So What Can We Do?

I’m a part of a cool new martial arts Startup. They let me write some of the curriculum. Here’s a sample from this week:

This is our third instalment for our February Theme: Making Your Life Count. Every week we bring you resources to help with your mental training, as well as your physical one.

As we talked about last week, good things come to those who don’t give up. As a Counsellor, I have had a front row seat to many hundreds of complicated lives. So many of us undoubtedly thought, at some point, that things would never change. I have listened to people describe (often in great detail) the impossibilities they were forced to endure. It seems like everyone has wanted to give up, sometimes every day, sometimes for months or years.

I was to tell you that 80% of people with depression got better after one year of good counselling (this is a theoretical question only). Most people who suffer with depression would surely put in this time, right? After all, 80% is a very high number and you have at least a decent shot at transforming your life.

I’m not entirely sure about that. I have seen hundreds of people who were only months away from radical transformation, but were simply unwilling or believed they were unable to do what needed to be done. Most mental health issues, for example, can be much better managed with a bit of effort. Most people still do not put in the time.

Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment, full effort is full victory. Mahatma Gandhi

It matters as much what we do as how hard you work at it. Anyone can give you a pep talk, but what are the practical steps to actually get there?

So what can we do?

1. Every Journey Starts With A Decision. Decide today that you want your life to count for something. Open your eyes and look around and the meaninglessness of wasting your life on mindless pursuits. Your life matters, that’s Psychology 101. We are all only given one opportunity to bring a bit of light to the world and this stuff is important. Those who have put in a few years begin to realize how many people live quietly miserable lives, and that is not an option that the leadership of EMA wishes to consider. We believe your life can count for something. We believe in you but the real question is, do you believe in you?

2. Fail Gloriously. We are bred to fear failure. We are neurologically hardwired to avoid losing, if we can. Millions of people are so afraid of failing that they don’t even try. Professionals will tell you that the fear of failure can be a crippling mental health issue in lives of persons you probably know.

Don’t worry about failing, make friends with it. Failure is an important part of learning. J.K. Rowling put it brilliantly when she said, “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.” Counsellors could tell you stories of patients who are so paralyzed by the fear of failure that their lives have been profoundly impacted, and not in a good way. As difficult as it may be, we need to learn to wrestle our insecurity to the mat and spend less time worrying about what people who don’t love us think about every little thing we do. You officially have permission to fail. Cue cheesy quote about how many times it took Edison to build a light bulb and take credit for Tesla’s inventions.

3. Find A Plan. Talk to someone with more mileage than you about your life. Spend more than 14 minutes thinking about what you want to be when you grow up (not what you want to do). Write this down. Go… are you writing this down?

4. Make your brain bigger. When we were younger many of us thought we knew everything. This is because our worlds were very small. It may be cliché but it is still true, the more I learn, the less I know. How do you know that you don’t want to be an anthropologist if you don’t know what one is? Science and History and Philosophy and Psychology have attracted the best minds for thousands of years and you owe it to yourself to learn about Cosmology and String Theory and Gravitational Waves because you might find that you like philosophy more than you thought you would in that lame class in grade 11. As we learned in January, becoming a lifelong learner could be one of the most important decisions you make in your life.

5. Stay Curious. Remember the Einstein quote from January? Don’t let your brain go to mush on reality television and mindless gossip. There is a big and beautiful world out there, jam-packed full of excitement and wonder and stories still to be written. Read more. Travel. Listen to the audiobooks we keep trying to foist upon you. Take a university course. Watch The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty and The Razor’s Edge.

We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. Walt Disney.


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