Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way first.
- I don’t have it all figured out
- Nobody does
It’s Sunday evening, and you’ve started to get that sinking feeling. You think about the laundry you didn’t do. The closet you couldn’t clean. Little things. Then a while later, you realize for the hundredth time that you still haven’t updated your resume. You have yet again delayed the plans to meet a friend, who is left scraping pieces of his ego after trying so hard to meet you.
And then out of nowhere, your entire life seems in disarray. The things you haven’t done, and the people you disappointed, including yourself, merge into a nasty cocktail of hard-hitting epiphanies. It feels like you’re stuck in a loop, and just wanting to come out of it seems to make no difference at all.
The longer you drink this cocktail, the more overwhelming life becomes.
We have a tendency to group similar things together in our head. It doesn’t matter whether the patterns actually exist, we still find ways to group things together. It’s an obsession.
There’s this scene in Man of Steel, where Superman is still in school, and is suddenly aware of sounds far away, and thoughts of people around him. He panics, and locks himself in a broom cupboard. The school calls his mother when he doesn’t open the door.
S: “The world’s too big, mom.”
Mom: “Then make it small. Focus on my voice. Pretend it’s an island out in the ocean. Can you see it?”
Mom: “Then swim towards it honey.”
It is perhaps odd to think, even Superman, a fictional character who can pretty much do anything, is overwhelmed. It is evidence of the fact that these thoughts haunt even the best of us.
The logic his mom uses is sound. It is something I have used as well in the last few months.
- Accept the fact that there are many things to be done, and there always will be, for everyone. But they cannot be done overnight. So sweating about it is pointless.
- Everything starts with a small step. The greatest achievements in the world probably started with someone getting out of bed, and brushing their teeth. Edison didn’t just weld some parts together sitting in his blanket on a lazy evening.
- Practice breaking down tasks into small steps. If some of them are repeatable that’s even better. As you probably inferred from the previous point, all accomplishments are not one giant leap, but a number of small, doable baby steps.
- Pick any one of your pending items. It could be even folding your washed clothes. Just do it. Don’t get into the mindset of calling these things ‘chores’. Words are powerful, and carry connotations. The word chores, at least for me, carries a negative tone. It dampens my experience. Just look at it as something that needs to be done. Even in the dark background of your messy life, something seemingly insignificant such as folding clothes suddenly feels good.
- Even when you feel so powerless, there are some choices in your day that you alone control. Take food for example. Life can suck, but you can choose what you eat. You already know what’s right for you. I will not suggest any of the modern trendy diet plans here, that’s up to you. Eating right can be as simple as not eating wrong. Another example is of when you sleep and wake up. You don’t need to be particularly wise or enlightened to make these simple choices correctly.
And that really is the point here. Avoid wondering about unanswerable questions like whether your degree was a mistake, or whether you chose the wrong career, or if you’ll be remembered at all for what you achieved. Anyone can lose their mind traversing these wild landscapes.
I like to think of my day as a series of such small choices. Make enough small right choices, and enjoy the tiniest of accomplishments, because they are the building blocks of every big picture.