Have you ever stopped to consider what life is?
All living beings are the continuation of a chemical reaction that keeps fueling itself which started about 3,7 billion years ago on a planet revolving just one of the billions of stars in the universe. You and me are no different. The fact that part of us consists of the most complex structure in the known universe, the human brain, and are able to be conscious of our existence doesn’t change the fact of what we ultimately are. A super complex structure with thoughts and feelings, but a chemical reaction nonetheless.
It always makes me chuckle when people claim that chemicals, in general, are bad since the people who say so are a chemical reaction itself and often promoting an organic diet which consists of the results of one of the oldest chemical reactions on earth since fruit and vegetables are the result of the same chemical reaction we emerged from.
Keeping in mind that we are just a chemical reaction can help put things in perspective a bit if you ever feel overwhelmed or are tempted to take life too serious. But does this make life less valuable? Not at all. To change the perspective a bit you could consider the following as well which is equally true: We are a part of the universe that is able to observe and experience itself, which is pretty cool. If we didn’t exist no one would ever notice the universe existed at all. Our existence makes the entire universe more meaningful. Without anyone noticing it being there it would be completely pointless.
It’s good to have options and be able to choose. However, when we are presented with too much options all at once we often end up with choice paralysis leading us to not making a choice at all (which is a choice itself). Since it’s up to us to decide what we make of our lives we can face the same issue when trying to come up with an answer to the most important question in our lives. What is it I’m going to do with my life?
At least you don’t have to worry about missing out on the thing you were supposed to be doing since there is no such thing. This doesn’t make it easier. Every time we decide to do one thing it means we are not doing a million other possible things. Economist refer to these options we have to miss out on as alternative costs. These alternative costs playing in the back in our mind can be the cause of the choice paralysis many of us experience when we can’t decide what it is we really want to do with our lives.
It’s not hard to come up with dozens if not hundreds of things you could do with your life. Even if you limit yourself to goals that are realistic in a reasonable short time span, with your current skills and knowledge, it can still be a daunting task to decide what to do. And with deciding I don’t mean just saying to yourself that you want to accomplish something, but actually taking action to achieve that which you intent to do (more on this here).
The feeling of existential angst that occurs when we suddenly realize that there is no predefined reason for us to be here may very well be a manifestation of choice paralysis. Once we realize there is nothing we have to do, except dealing with the consequences of our actions, we also realize there isn’t one right answer to the question of what we are supposed to do. This takes away the possibility of finding the one “right” answer, something we are destined to do, there is no such thing. So now there isn’t just one right answer, instead there are an infinite number of answers and we have to decide which ones to go for. This can be a daunting task which explains why so many people go through life settling for a mediocre path of choices they more or less stumbled into. In the face of a limitless amount of options they froze and ended up going for the default option.
However, finding an answer to the question about our reasons to exist is important in order to live a meaningful fulfilling life. Giving up on it because it’s a difficult question is not a very appealing option. As long as we don’t decide what we want to do with our lives we are just wondering about aimlessly, waiting for the time to pass until we die. So what can we do about this?
In the end it’s about finding something that excites you and just going for it. It can help to start with setting smaller goals if you are still fuzzy about what big dreams you want to realize. The important thing is to actually take action and do something. And if you do have a big dream, do yourself a favor and give it your all.
I’m not saying it’s easy to decide what you want to do with your life, far from it, no matter how smart you are. Being smart can even work against you since it opens up even more possibilities. Nonetheless we’ll have to keep looking for an answer. It’s not about having to do anything, it’s about wanting to do certain things. It’s your life, are you going to settle for the default settings or are you making something worthwhile of it?
Even though the idea of just living day by day and just enjoying yourself sounds great it is not that easy in practice. You can’t live without regard of the future and really live the life of your dreams. To do what you want you need to be able to do so. This will require certain skills and know-how which take time and effort to acquire. We need to use our time today to develop ourselves so that tomorrow we can do what we could not do yet today.
Bigger goals take time to work towards; they aren’t achieved in a day. Plus it’s hard to do whatever you want if you are stuck at a job for 40 hours a week and out of energy by the time you get home at the end of the day.
The whole idea behind living day by day revolves around the freedom to do what you want and live a fulfilling life. It’s a nice ideal and one that can be realized. We can do what we want with our lives, but we will need to put in time, effort, and planning to do so.
It’s about the timing. You can do it, but not if you start with it. If you do so you are severely limited in the choices you can make. Yes you can live day by day as a student but you won’t be one forever. By the time you graduate you’ll need to pay your rent or mortgage. You can do so with a full time job you can tolerate as well but you only have a limited amount of money and time to play with.
In order to achieve your dreams you need to acquire the required skills and know-how. If you just go on from day to day without any thought for the future you’ll never get to a point where you are able to do what you really want to do with your life.
In order to really be free to do what we want to do with our lives we have to set our goals and overcome the challenges. The more we study and train, the more obstacles we conquer, and the stronger we get, the more freedom we gain.
Since we only have one life we should try to avoid reckless behavior; if something goes horribly wrong we will have to live with the consequences for the rest of our life. However, we should not play it too safe either. One thing crueler than a fully lived life cut short is a long dreadful one that is wasted away because the person is playing it too safe. We have to find the balance between recklessness and cowardice.
Calculated risk is the key. Yes we can jump out of airplanes and snowboard down mountains, but we should be prepared when we do so. Before we hit the big slopes we need to practice going down little hills and the first time we jump out of an airplane we jump in tandem with an experienced parachutist. There is always some risk involved but that’s just part of life. However, to go down the biggest mountain you can find the first time you ever stand on a snowboard is just plain recklessness.
A choice is not made until acted upon. It’s one thing to decide to climb a mountain but another thing to actually prepare for it and do it. The real choices you make are your actions, whether you are aware of it or not. If you decide to chase a certain goal but end up never taking the appropriate steps to achieve it or give up along the way you have chosen through your actions not to pursue the goal.
Not choosing is a choice in itself. When you don’t consciously make a choice someone or something else will. Of course you are free to decide to let others or the circumstances make the choices for you and see where it gets you. However, when you do so, it doesn’t excuse you from the responsibility over your live. If you choose to let other people and circumstances make the choices for you, you have to accept the consequences of this. You can’t blame others or the circumstances if things don’t end up like you wanted. It was your choice not to take control in the first place. In order to really be free to shape our destiny you first need to commit to making your own choices. This means accepting full responsibility for your choices, both those you made and failed to make.
You are responsible for everything you do and what happens to you simply because you have to live with the consequences. Even when something out of your control happens to you and gets in the way of your plans you are the one responsible for dealing with it. This because it is your life and the unexpected obstacle towards reaching your goals affects you. You can ask for help but you still need to take the initiative.
Life isn’t fair, yet not unfair either. Is it fair the person across the street wins the lottery but you don’t? No. Is it unfair? No, it’s just a matter of chance. The same goes for our fate. However, what we do with what we’ve been born with and the situations we are presented with is up to us.
Fate is a lottery. The universe is as it is, not as we wish. We can close our eyes to this but it won’t make the bad things just disappear. Yes shit happens, to both good and bad people. However this doesn’t mean we have to accept the world to stay the way it is. Things like the laws of nature are just what they are, but we can make a change in the world within the limits put on us by nature.
The universe wasn’t made for us. If anything it’s the other way around. We are a way for the universe to know and experience itself. The universe is a wonderful thing but largely inhospitable to life. Life did emerge and flourish on this planet but this despite rather than thanks to the way the universe is. We are just here, neither wanted nor unwanted by the universe. It’s oblivious to us, except through the eyes of other people.
Life just wants to keep on surviving; it takes on different forms that compete with each other, in this way trying to outwit fate. The way this happens does not always fit in our human concept of fair yet that’s just how it is. We could get mad and complain about how unfair life is or focus on just dealing with it in the best way we can.
Life can been seen as a game where you are thrown into existence at a random time in a random place where the only objective is to survive and to explore the world. It has both a start and an end. What you do in between is up to you.
Games (including life) are unpleasant when you suck at it. You keep trying but you just can’t seem to do what you want. If this is the case you just need to become better at it. Study and practice more. Games get boring when you get too good at them and the challenge is gone. When this happens set your goals higher.
During our lifetime we fluctuate between these states of frustration and boredom. That’s just life. We get bored so we set higher goals. These higher goals require us to push ourselves which causes frustration of not being able to do it, followed by the sense of accomplishment when we finally master the required skills. After that we get so good at it that we get bored again so we set the next goal even higher. Life is one big progression; it just keeps going until you die. There is no point of final destination. It’s about the journey; you never arrive at a true end point. If you would there would be no point in continuing to live.