No one ever plans to end up in an unsatisfying position in life, and yet, too many people find themselves living what Henry David Thoreau described as “lives of quiet desperation.”
It can be very easy to feel that you have swum out beyond your depth, and that you just have no idea of which direction to turn in, in order to set yourself back on the right path – the path that leads towards a fulfilling life, and the fulfilment of your dreams.
Though the going gets tough from time to time, you must never give in to that “quiet desperation.” Because the truth is, there are always ways to improve your situation, and to get back on track with living the life that you always wanted to live.
There are many reasons why you might find yourself in a chaotic and dissatisfying state in life. Maybe you ended up in a dead-end job after completing your education, as a means to pay the bills, and ended up sticking around longer than you thought you would.
Maybe you have had personal tragedies hanging over your head, and maybe you simply find yourself too confused by the constant noise that pervades modern society, and have no idea how to go about actually pursuing the things you want, in an effective manner.
Often, in these situations, one of the most important things is just to develop forward momentum. You don’t need to do everything perfectly, but you do need to start moving again.
Here are some suggestions of where you might start.
Implement an effective budgeting methodology, and start becoming mindful of your finances in a very focused way
“Money makes the world go around”, they say, and like it or not, there’s a pretty substantial grain of truth to that.
Good money management is at the core of the skill set of all virtually successful people – at least, those who have “staying power.” Shrewd entrepreneurs, who have amassed and kept enormous fortunes for decades, are almost always masters of this art. Film and sports stars, on the other hand, may make immense amounts of money in their careers, but often end up becoming bankrupt due to their unfocused and lavish lifestyles.
If you feel like your life is in freefall, there’s a good chance that financial concerns play a significant part in that. And, even if they don’t, you will be in a much better position to move things in the direction of your choice, if you have a tight handle on your finances.
The first thing to do here, is to start becoming very mindful of your financial life, and to adopt an effective budgeting system, that has proven effective for significant numbers of other people – ideally, other people who have found themselves in similar situations to you.
One of the most popular budgeting services available today is You Need A Budget, a system which operates on “envelope” and “zero-based” budgeting principles.
This service exists as an online, cloud-based tool, and similar systems exist in parallel to it – such as, for example, Budgeting With Buckets.
Audit your financial life, and consider the things you could do in order to start moving your situation in a better direction.
A first order of business might be to use a service such as CardGuru in order to identify a credit card that is right for you – this can be a very valuable way of handling certain financial obligations, although you should absolutely never “live on credit” in the long term, or get yourself into debt that you can’t handle.
First and foremost, however, go and read about what other people have said, with regards to various budgeting systems. Look up YNAB, and similar services. Watch related videos on YouTube. Try some things out, find a system that seems to work for you, and stick with it diligently. It may well be a lifeline.
Start waking up earlier
It’s interesting that in cultures all around the world, and throughout history, there are sayings and aphorisms along the lines of “early to bed and early to rise makes a man happy, healthy, wealthy and wise.”
there is something about waking up early that just correlates with success, and the ability to make things happen, in a way that spending those same hours staying up later at night does not.
In fact, when researchers have compared the lives and health outcomes of “night owls” (those who like to stay up late), and “morning larks” (those who like to wake up early), it’s the early risers who are happier, healthier, and more successful. Just like some of the old sayings suggested.
There are various reasons why this might be the case, but here’s an idea: when you stay up late at night, you are basically all by yourself, while the whole world sleeps. Shortly, you yourself will need to go to sleep. You are likely to be tired from a long day, and you probably do what most people do with their evening hours – you spend them entertaining yourself, rather than doing very productive things.
When you wake up early in the morning, on the other hand, you’re ahead of the crowd. Everyone else will soon get up to start their day as well, but you’ve won yourself a few undisturbed and productive moments to spend working, planning, or bettering yourself in some other way, while everyone else has yet to get started on the day.
Waking up early helps you to build momentum – the kind of momentum that can carry you through your day on a high, as you know that you have achieved more in those first few hours than many people will achieve by afternoon.
If you want to start imposing structure in your life, a great place to start is by beginning to wake up earlier. And don’t be erratic about it, either. Try and wake up at the same time every day – this will help to get you into a routine, make your days more “predictable” (in a good way), and keep you focused.
Of course, you want to really capitalise on those morning hours. Do things that will somehow make you better. Don’t just spend your newfound time watching TV.
De-clutter your digital, and your physical space
The author, and academic, Cal Newport, has written a series of books which have taken the world of self-improvement and personal productivity by storm. These include; “Deep Work,” and “Digital Minimalism” among others.
One of the main insights that Newport has had, is that as the world moves increasingly in the direction of automation, thanks to advances in robotics and software technologies, the market – and the world at large – increasingly values and rewards “deep work.”
This “deep work” is the kind of focused single-minded attention that allows you to learn complex skills quickly, and allows you to breeze through difficult tasks in record time.
The thing is, we are now more surrounded by distractions than we have ever been before in human history, and a lot of evidence suggests that even just checking your phone, or email, in the middle of your working day, can throw your productivity and focus off for at least half an hour. And that’s if you only spend a few seconds checking those things.
To begin setting your life on the right track, you really need to identify one or two things worth focusing on, and then give them as much of your attention as you possibly can. What that means, is that you should diligently reduce distractions wherever you can find them, and should de-clutter both your digital, and physical environment.
The tidier things are around you, and the fewer distractions there are, the more capable you will be of doing that “deep work” that leads to success.