Life is not all happy, all good for all the people all the time. On the contrary, I would argue that life is suffering, unpleasant, struggle for a large number of people for large periods of time. Every person will face such situations one way or the other. In fact, such situations separate extra-ordinary individuals from the ordinary. Some people face and overcome such sufferings while a major lot struggles on both practical and psychological aspects. It is highly probable that sufferings, struggle are inevitable if one wants to climb the dominance hierarchy in a particular field. For example, if a person wants to get out of poverty, he has to work hard, endure sufferings and struggles for a good period of time.
“Don’t pray for an easy life. Pray for strength to endure a difficult one.” Bruce Lee
When sufferings are inevitable, it’s a good idea to look at questions such as “what can be done?” or “how to respond?” in the event of such tough situations. Of course, I am talking about a subject which is very “individualistic” as in, it depends on the individual and varies significantly from person to person even though the two persons might be facing the same challenges. However, a rough framework can be drawn upon which one can diagnose and act accordingly to improve the situation bits by bits. This post is an attempt for such a small, rough framework. The framework is divided into three parts: diagnosis, action, follow-up.
“You haven’t felt happy about yourself, your situation for a long time. You’re having doubts over yourself. You’re lacking confidence. You’re in a loop where you try to fight this situation for a while but end up procrastinating and watching the same movies, youtube videos, tv series over and over again. Days go past by with you hardly doing anything productive.”
If this sounds familiar, the first thing to do is to tell yourself that there is a problem (or multiple problems). Accepting the existence of the problem is the start of the diagnosis. Without this acceptance, you won’t get out of the situation by yourself. Yes, maybe your family, loved ones or another situation might pull you out but it’s not a good idea to leave such important issues for others, situation and luck to fix for you.
So then, you have accepted that there is a problem. Now what? One of the difficult things to do in such situations is to pinpoint the cause of the problem. It can be chemical in which case a prescription by a doctor will solve your problem. It can be because of a new undesirable situation in your workplace. Or it can be because your relationship is imaginary (non-existent).
In most of the cases, when you haven’t felt happy and good about yourself for a long time, it’s a combination of factors that aren’t going well for you. These are family, job/work, health, wealth, relationship (life partner/love life), friends, the environment. In all likelihood, you aren’t doing well in three or more of these seven important aspects of your life. Obviously, these categories can be subdivided or grouped into fewer categories but for the sake of this framework, let’s go with these seven categories.
You have to realize that these categories are the very important pillars of your life. Some categories such as family, relationship, job might be more important for some, but one cannot escape from the consequence of being poor in any of these categories. And when you aren’t doing well in 3 or more categories, as I said before, you face a grave problem.
What’s the next step in the diagnosis? The next step is to identify in which categories, you’re underperforming or suffering the most. You can rate yourself 0-5 on each category. And then you can state the problem in each category in a few sentences. This is a representative table for such a self-rating system.
This person isn’t doing well in the job, relationship, environment categories. Also, family, the health situation is worrying too. That’s 3 poor performing categories and 2 below average categories. The good thing about such a table is it gives you a holistic overview of your problem. You might have thought that you’re not feeling well because of your meaningless job. But such a table will make you aware that there are some other contributing aspects as well. This is your short diagnosis. You have identified problems and their severity across multiple categories. Now, to improve your category ratings, you will have to work out the details of the problems which we will discuss now.
First of all, you have to fix a rough, flexible time period. Say, you want to make significant improvements within a year. Then, you have to ask, is it possible to act and achieve results counting failures in between within a year? If it is highly unlikely, then you should increase the time-period. Things won’t and can’t get better instantaneously. It will be a gradual process across the categories. Things can even get worse in some categories in the process of achieving a solution for problems in another. For example, you suddenly became fed up with your job and started a start-up. A year down the road, your start-up failed and you lost a large portion of your bank balance. Some solutions are indeed very risky. That’s why you should start with the ones which are less risky. Things aren’t going well in a category. To make things better, you take drastic measures but it made the situation even worse. Change isn’t always pleasant. So, how should one go about improving his/her situation? Work out the details across all categories. That’s your best bet. Let’s work out the rough action plan for this person say “X” from the previous section. This is his situation across different categories.
Before working out the details for each category, a good start is to ask the person “X” to write a future situation where things are better. “Things aren’t so well for you Mr X. What would make your situation better? How do you imagine a situation where things are going well and you feel good and confident about yourself?” Mr X’s response imagining such a pleasant situation,
“I have a meaningful job. I have a clear perspective of what I am doing, why I am doing, how I am doing. People in the office are nice and job hours are fixed. My mom is happy and has recovered from her illness. I have accumulated enough money to upgrade my Maruti to BMW. I have an understanding and a lovely partner. I don’t have to commute for 1 hr just to get to my workplace.”
This is Mr X’s view of a good life. Notice that he didn’t put much emphasis on his health and the environment. That’s because those things are low on his conscious priority. Now to make things better for Mr X, a good start is to look for new jobs. Jobs which he finds meaningful. Jobs which are in a better location. Such an ideal job can fix his two categories. However, it is not easy to find such jobs, especially in good locations. There might be scenarios where Mr X might have to take lesser salaries for better locations and meaningful job. Is X willing to make that sacrifice? Sometimes, you have to give up a bit in one category to make improvements in other categories. Life is a balance between priorities and compromises across categories.
One of the biggest concern of Mr X is his non-existent relationship. This topic alone calls for a dedicated, elaborated post (which I will probably attempt in the near future). Some obvious reasons for failing in getting into relationships are: very few attempts, living in men dominated environment, doing something wrong. You are very shy, introverted and rarely speaks to women. Obviously, you’re getting lesser noticed, you’re making very few attempts compared to others. Impressing a girl is like a competition. This competition is millions of years old (evolutionarily speaking) and happens across all kinds of species on the planet. The lesser you attempt, the less likely you’ll succeed. There is, however, a catch. Unlike a competitive exam which will not care much whether it was your 1st attempt or 4th attempt, women are very smart. They know exactly how many attempts you have made including verbal and nonverbal. You can’t impress a woman just by being reluctant.
You have to improve yourself and present yourself as a better partner in order to increase your chances of getting into a relationship.
If you’re constantly getting rejected by women, especially considering the fact that you’re a successful, decent earning men; in all likelihood, you lack communication and presentation skills. If you’re constantly getting rejected by women, don’t blame women, society or even just your looks. Don’t unnecessarily glorify being single while deep down inside, every night all you wish for is to have a meaningful relationship. Rejections by women are an indication. Women are evolved over millions of years to find responsible, competent, genetically and physically fit individuals to be more attractive. There can’t be better motivators than that. Despite the limitations of your genetics, you can at least aim for achieving the best version of yourself (physical and psychological). Are you close to your best version?
How about improving the family situation? You wish to improve the health and well-being of your mother. In the least, you can make sure she gets rest and her lifestyle, food practices are healthy. Your time can be her best medicine. Again work out the details of how her illness can be cured. Search for better doctors, educate yourself, etc.
Similarly, for any category, you have to work out the details of your problems. Then, you can make the necessary changes in your lifestyle, approach, and even your life goals. Few lifestyle changes that actually work are:
- Having a routine: Your body has a circadian rhythm which means your productivity is best when you have a routine. Discipline brings order which is not a bad start and will significantly improve your state of mind.
- Physical activity: At any moment, doesn’t matter what the situation, if you improve your health and fitness, it brings about significant positive personality changes and also enhances your attractiveness, physique and body language.
- Having a specific aim: Aim gives meaning. Doing things aimlessly is highly unproductive and unsatisfying.
- Controlling your social media activity: Give it a try. Get off the social media for 7 days. Experience the difference.
Diagnosis means nothing without action. You know what’s your problem, you have figured out the details across categories, you know how to act and aim for a better situation. All you need is consistency in your actions which is easier said than done. One thing that helps in maintaining consistency in your actions is to reward yourself on a daily basis for achieving your daily targets. It can be anything you like (music, dance, tv series, cookie). Your mind is like a child. It seeks instant gratification (Facebook, Instagram, pornography). Negotiate with it. Don’t be a tyrant to yourself. It will be unsustainable. Various paths work for various individuals in negotiating with their minds. However, you can never get a full control of your mind. It’s almost next to impossible unless you have achieved a high level of spiritualness, mind control and non-attachment with the material world (another topic for a dedicated, detailed post).
Important Note: If you’re still having troubles figuring out the diagnosis, action plan and following your action plan, if things don’t improve even after a good amount of time and you feel dejected, depressed, sad all the time; it’s actually a good idea to visit a clinical psychologist. We run for doctors even for a simple viral fever and cold. Psychological issues are very complicated. Psychiatrists know what they are doing. Don’t shy away just because of the social stigma. Society won’t fix your situation.
Here, by follow-up, I don’t mean follow-up after you have improved your situation or achieved your utopic vision (which in all probability might never happen). I mean, a follow-up to your actions after you have been practising them regularly. See, the thing is there is no concrete solution to psychological and life problems. There are guided action plans which might work. As soon as you start working on a certain set of actions, you’ll learn for yourself that improvements can be made in those action plans. However, a caution should be taken here in such an analysis. Your mind will always try to tell you that you can achieve better situations even by going a little easier on yourself. You should be absolutely careful about breaking (easing) your routine. Even if your action plans are working at let’s say 40% efficiency, give it time. Make changes which you can clearly see will improve your productivity. Don’t assume “being liberal in routine and doing whatever the heck I like any time of the day, I will change the world.” That’s downright ignorance and delusional. Fix yourself, fix your room, improve your relationships with your parents, partner, friends, take responsibility, fix and achieve targets on an individual level, improve your knowledge, get into the details of the subjects you’re talking about, boost your credibility. Then only talk about changing the world. People will believe you. And above all, you’ll believe yourself.
Featured image credits: Science Source.