Every once in a while, I run into someone who has a dream job that’s both fulfilling and financially rewarding, a whole host of adoring friends, a loving family with a committed relationship, maybe some honor roll kids. These folks sleep the right amount for them, and eat healthful foods, and they jog 10 miles a week. They’re not overly concerned with their physical appearance, but they appear to be effortlessly in style all of the time. They balance it all serenely, and everyone loves them.
Just kidding. I’ve never met anyone like that.
But I have unconsciously compared myself to this mythical person and become pretty bent out of shape when I didn’t measure up. As a matter of fact, I spent my young adulthood doing a lot to try and measure up to vaguely held beliefs and shifting models of the person I thought I should be. Except I didn’t really think too carefully about any of it, so I could never quite feel OK. By my late 20s, I realized I was more or less rudderless and adrift.
I wish I could say that I immediately figured it all out and lived happily ever after! I didn’t. I struggled and experimented and ended up frustrated and depressed before sorting things out. And I realized that part of sorting things out is accepting how very unsorted almost everything will always be. But sorting and unsortedness is a story for another day. Today I want to talk about my point. And your point. The whole idea of having a point.
Is that helpful?
As I’ve mentioned before, our brains are on constant alert, feeding us thoughts and images in an effort to keep us safe and alive. Our job is to become aware enough to notice these thoughts and images, and then make a decision about whether they’re true, whether we should act on them, and most importantly whether they’re helpful.
The thing is, we can’t decide whether a thought is helpful until we know what we were trying to do in the first place. A thought could be helpful for one goal and a hinderance for another.
Let me give you an example. I am not very good at keeping in touch with friends and family in other cities. In order to do this, I have to call them regularly. Let’s just say that my brain tells me that if I get on the phone I’ll just NEVER get other things done in my life. Is that a helpful thought? Well that depends, doesn’t it? It depends on whether I actually want to keep in touch with friends and family members in other cities, or if doing other things is of higher priority to me.
Getting to your point
The reality is that most of us actually do not have a clear picture in our minds about what is most important to us, and many of us have not done the work to prioritize what we truly hold dear. Instead, we just drift this way and that way, feeling vaguely uncomfortable, or sometimes very dissatisfied, as our brains tell us one thing or another is IMPERATIVE in order to make sure we don’t get rejected from the tribe due to our unruly behavior.
So let’s go back to my example about calling distant friends and family. Generally speaking, there is some level of societal pressure to be a good friend, daughter, niece, etc. and make those calls. So I probably have that rattling vaguely about my consciousness. However, let’s say that I actually did sit down and figure out my core values and prioritize them. Perhaps what I found when I did that is that although it might be somewhat important for me to maintain those distant relationships, some of the other things in my life take precedence over that. There are only so many slots at the top of one’s priority list, and for me, other things are more important. Or maybe I found just the opposite – that although my brain is urging me away from the telephone, those thoughts are actually not helpful because it’s very important to me to keep up with those relationships.
Whatever the case is for you, if you don’t sit down and explicitly define what’s important to you, your brain will helpfully supply answers that you don’t necessarily agree with. Before you know it, you’ll have built your entire life, tiny decision after tiny decision, on a set of things that you don’t care very much about or that you have ambiguous feelings about.
If you feel like you figure it all out on your own, more power to you. Go go go! If you’d like a hand, I’m here to help!