How to Have a Life While Trying to Build One

Scott Leonardi

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During this venture into the world of self-actualization and personal improvement, a lot of us can find ourselves feeling so caught up in keeping the train moving that we forget to slow down and enjoy the scenery we’re blazing past.

We forget to have a life while trying to build a life.

Growth is great. Progress? Fantastic. But what’s it all really for if you’re unable to step back from yourself and appreciate where you are and how far you’ve come?

It’s a wonderful thing to renovate the House of Self, but if you get too distracted building new sections and caught up focusing solely on home improvement, you’re going to turn around one day and find yourself lost in a labyrinth on your own design.

It seems like an easy enough thing to do to take some time during your day to enjoy yourself. There’s plenty of articles already written about appreciating the present moment, but if you’re anything like me, time to relax can inadvertently feel like time wasted.

Once you get yourself used to making progress, used to seeing more notifications from people interacting with your work, and used to keeping yourself in the head-space you need to be in in order to keep it all moving smoothly, slowing down can feel like a failure or like you’re letting yourself down. It feels like you’re shunning your potential or turning your back on your best self in order to, what, have a nice day? Are you crazy? I’ve got a life to build! There’s no time to be useless!

It’s a weird and uncomfortable feeling, to be sure. What I’ve learned to do is to set a handful of goals for the day and get them done as early on as possible. I don’t like things lingering over my head making me feel guilty for neglecting them, so I try to check whatever empty boxes I have as soon as can. That way, I have the rest of my time to do whatever I want completely guilt-free. I can go to the park without feeling like I should have a notebook on hand. I can meet up with friends instead of saying I have work to do. I can have a life while still building one.

We shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves just because all of our wildest fantasies have yet to come to fruition. If you’re walking in the right direction, the confidence it takes to continue taking those steps is the same confidence that allows you to smell those same roses you were so adamant about walking past because you know the path you’re on isn’t going to suddenly tangle itself into an untraversable mess just because you’re eyeballs weren’t glued to it.

The path isn’t going anywhere, and if your intentions are clear and your actions honest, neither are you.

The problem with focusing too hard on continual progress is that our day-to-day living is no longer calmly and comfortably enjoyed, but optimized and hard-wired to keep the train of self-discovery on the tracks.

It feels great to watch yourself get better in different ways. Growing emotionally, intellectually, and honing your skills in your chosen art or career are all such confidence boosters that sometimes it’s hard to see anything outside the walls of the creative cocoon you’re building around yourself. And if there’s anything to remember about cocoon-construction it’s this: Don't let your cocoon become your coffin.

Remember, if you’re living in alignment with yourself overall, it won’t matter how much progress you’re making or how many goals you’re achieving because you’ll feel content and able to not only accept the circumstances you find yourself in, but able to accept yourself fully as you are now, doing what you can with what you’ve got, and enjoying yourself on the way.

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I write a lot about self-development and personal growth. I want to help people uncover their authentic selves through creative expression and in the process understand their place in the world a little better. I also enjoy writing screenplays, short stories, and poetry. All of which can be found at

Imperial Beach, CA

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