Have you ever thought to yourself… “How did I get here?”.
Well, you’re not alone.
Why do we do the things we do? Why do we make the choices we make? Why, no matter how hard we try sometimes, can’t we do what’s best for ourselves?
Fortunes have been made by men who believe they know the answer to these questions. Many books have been written on the subject. They’ll try and sell you the idea of an easy fix, that if you just change one small thing your problems will magically go away.
Allow me to propose a similar and opposite premise:
All people have a sort of guiding principle, a “Life-Center Ideal” at the center of their lives. Regardless of who you are, where you’re from, what you do, you have a core set of beliefs and ideals which shape the way you live your life.
Ask yourself, what is the most important thing to me?
If you have a quick answer, that’s probably your Ideal. You can say, “God”, or, “Family”, or, “Traveling the world”. These are all common Ideals.
There’s this nugget of truth within you that defines who you believe yourself to be. It’s your mental compass directing you towards whatever you believe to be your personal true-north. The problem arises, however, when we fail to align ourselves with our central truth. We live our lives unaware of what our truth is, or we allow ourselves to distance ourselves from our truth in the pursuit of false ideals (pleasure, wealth, etc.).
When we find ourselves lost, having screwed up our lives over and over again, we ask ourselves… What happened? Allow me to answer that question for you… You lost sight of what was truly important in your life. The tricky question is, how do we refocus ourselves on our Ideal, assuming we even know what it is?
Well, the tough questions often have fairly simple answers. Sit down for an hour, clear your mind, and just think about it. Ask yourself what is the most important thing in your life. What has been your Ideal up until now, and is it the correct one? Have you been chasing a false Ideal, or has your commitment to your true Ideal simply not been strong enough? Sit down and meditate until you have an answer to this. It might take a long while. Probably, the solution to your problems will come to you. It won’t be glamorous, but you probably have an idea of what the solution is already.
Your true Ideal should be something higher than daily mundanity. It should be centered upon a deep truth, a type of universal morality that resonates with you deeply. It should be God, or helping people, or loving your family, or feeding starving children, or living in peace, or saving the environment, or observing non-violence, or traveling the world.
These are just examples. I won’t dictate to you what is and what isn’t a worthwhile Ideal. I can tell you a few common Ideals that will ruin your life, however…
The pursuit of wealth is not a wise Ideal around which to center your life. It has been proven that beyond a certain point (somewhere between sixty to eighty thousand dollars a year), your happiness will not improve no matter how much money you acquire. Yes, money can provide for you and your family, but it will never be able to purchase love, nor a sense of moral truth.
The pursuit of pleasure is likewise not helpful. Yes, in the short term a hedonic lifestyle can be quite rewarding. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll! I’m not arguing against fun. Absolutely you should try and have fun. However, if fun is the primary guiding principle of your life, then you’re headed for a disaster once your habits catch up with you.
The pursuit of recognition is another common false Ideal. We all want to be loved and acknowledged, and social media has made the pursuit of fame and recognition much more accessible to the average person. However, as many famous and well-loved celebrities have stated in interviews, fame will not make you happy. Fame is an empty feeling. Fame will never make you feel loved or respected. Love and respect come from a deep place within you, not from superficial adoration.
There are plenty more false ideals to which we succumb, but these three are perhaps the most prevalent today.
If you find yourself chasing money, or pleasure, or fame, and you recognize that it is not helpful, what is there to do?
Sadly I don’t have a firm answer here. I just have to say…
Think about it. Try and figure out what’s actually important. Try to distance yourself from the old patterns that your false Ideal created. Try to create some new behaviors that are aligned with your true beliefs. Ask a higher power for guidance, whether that means God or your mother or your baseball coach or whoever, just ask for help from someone you respect. Surround yourself with good people who make you better, and distance yourselves from people who are chasing the same false Ideal as you, lest you encourage each other’s bad habits.
If you think about it, you probably already know the solutions to your problems. You already know what the false Ideal in your life is, and you probably have a good idea of what your true Ideal might be. The trick now is to actually do something about it.
I’ll let you know how this works out for me. “Doing things” has never been my area of expertise.