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It can be a difficult realization to come to when you think things are going relatively well for you.
When you’ve worked hard, put in the hours, and built your mindset and creative habits up to a point where you can confidently say you’re a different person than the one you were when you started, it’s hard to look at yourself in the mirror and say, “This isn’t right.”
With so many articles and studies done on optimizing your routine and workouts and production levels, it’s no wonder people are left thinking that their current lives are never quite enough. They’re left thinking — not just thinking, but assuming — that whatever they’re doing could all be done better.
It makes sense to want to better your current life, especially when that life is made up of things that can’t be fundamentally changed on a whim. Children, mortgages, and other immediate familial and financial obligations can’t just be uprooted or thrown out just because you’re having itchy feet.
If you’re in one of these situations, it can really do you a world of good to try and make the most of your current routine while grabbing every ounce of joy and happiness you can out of the spaces in between your responsibilities.
For those of us with a bit more flexibility to add and subtract things from our calendar when we deem it necessary, sometimes it can do more harm than good to try to fix what isn’t broke.
When you’ve set yourself up for success, and then you succeed in making the most of that setup, you can feel a new sense of aimlessness as you wonder if you’re still doing things right. The initial energy and motivation to get yourself on track and start making progress goes from a boil back to a simmer as the pieces of that new routine fall into place and things become ordinary and expected again.
A New Normal
Last year, I told myself that by the end of 2019 I wanted to have finished writing a book and wanted to have saved up $10k in cash as a safety net. I busted my ass working nearly seven days a week and writing whenever possible to get these things done. Not the easiest thing to do when you’re barely making over minimum wage and don’t even know what kind of book you’re writing as you’re writing the damn thing, but I got it done.
Don’t get me wrong, it feels fantastic to set goals and actually accomplish them, but after a few weeks, those fireworks die down and you’re left feeling relatively similar to how you felt before you even started. In fact, some might say you can feel worse because now you’re left without any new direction or purpose.
It becomes your new normal to have these new accomplishments in your life.
Now, instead of being a person on the path to completing a goal, you’re now just a person who did. It’s just another way of labeling who you are.
You went from someone doing something to someone who’s done something.
Okay, so now what?
This is when people will start to try and make the things they’ve already done even better than they were. They assume that the things they’ve accomplished can be polished and perfected even if what they’ve done is perfectly fine how it is.
I wouldn’t say this is the case for me as I’ve yet to edit my rambling 200 pages into something resembling an actual book, and a person could always use more money in their savings, but the sentiment is similar.
A lot of people don’t see that it’s not that they need to make the things they’ve done even better, but that they need better things to do altogether.
Your routine can only be so perfect, you’re output only so optimized. If you think you’ve reached a point where everything you do seems to be going swimmingly and yet you find yourself becoming dissatisfied with your surroundings, perhaps you shouldn’t be worried about fixing a lifestyle that isn’t broken but finding a new lifestyle altogether.
For me, this means that I shouldn’t try and perfect a schedule that’s already led me to my goals but finding something entirely new. Sure, I could continue living in the comfortable routine that I’ve set up for myself. I’m writing much more while still being able to save money after all, but to what end? What direction is it all going? Maybe there’s a chance I’m not setting myself up to move up a level in life because I haven’t taken the risk of changing up what I’m used to doing.
You may not need to better the habits you have. You may need new habits entirely.
That doesn’t mean that you need to throw out the structure that works for you to get things done, but rather, think about how you feel about the life you’ve set up for yourself and if it’s giving you the sense of pride and contentment you’re really looking for. If it doesn’t it may not be that you need to continue doing what you’re doing in a better way, but you need to do completely different things.
Change Comes with Risk
It’s not news that making changes in your life comes with its share of uncertainty. That’s the whole point. That uncertainty is what reignites the spark of determination to get started in the first place. When things become normalized and commonplace, we lose our interest in them or stop noticing them altogether. Our routines become mundane, our hobbies and habits automatic. We lose the sense that we’re doing anything for an actual reason because it’s just what we do.
This is can be good or bad, depending on what kind of life you’re trying to live, but if you’re someone who, like me, starts feeling a sense of suppression with too much routine and structure, no matter how beneficial that routine and structure is, it may be time to find a different game to play.
Try to pinpoint exactly what it is about your lifestyle and habits that you feel dissatisfied with.
Is it that the things you have going on in your life could be done in a better way? Or, have you mastered your current circumstances and feel ready to start something new?
Being honest with yourself about which is true will help ease the anxiety of uncertainty and will help you aim your focus on what matters most in your particular situation.
Are you trying to polish up the present? Forge a new future? Perhaps it’s a bit of both. It’s up to you to make that distinction.