“Can’t I just live a regular life?”
My sixteen-year-old is actually onto to something with that question. Her goal, she claims, is not going to be to “do great things” but rather to find fullness in an ordinary life.
She continues with an assertion, “It’s actually not that simple, you know. I think it’s amazing when someone just lives a good, regular life.”
Interestingly, authors such as Matthew B. Crawford are on the same page about this: there’s a problem with our thinking about The Self (he blames the Englightment) that sets us up for a lot of weariness, emptiness, even depression. Says Crawford, “Our weariness is understandable. With radical responsibility comes a new emphasis on personal initiative, and a corollary ‘culture of performance’ in which you have to constantly marshal your internal resources to be successful.” (p. 162, The World Beyond Your Head)
Do you feel it, too? The weariness of that constant marshaling?
Maybe not, if you are one of the high achievers who can really perform. But, frankly, I am a high achiever, and I myself tire of the “culture of performance” and its comparisons. For instance, my least favorite part of my Forbes reading, which I do to keep myself thinking about business from various perspectives, is the “LeaderBoard” section, where we get to compare who’s richer than who else, who’s smarter, who’s achieved more earlier or later or some other impressive permutation.
Recently, right before the “regular life” question that was raised to me, I’d already been thinking how much I simply want a regular life, without the pressure of the LeaderBoard. Tea on the back porch in the morning, picking fresh rosemary when I need it in the evening, writing useful things for you in the afternoon. Yes, give me bread and butter and a table with a few friends, and I think I may have reached paradise without striving to get there.
Crawford goes on to explain that our modern focus on self actualization thrusts us into constant evaluations of how capable we are, “where capacity is measured in something like kilowatt hours—the raw capacity to make things happen.” It puts us in an unending cycle of “having to become one’s fullest self.” Or, if you are in the Forbes crowd, it means you really must make it to the “LeaderBoard.”
Certainly as a life coach, I am interested in the idea of helping you become and be. But not at the cost of your life and your freedom.
To this, I urge you to take hold of your regular life and leave off with comparisons. Here are three things you might try:
1. Give yourself at least two days a week off social media and news sites, where even the best intentioned participants and writers can start to make you feel like your life just isn’t…good enough, beautiful enough, adventurous enough, clever enough, financially-set enough, etc., etc., etc.
What to do instead? Pass the time with others, sit outside (Nature is healing, without even asking you to do something to make it happen), or maybe even take a nap.
2. Choose a simple pleasure you return to daily or weekly, which doesn’t need constant redefinition. This is where ritual can be so important to a life. (I’m all in, of course, for afternoon tea.)
3. Write out what you love about yourself—just as you are right now. (I love my voice and my affinity for Nature.) Sure, you can dream of doing other things, of being other ways. But self love instead of constant self reappraisal and competition is much less tiring and gives you hope. And, really, what more does a life need than the simplicity of refreshment and hope.