At every moment of every day, we have a choice. What should we do? Sometimes we feel productive. Sometimes we feel creative. Sometimes we feel like having fun. How do we decide what to do with this particular moment? What can we do to make this moment as meaningful and fulfilling as it can possibly be?
What about when we feel uninspired? Our time in this life is limited, but does that mean we have to make every second of every day count? If we’re just not feeling it, is it OK to become mindless and browse YouTube videos?
When I’m feeling uninspired or unproductive, I can’t force myself to create or produce. But that doesn’t mean I have to surrender, make myself a drink, and plop down on the couch. There’s a lot of space between not being productive and not doing anything. There’s nothing wrong with mindless entertainment, and we all need some downtime (see “Downtime”). But if nothing is the only thing we can imagine doing when we’re not feeling productive, then we’re missing out on a wealth of possibilities.
Is your life what you expected? Are you accomplishing what you set out to do?
These kinds of questions are related to a more fundamental question: What are the reasons and motivations behind our life goals?
We all want to live a “good life,” but what does that mean? Success can mean vastly different things to different people, but there are presumably some common reasons that we each take our respective paths.
Some of these might include subsistence, happiness, fulfillment, having a legacy, or making an impact on the world.
What are the reasons for your life goals? What would success look like?
You hear people with relatively affluent suburban lives saying this. Although it might mean that the person is actually hungry, it’s more likely that they just want some food, either because they’re looking forward to a meal, they’re thinking about a certain food, or they’re just bored.
Unfortunately, there are lots of people who are actually starving in the world.
Whenever my son says this, or something like this, I remind him that he’s not actually starving and ask him if he actually feels hungry. I ask him to pay attention to the signals his mind and body are sending him and to identify them intentionally. I also tell him that it’s OK to periodically be hungry. Maintaining a hungry feeling can be healthy—it can train us to not immediately start wolfing down food when we have that feeling. We’re not meant to be full all the time.
Do you have a creed? Is there a set of statements that sum up your values and how you live your life?
I’ve always been a little wary of creeds. The idea of someone telling me what I should think or believe has always rubbed me the wrong way. But that’s only if someone else wrote it. On the other hand, a personal creed can help clarify our thoughts and guide our actions.
Why develop a creed?
A personal creed can help us think through our values in a comprehensive way. It can help us figure out what is important to us, what we really believe, and how we act based on those beliefs. A creed can help us be the people we aspire to be. It is easy to fall into a pattern of reacting instead of acting, doing things out of convenience rather than purpose.
As children, we grow up wanting to be rock stars, or bestselling authors, or the president. We are “thinking big” — thinking about reaching the pinnacle of our passions. But achieving this height does not just happen. The realization of any big dream takes a combination of hard work, cultivating relationships with the right people, diligent preparation, and luck.
For some, the image of our dreams drives us to obsessive routines. Practicing for hours and hours every day, reading anything they can get their hands on, endless networking. For others, dreams remain dreams.