Every year there’s more. People who feel they have lost their way. They’re feeling depressed. They feel alone against the odds and misunderstood. They feel their life is a meaningless string of responsibilities. That their work lacks meaning. That their partner doesn’t contribute enough. That life has become little more than a repetitious cycle with no hope of anything better. Fortunately they’re only part-way right.
The part they’re right about is that many modern jobs are rather mindless acts and many managers demand mindless workers. But in any job you will find people enjoying their lives and feeling rewarded. This isn’t to say everything’s perfect but overall they like their own lives and they would describe them as rewarding. The question is, how are they doing it?
The single most important factor to stay in touch with is the knowledge that your dissatisfaction doesn’t emerge from your circumstances, but rather you conjure it into existence at a psychological level. When you can operate at that level you’re fully aware that your pain serves a purpose. You don’t fight the pain, you realize you are being communicated with by your psyche. The question only you can answer is: what is it telling you and what do you do as a result?
Yes, you might feel unsettled and unhappy because you’re supposed to change your life. But it’s far more likely you’re being urged to change yourself. Not in a–you have to change because you’re not good enough kind of way, but you do need to change your perspective on your definition of you. And without guidance that can be a strange thing to do.
Study your own thinking without criticizing it. Just see what direction your subconscious takes you. Do it almost as though you’re looking at a different person. If you’re earnest and honest you’re likely to realize that you have a lot of dissatisfied narratives about your life. You have stories about how you don’t like your job, your relationships, your daily existence etc. etc. This is your ego’s dissatisfaction and it is literally made out of those self-conversations about your disappointments. That is illusory suffering. That doesn’t indicate anything is wrong with your life. That’s just self-talk.
People who achieve a clear enlightened state don’t have their lives change because the outside world changes, their lives change because their interior life changes. They become more awake in their consciousness. Their psychology is less busy and it becomes more peaceful. It has no desires. It understands the value of gratitude.
Gratitude is a wonderful feeling. It’s like love unbound. Unconditional. At its best it goes everywhere at once. Those are the days where you say thank you world for this amazing life. But you can’t live there. You need the contrast of not being there to appreciate the value of being there. The question is: when you’re not there, do you still stay conscious? Or do you assume that when you stop being grateful that your life has gotten worse?
It is important to learn to stay conscious while you’re suffering. And if you’re doing that you’ll recognize that your dissatisfaction is coming from your thoughts and not your life. That might not mean you can immediately redirect them to something more enjoyable, but as long as you’re conscious that the suffering is illusory then you’re fine. That’s like being worried for a character in a TV show–you do that all the time. If there are ultimately none of those negative, dissatisfied conversations and you still feel like things aren’t quite right, then you might consider making some major change in your life. But the vast majority of your time it’s just your ego.
Get a clear head. Quiet your self-talk and avoid a great deal of stress, worry, fear, anger and sadness. While it’s far more likely that your expectations for your life were more about externals than internals, in the end all the money and fame in the world cannot buy peace of mind. Even I can only guide you to it. You must look at your existence openly to realize this truth in your own life. Once you have profoundly and thoroughly accepted that your feelings emerge from your thinking then you can begin to steer your life much more consciously, and much more enjoyment and much less stress will ensue.
Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.