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.
(Image Credit: l.ili.an )