Are You Done? How To Find the Winner In You

Keep growing

I have a friend who is in an unhealthy relationship and unhappy. She is frustrated with her situation and when she confides in me I don’t mind listening. The simple act of talking often helps people and I hope that’s the case with her.

The problem is that in the 6 months I’ve known her I suspect nothing I’ve said has brought her closer to actually changing her life. I get the feeling that as she verbally purges her frustration to some degree with a friend, which in itself seems healthy, she’s also relieved of a valuable means to pull herself out of her situation.

Frustration can be a tool if you use it to fuel your resolve; letting it dissipate without changing your situation implies further suffering.

I’m not sure if we’re close enough that she’d be comfortable with me telling her what I really think, but if I could, here’s what I’d ask:

Are you done? Is it no longer your policy to aggressively develop yourself, and your life? Have you given up at your relatively young age?

Maybe you’re unhappy with your job, you’re overweight, you’re drinking too much, you can’t leave your boyfriend.

So is that it? Are you done? Whether you’d like to change yourself or your life, asking this question is a trigger toward new iterations of you, the first step of a thousand possibilities.

It’s a weapon for provoking action, a reminder that a way to attack chronic problems is by again embracing the sort of personal transformation for which you no longer tend to find time.

We do amazing things in the first couple decades of our lives, then too often become less interested in broadening our capacities. It’s always seemed ironic to me that by the time we’ve developed the capacity to go a step further and do truly incredible things— start a business, get a PhD, write a book—right then, for whatever reason, many of us get conservative with our life directions and stop pushing.

Look, there is a place for acceptance in our lives. It’s a capacity we all have to live as well as possible in the face of forces which are sometimes larger than our will.

But don’t use acceptance as a way to turn your back on your own higher-quality agenda. Don’t accept the status quo as a way to celebrate your own tendency toward laziness.

The question as to what you can and cannot change is profound and wide open, but approaching reality as more malleable than you’ve led yourself to believe is a worthy policy.

So what specifically would I suggest?

Every time you’re frustrated over something you want to change, ask yourself if you’ve stopped fighting. Are you done? Unless you answer ‘no’, the answer is yes…

…until you give yourself another chance by asking again, or surrender for good.

Say ’NO’ sooner. Not done.

Educate yourself. Talk to people who have made the change you want to make. Spend more time with these people, online or offline.

Wake up earlier to give yourself time to step toward the change in a concrete way.

Find replacement activities for the bad habits into which you’ve fallen.

Find replacement friends who do not enable the bad habits into which you’ve fallen. Yes I’m serious. Will your life be a monument to the misguided support of those friends?
Systematically create new, better habits via repetition.

No matter what you want to fix, the means exist, but they are useless unless you decide to use the self-reliance and strength you have, which might be lying dormant through disuse.

That decision, that conviction, can be a flag around which you rally against the forces of inertia and distraction in your life.

Ask yourself from time to time: Am I done?

Am I finished growing or improving myself, learning a new skill or further developing one I already possess? Have I finished working on making my life into what my best self would want it to be?

Am I done?

It is a small mantra which can give us the means to change any detail with which we are dissatisfied in our lives.

It might be the spark that changes everything.

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(Image Credit: l.ili.an )

4 comments… add one
  • John Richardson

    This is great stuff Tom.

    My biggest fear and hurdle in quitting my job (well actually it is a contract role which will end early next year) and pursuing a life abroad, is coming clean with my wife and convincing her that it is a wonderful idea. We live in Australia and living here is so expensive. I see a better life out there – at least to try for it; Australia isn’t going anywhere right?

    Thanks.

    John

  • Tom Mullaly

    Hi John and thanks for reaching out.

    Australia’s *probably* not going anywhere as you say, but the years are.

    Well it doesn’t necessarily follow that you must see the world.

    My thinking on it is simple: I feel so lucky to be living in a time when I–as a regular guy–can explore almost anywhere I’d like to go, meet people and have conversations that change my life, use the internet to support myself, and knowing that I have limited time to exercise freedom and good fortune like this, and looking at the alternatives….. buying stuff I don’t care about? Paying for a stability that leaves me dulled and bored?

    I can’t shrug in the face of how lucky I’ve been. I will wage freedom.

    I owe it somehow to people who in the past would have been astounded by what has fallen into our laps today, and to people today who I might be able to help as well, in some way.

    Maybe imploring others to make a stand–pick your purpose!–is part of my own purpose, my response to being so lucky and knowing it.

    Look travel is only one way to exercise this freedom of course, though it sounds like that’s the metaphor that’s tempting you. People who start businesses or families for that matter are probably pushing different envelopes in the same spirit. Affecting their trajectory rather than humbly, or uncaringly accepting a plan handed to them…

    The bigger question for any of these growth opportunities is: to jump or not to jump?

    Does it comes down to whether we’re more afraid of what we might find, or more afraid of the prospect of not ever finding where these activities might lead us, i.e.hopefully a bigger, better life, at all?

    Not being able to ‘get back’. Also a legit fear. But get back to what exactly? And remain tethered at what cost? Because not ‘going’–whatever direction tempts you–has an opportunity cost, of course.

    For your wife it may not be fear at all; it might be a lack of interest. Many very worthy people are rather satisfied with their lives, or not unsatisfied enough to risk some arbitrary disruption in favor of a nebulous ‘More’, as you might put it if you’re pretentious like me : ).

    But in that case we’re embracing the benefits of the Known over the benefits of what we haven’t yet encountered, without giving all we don’t yet know enough credit, maybe. The world surprises us though, doesn’t it? It still surprises me. And it never really lets me down, not really, not irreparably. Not if I’m paying attention and applying myself, at something.

    It seems like a shame if making our stand means tying ourselves to the mast of the familiar as though we’re very sure that circumstances into which we’re born are automatically the best use of our time. I think that’s having too much faith in a direction based on insufficient info as to alternatives.

    Will you bet your life on that? Or will you dare to explore ‘alternatives’ tempting you?

    Some people advocate making the best of the job, the relationship, the physical surroundings in which you find yourself, and I understand the idea. Also as they say, wherever you go, there you are.

    Still, that seems like optimizing what your life happens to be too soon, before you’ve adequately explored wholesale rearrangement into what it might become. Yes, the latter involves a degree of letting go, of ‘trusting the world’.

    But I’ve gained too much from creative disruption to want to stop riding it.

    (I’m belaboring these questions because in trying to cultivate my options they’ve remained alive to me. So thanks for reading by the way.

    These questions are no doubt navel gazing to some, but maybe relevant to people in a position to exercise freedom on some level. And there are probably no definitive answers, and always still more questions. But that’s OK. It’s the stuff of freedom.)

  • I just love your commitment to your readers through all of your responses to their comments.
    Sincerely
    Adrian

  • Tom Mullaly

    Why thank you Adrian. Your comment to my response to someone else’s comment on an article is really the stuff of life, isn’t it?

    Hey stellar photography at Planetbudge.com Adrian! Very nice work.—-Tom

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