Every day, millions of people across the globe are being bombarded by the following message: Turn your life around and reach new heights. It’s not always particularly phrased in that way, but you get the idea. People become inspired, proceed to write a long list of (sometimes unattainable) goals and go to bed feeling accomplished. If only it were that easy.
During the earlier years of an individual’s development (in my case, my early teenage years), making plans/setting goals was something that seemed to be a big step forward. Every time I was displeased about something, I would sit down and write a long, descriptive plan about how I was going to change it. This “hobby” of writing plans would leave me satisfied for a while, until I would encounter my first failure and decide that my plan was unattainable. The feeling of misery would follow soon after, as I mourned my lack of willpower and inability to hand in my French homework on time/refrain from eating extra chocolate. This stage was usually followed by another burst of motivation, causing me to write an even more descriptive, even more colourful plan, allowing history to repeat itself.
I’m not saying that I never followed through – I did, but not to the extent that I planned to. When you plan, you have no boundaries, no rules and firmly believe that everything is possible. Just because mixing canned tuna with vanilla ice-cream is possible doesn’t guarantee that the final result will be a tasty dish.
As I grew older (and by older, I mean turning eighteen), I came to the realization that society has made self-coercion a norm, and it’s actually pretty frightening. Achieve perfect grades, get into the best university, have the perfect body, be popular, maintain an immaculate diet etc. What people fail to understand is that, biologically, they are not designed to sit up late at night, reading endless notes in order to get an A on that test. They are not designed to push their brains to the limit, overdosing on coffee just so they could finish that math practice paper for a university entrance exam. They are not designed to starve themselves in order to look like Victoria’s Secret Models or have the most desirable personality or even remain in perfect health (which is even harder to do, now that we live in a world full of chemicals). Human beings are designed to LIVE, not to wear themselves out, constantly plan for the future and miss out on today. So, there are two options: one can either come to terms that not everything will always go according to plan, or they may continue to try to push themselves to the limit, and miss out on the process of actually living. This is why people that live for themselves, and not society’s standards, deserve the most respect.
Now let us go back to my personal example. Please don’t assume that my past was filled with misery because I didn’t achieve anything. In general, I can say that I’m rather happy with myself and what I’ve managed to do in these eighteen years. It’s just that, as you grow older, you begin to understand that motivation is so much more than just listening to an Eminem song and deciding that you’re going to change the world. It takes a lot of hard work and effort to turn these bullet points into reality. You can keep planning to change your life every day, or you can actually go out there and do it gradually without setting a colourful list of unattainable goals.
Now, I’m not a pessimist, and those people that go out there to achieve great things deserve a lot of respect. I’m just saying that writing down a list of what you want to accomplish isn’t a big step forward, but only a small movement of a muscle. Moreover, just because someone is successful does not imply that they woke up one day, decided to change their lives and never looked back. This scenario may have happened, but it may have not. Tripping up is in human nature, and people must learn to stop blaming themselves for every action that doesn’t correspond to their big life plan. In fact, a better understanding and even acceptance of the fact that things are likely to go wrong will lead you one step forward to achieving what you want. Sometimes, it’s better to observe gradual, but stable change rather than throwing yourself between the two extremes of doing everything and doing nothing. So please, don’t forget that you are human, and stop torturing yourself with your perfectionism.