I get it.
Changing your life isn’t easy in and of itself. Changing your life in the midst of historically bad times makes the process even more difficult. To pretend that some pieces of self-help wisdom will automatically pull you out of your mental state is foolish.
Here’s the way I look at it. Negative feelings aren’t always bad. They can be useful. Sometimes, they can propel you to action. Other times, you just need to fully feel certain emotions and process them before you can let them good. Your moods can tell you things and sometimes it takes a while to understand what they’re trying to tell you.
I’ve done well for myself, but I’m not going to pretend the past year or so hasn’t messed with my head. There is a virus killing people all over the world. Lockdown sucks, even if it’s for the greater good. The political turmoil is impossible to tear your eyes away from.
So here’s how I operate. I try to understand and accept the realities of the world, my own personal circumstances, and my emotions. I analyze and observe all the above and then ask myself, what’s next.
Let’s take a look at some things you might be feeling right now. Honor them first. See what to do next.
- You might feel demoralized – You might feel apathy towards everything right now. Life has just been a constant shit show on a seemingly infinite loop. Everything that’s going on right now might have worn you down to such a point where you just don’t feel like doing anything. You have two choices, remain demoralized or look for upside. Either is fine momentarily, but you want to move from the former to the latter eventually.
- You might have zero motivation – The question is, how do you find the motivation to capture the potential upside? How do you get motivated in an environment that suppresses it? There’s no simple answer. But there’s a hint in finding something that compels you to want to work harder or do better. It’s probably that thing you’ve been thinking of doing for a while. For me, it’s writing.
- You might feel disillusioned – Our political process is garbage. The institutions of our society don’t seem interested in helping everyday person whatsoever. This feeling of disillusionment you feel is spot on, deeply warranted. The question is, why continue to put faith in these institutions at all? That’s what makes you feel bad, that sense of hope that’s not being fulfilled. Let it go. The cavalry isn’t coming.
- You might feel helpless – On some level, you probably know you need to save yourself, but how the hell are you going to do it? It’s easy for me to give you advice, but you have a real-life with real problems that weigh on you and make you feel powerless — healthcare, bills, a job you don’t like but need to work at right now, etc. Accept that it’s okay to feel this way for now, but gradually build a plan to dig yourself out of the hole. Again, you do this by looking for the activities that compel you.
- You might feel jaded – If the three years prior made you feel cynical, the past year or so has made it easier to feel deeply jaded. And I get it. For me, though, I realized that being jaded ultimately hurt no one but me. I prefer to be open and optimistic, even if that makes me seem a little bit delusional.
- You might feel angry and outraged – I bash on outrage culture a lot, but it’s not as if some of it isn’t warranted. When it comes to politics, it’s natural for you to feel angry at the other side. They have fundamentally different beliefs than you on issues you care about. It makes sense. But I always think of this quote “Being bitter is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
- You might feel lonely and isolated – Which makes sense because, for many of you, you’re literally isolated and alone. Lockdown made me realize how cruel of a punishment something like solitary confinement is. Human beings are wired to connect, and that lack of connection will take a toll on you. I’ve tried different ways to make friends with isolation — more meditation, brutal self-reflection I can only experience in quiet, activities I can do alone that bring me joy like going for a walk, exercising, reading a book, etc
- You might feel like your problems are unique to you – We all think this way. We all have our own elaborate explanation for why our lives are going a certain way. Some of it’s true. Some of it contains lies we tell ourselves. Altogether, we’re much more similar than we think. This is why things like reading and studying the past are so important. None of what’s happening right now is that unique. We’ve had pandemics, cultural and political revolutions, tribalist warfare. History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.
- You might feel like now is not the time for self-improvement – Fine by me. I’ve seen two sides to this debate. My side says to push through and take advantage of the uqnie opportunities available right now. The other said says pretty much the opposite. Neither side is objectively right. I have no advice on this one. Honestly. Choose your own adventure.
- You might feel like this is never going to end – But it will. At some point. Who knows when? Not me. But it has to end eventually. The question is, what will your life look like when the dust settles? No judgments on your actions, but try to analyze the outcomes they’ll yield. Do you want to leave the cave ready for the world with momentum on your side? Or do you want a hardened heart, stuck in deep inertia?
- You might feel like these times are going to break you – I’ve seen strong people break down. People have lost loved ones People have taken their own lives. These times have broken some people. I can’t promise whether or not they will break you or not. But I can tell you that the power of human resiliency is strong. No matter what you’re going through, there’s someone in a similar position who found a way out.
Funny enough. Even after I’ve talked about and broken down all of the negative emotions you might be feeling, I’m still super bullish about the future. I feel this way because I believe in a certain attitude and lifestyle that can weather chaos, instability, and all the BS put together.
This attitude is a basic understanding that human tragedy is rife with tragedy, unpredictability, and many dark elements. Just accept that is a part of life. That doesn’t make life any less beautiful. In fact, without the downside as contrast, would you be able to appreciate the beauty?
This attitude also has the understanding that the power of the individual is growing, even though it seems like society is collapsing. As strange as it sounds, you’re in a better position to thrive than all the other humans that came before you.
Yes, your emotions can and will get in the way. Yes, sometimes no amount of self-improvement advice is going to do anything for you in the moment — I spent years letting it go in one ear and out the other myself.
But that’s the amazing part. One day, it can just click, seemingly for no apparent reason. But, there is a reason. Deep down you’ve always been hopeful that the teachings of self-improvement were true. You read articles like this because on some level you want it to work.
So, even if you run on the advice treadmill for a long time without getting anything done, you still have these little subconscious whispers that tell you to maybe try just one more time. Those little whispers can accumulate and transform to a level of motivation you’ve never felt before.
And then you can follow through and never look back. For some of you, that moment will happen this year. You’ll cut through the noise and end the year in a better place than when you started.
I hope you’re one of them.