhappy. You, as an adult, assume that same mindset as a secret tribute to them. You being happy, therefore, in some twisted way is seen as a betrayal to that person. This can lead to some fucked behavior on your part. You may pursue a modest career because they never had possibilities. You do not pursue sexual opportunities because they were sexually neglected. You associate gloom with safety and joy with risk – you take no risks and you continue in a life of quiet desperation.
You may also have grown up in an environment where sadness and anxiety were the default, and happiness does not come naturally. You become a manic worrier and you are not prepared to make a huge lifestyle leap that will set you up for happiness.
5) Be Brave
Courage is not fearlessness – it is taking action despite the fear you feel. Fear is often good because it keeps you alive. Your brain is hardwired for self-preservation. Fear of rattlesnakes is a good thing. But sometimes fear makes you small, timid, and powerless. For example, fear of rejection may keep you single when you want to be in a relationship. By confronting your fears, you become brave. Courage means moving forward in the face of fear and taking chances. To get out of your rut, you need to be brave.
Taking risks is not the same as being reckless. Being courageous is about thinking things through, examining the risks and rewards, and acting despite the fear that inevitably sets in. Courage boosts your self-confidence and allows you to believe in your abilities, and pursue your goals. Fear keeps you in your comfort zone, playing video games and watching porn. Courage is a muscle that needs to be exercised. Every day you want to find ways to flex your courage muscles.
The time has come to make that giant leap in your life – make important changes that will make you happier and fulfilled. Quit that high-paying corporate job, take a pay cut and pursue the career that makes you happy. Get out of the rut you have been living in for all the years. Go out and make your dent in the universe.
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