Out of all the tricks and hacks one might come across when searching for a way to stay motivated, there’s one particular notion that keeps my personal pilot light of progress lit.
Regardless if whether or not I’m cranking the heat in any given moment, it’s still there, flickering within the deep recesses of this aging machinery, waiting for me to give it a little extra juice.
The idea is this: No one is coming to save you.
Or rather, no one is going to save you from yourself. Once you let it truly sink in that nothing in your life will change unless you change it, that no one else is coming to take your problems away from you, that time itself is utterly indifferent to your personal misery and the only force that will garner you any sort of autonomy in this world is the strength of your own willpower, you start to better see how singular the problem really is.
I could have said something like, “you start to better see how alone you really are,” but the word alone comes with all this baggage that some people will dismiss because they don’t feel alone in their lives. They have friends and family and mentors and are surrounded by people who will happily help them on their journey to self-fulfillment. Most people do, to some degree or another. But we’re not talking about your friends and family. We’re not talking about the help and inspiration and drive they conjure out of you. We’re just talking about you, at the reality of your singularly lived experience.
Many kinds people realize this on their own in a variety of ways. Whether it’s through the common trials of added responsibility as we grow up, the loss of loved ones who acted as our sanity anchors in this life, or simply someone who felt driven to get away from everything they knew to be familiar to start a life of their own.
At some point, sooner or later, we all reach a point where we start to feel the real weight of life on our shoulders. Perhaps not the weight of the world, but the weight of our world, to be sure. Each of us carrying around our respective perspectives, each of us desperate to share the weight with like-minded peace-seekers. And we do share it. We find others to which we can relate and cast our burdens onto them and they onto us. We take comfort in knowing that our struggles are shared by others, but it still doesn’t mean that those who understand us are at all in charge of the decisions needing to be made in our own life.
The problem with this reliance on relating our problems to others is that once we find that solace in knowing we’re not alone in our struggle, the small relief we find in unloading some of our burdens can prevent us from realizing that it’s still our responsibility to make the necessary changes to ourselves. You might feel better by venting to a friend, or melting the ear of your local bartender, or even, as I am right now, talking to yourself through the magic of digitized articulation by taking the anxious abstractions in your mind and putting them in a fancy-free yet finely-tuned order, but it doesn’t change the fact that only you can help you.
Tap it out until your fingers bleed, your shadow still starts on one side and merely ends up on the other by the end of the day, enveloping you entirely in the shroud of night. It watches your every move and hesitation. It is the god of lesser instincts, and in those dead midnight hours of quiet solitude, when it’s cast itself over the walls of the world and you can’t quite get to sleep fast enough, it will show you just how heavy your life is, and just how alone you really are.
Don’t let these realizations discourage you, though.
Every dark night of the soul gives birth to a new morning of the spirit.
The realization that no one is coming to save you from your problems isn’t so much a locked cell holding you in the prison of your life, but a personalized map of escape written on the walls of our individual solitary confinement. We each may be nothing but sponges set atop skeletal scaffolding, using desperate projection to make sense of the world, but it doesn’t negate the fact that somewhere deep within this electric synapse basket is the key to our liberation.
With a humbled awareness of oneself comes the truth about who we are, and with that truth comes the power to change our lives in whatever way we please. With the realization that no one is coming to save us from ourselves comes also a realization of our own inner strength. The capacity for real change only comes when we fully understand that 99% of the time, there isn’t going to be an outstretched hand ready to pull you onto the train of life. It’s up to us to make that jump, and we can’t continue waiting around to be helped by such a small margin of happenstance lest we want to kiss that caboose goodbye
The real lesson here, when it’s all said and done, is that you, me, and everyone we know in the same boat of hesitancy and procrastination needs to realize that nothing changes for the better without your direct influence. Sure, there are moments of luck and circumstantial fortune, but those are few and fleeting. There is no inherent power in a gift from the universe, only in our decision on what to do with it and in our action in carrying it out.
If we don’t understand the power in our autonomy, we will continue to live under the assumption that someone or something is eventually going to come along to change our lives for the better for us. As long as we’re patient, we consciously or subconsciously think, things are going to get better soon.
But why would they? What is going to start the fire that burns down your old life to make room for the new if not you striking that match? If not you looking for a match in the first place? If not you realizing that there is way too much emotional and existential baggage preventing you from making a clean getaway from your past habits and that it all needs to GO.
It’s up to you to make that choice, to see the obstacles in the way of your growth and either continue to grow in spite of them, or remove them from your life entirely.
No one is going to do this for you, and although the reality of this can at times seem bleak, or hopeless, or futile, these are all simply branches stemming from the tree of fear. Our attention to that tree is what waters it and keeps it menacing the garden of our lives. Our attention must be paid instead to its opposing forces— Love, Hope, and Courage. Our efforts must go into the nurturing and development of this trinity of better instincts, our healthier habits, our brighter characters. When we do this, the power of our true autonomy blossoms into a source of clarity and direction, it turns our hesitance into courage and our existential anxiety into a calm and clear patience.
All good things will come in time, and when we allow ourselves to be fully in control with how we spend that time, not waiting around for some unknown force to fix us, we can be sure of it.
No one is coming to save you from your problems. And once you truly realize the power behind that sentiment, you also realize the power within yourself to make the positive changes necessary to live the life you actually want to live.
Image from Pickpik.com