Life seems limitless on its surface, yet we must constantly live within limits. Some we set ourselves; others are imposed on us. That is natural and normal. Because we can’t do everything and need to prioritize, we incorporate limits in our lives by design. Often this leads to doing as little as possible to achieve a desired outcome—in other words, we’re efficient. But this approach can also lead to a mindset of doing as little as possible, or sometimes, nothing at all. There are aspects of life, however, that deserve more than the least we can do. They deserve intention and effort. While these aspects will not be the same for everyone, we all have opportunities to explore what ours might be. To that end, it can be helpful to periodically review what is important to you. Think about those things and what you do to support them—is there anything more you might do? Have you thought about it creatively? Sometimes the least you can do isn’t all you can do.
It seems simple enough.
If something is bad for us, we should stop doing it. Of course it’s not that simple—people have addictions, compulsions, and desires (hereafter referred to as compulsions), and it may seem almost impossible not to submit to them. The two forces—the compulsions and the knowledge of their negative consequences—are in a constant battle to control our behavior. The “voice” of our compulsions can be quite strong and very crafty. We’ve all had times when we’ve rationalized having one more drink (“It’s a special occasion!”) or junk food (“Just while I’m watching the movie.”), and, at those times, our rationales have seemed perfectly sound. We’ve also had periods when the voice of reason has been dominant. We clearly see the connections between our behavior and its negative consequences, and we’re able to control ourselves. So why does this battle take place—why can’t we see the healthy and logical path and just follow it? If we could answer these questions, we’d find a clear path to healthy, positive behaviors.
New people are easy. You meet them, you chat, you get to know each other—there’s no long-term baggage or expectations. There’s also no lingering bad blood or long-term irritants. It’s a fresh canvas and you’re both painting. But as time goes on, you develop a history. Much of that history is likely very good—you wouldn’t stay connected so long if it wasn’t. You may have periods where you don’t see each other that much, but when you do get back together it seems that no time has passed. You pick up right where you left off. You have a true and solid connection with each other, and it’s part of who you are. But there are also elements of the relationship that aren’t ideal. It may be a personality quirk that irritates you (and irritates you more over time). It may be a certain belief or opinion they have that doesn’t jibe with your worldview, and they have to bring it up. It may be some incident in your past that’s hard for you to let go. The relationship is not all wine and roses, but ultimately, no relationship is.
Self-loathing is so easy. Everyone has setbacks or makes mistakes, and many go through a period of being very hard on themselves afterward. After a mistake, you may be focused on the consequences or the sequence of events that led up to the mistake, but many people make beating themselves up a higher priority. Of all the options that you might consider after a mistake, beating yourself up is the least helpful. It’s important to be aware of when you’re doing this and replace it with other reactions. The first among these must be learning from the mistake, with forgiving yourself a close second. If you’re able to incorporate these reactions to mistakes into your life, there will be no room for self-loathing.
Some people, as they move through life, begin to feel out of touch. It may start with the interests of younger people—music, apps, gadgets, etc.—and extends to a general feeling of being left behind. But it’s all a matter of perspective.
As you get further down your path, you should feel more and more confident, and increasingly trust your judgement based on your experiences. It’s not necessary to like, or even be aware of, every new trend. You should remain open to new ideas or experiences, but should not worry about those that don’t interest you—don’t think that you’ve become irrelevant just because you’re not engaged in the latest rage. Develop a balance between what’s known and comfortable and what’s new and different. And trust yourself to know what you like.