Healing Difficult Emotions, Overcoming Self-loathing and Anxiety, Practices for Cultivating Love, Self-Love and Self-Directed Kindness

When We Feel Purposeless and Like We aren’t Good at Anything: Avoiding “Static Thinking”

Human beings need purpose. We need to feel like we have something special that we  share with the world.

Given this need, it is understandable why we suffer painful feelings when we think we aren’t good at anything. For example, we may feel discouraged or depressed when we feel like we don’t have special any talent or when we feel like other people are so much better at the talent we do have.

Feelings like this can cause us to get stuck in No Man’s Land in which we don’t know what we are doing with our life, or in which we feel like our life doesn’t matter. We all get stuck in No Man’s Land sometimes, but it is a depressing place to hang out for long.

I have a path I take when I want to escape from No Man’s Land[1]. Perhaps this path will work for you, or perhaps you will discover another path yourself, and you can share it with people in the future.

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By the way, it may help you to have a journal or piece of paper and a writing utensil to help you walk this path.[2]

A Path Out of No Man’s Land

First Stop: Heed the Quiet Calling

You have something inside you that is calling you to adventure. It stirs a dream or a desire or passion in you. It kindles excitement about a goal or project you want to do.

Listen to that calling. Don’t censor it right now. Don’t worry if whether you are good at the thing you want to do.  Don’t worry if it is practical or what people will think. Just listen to the quiet calling.

Write: In your journal or on your piece of paper, list one to three goals or passions you hear when you listen to the Quiet Calling (I will refer to them as goals henceforth). These are goals which, in achieving them, will help you contribute something meaningful both to you and to the world.

Next Stop: Make a Choice

You have listed one to three goals. Choose one that excites you the most or that you feel most inclined to do.

You may fear choosing one goal because you worry you are making the wrong choice. But try not to worry too much about “the right choice”–if you act with the intention of love (i.e. acting to bring more goodness into the world and into your life), you are making the right choice.

You may also fear choosing because you worry that you close the door to other opportunities by making a choice. It is true that saying “yes” to one thing often entails saying “no” to other things. It’s okay to feel sad that you can’t pursue every possible opportunity. This is part of being human.

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If you can, however, consider The Choice in this way: By making a choice and pursuing a goal, it is like you are planting yourself so that you can grow. Not choosing at all is kind of like letting yourself forever stay a seed in a seed package, in which place you are full of potential but have no opportunity to thrive.

You are making the right choice to plant yourself. If you decide later you need to replant yourself in another location (i.e. so you can pursue another goal), that is okay.

Write: What goal would you like to pursue? Again, don’t worry about whether it is possible or what people will think. Just choose the goal you feel the most excited about or towards which you feel the most inclined.

Next Stop: Climb the Stairs

Congrats on choosing a goal you want to pursue. That is exciting and brave.

Your goal is in the distance and may feel abstract to you, but you can do it. You just need to start climbing stairs in the right direction.

Think of five to ten steps you can take to pursue the goal you have chosen. These are stairs you can climb towards your goal. You don’t have to feel like you are good at these steps, and you don’t have to know every step you must take to reach your goal. Just list five to ten steps that seem to you like they would help you reach your goal.

Write: What are five to ten steps you could take to pursue your goal?

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Next Stop: Fortify with Courage

I have some bad news and some good news. The bad news is that as you start climbing stairs towards your goal, you are going to feeling uncomfortable sometimes. You are going to feel awkward and like you don’t know what you are doing. You may wonder if you chose the right goal. You may also wonder if you are cut out for climbing all the stairs it takes to get to your goal. You may sometimes feel like you are never going to reach your goal.

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The good news is that if you know that all of these feelings are normal, and if you keep taking steps in the right direction, you will keep getting closer to your goal; you will learn new things on your journey; you will become a new and better and larger version of yourself; and you will reach your destination (or you will decide you need to start another journey, which is okay, too.)

Write: Write three to five things you want to remember about your journey towards your goal that will help you be courageous when times are difficult? You can write them in your journal or write them on note cards and put them in a place where you can see them.

If you can’t think of anything to help build your courage, here are five peaceful thoughts you can write in your journal or on note cards to give you courage:

I take one step at a time and one day at a time. I am persistent.

I have unconditional worth, even when I struggle and feel awkward sometimes.

I accept mistakes and failures as a part of the learning process, and I learn from each step I take.

I know some painful feelings are a part of growth, and I welcome painful feelings as temporary companions on my journey.

I have infinite resources of wisdom, kindness, compassion, and creativity. I continually draw on the resources in my journey.

I rest and care for myself when I need to, and then I keep going. I am resilient.

Next Stop: Avoid “Static Thinking Bog”

At one point in your journey out of No Man’s Land, you may fall into a bog called “Static Thinking.” Static Thinking is the thinking we exhibit when we believe that where we are today is where we will be for the rest of our life, and where we are today is hopeless.We fall into this bog when we start believing these things:

One: We are either good at something or we are not good at it.

Two: Only people who are naturally and flawlessly good at things are worthy people.

Three: If we fail, make mistakes, or are initially bad at something, this means we are not naturally good at things, and we are not worthy people.

It is tempting to believe all of these things when we pursue a new goal. It is especially tempting when we look around and see other people who seem to pursue their goals effortlessly.

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Here is how to climb out of the bog:

One: Realize that it is possible to get better (and even pretty good) at anything if you break the task into steps and keep taking the next step.

Two: Understand that while natural talent in an area helps, there are also a lot of people who start out with little skill in an area and develop it over time. There are also a lot of people who are told that they aren’t any good at something and go on to be excellent in that area anyhow.[3]

Three: There is no successful person in the history of the world who has had a mistake-free career.[4] Most successful people will tell you that it was their mistakes that made them successful and skilled. Mistakes and failures do not decrease your worth. They are part of the process of you expressing your intrinsic worth into the world.

Where you are today does not determine where you end up, and perseverance is more important that raw talent or intelligence.

Write: Are you stuck in Static Thinking Bog right now? What is something you can do to climb out? What is one thing you can do to prevent yourself from falling into Static Thinking blog in the future?

Next Stop: Use the Compassion Life Preserver

It is normal to experience some painful feelings like confusion, fear, lack of confidence, shame, and regret on your journey. Some painful feelings are a normal part of life, but they sure can hurt. I am sorry for the pain you experience on your journey, Friend. You don’t have to get over your painful feelings, and you don’t have to put on your “Big Girl” or “Big Boy Panties”.

Instead, it is a good idea to show ourselves compassion in our painful feelings. Compassion is like a life preserver that helps us navigate them more skillfully. Here is an article you can read about how to navigate painful feelings.
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Write: What painful emotion do you feel on your journey towards your goal? Read the article above about dealing with painful emotions. Which of these tools do you think might help you navigate your painful emotions? What other tool can use you to help you navigate?

Next Stop: Celebrate Everything

Celebrate big and small steps in your journey—and all the steps in between. Celebrate everything you can.

Do not confuse small with insignificant. Consider the power of very small things like neutrons, protons, atoms, ants, bumblebees, babies, a smile (to name a few varied small, powerful things.)

Whether you achieve small or big steps on your journey, you deserve to celebrate.

Vaya Con Dios

Dear Friend: You matter. You have a purpose. You can find it. You can do it.  Happy Aventuring!

*****

[1][1] This path has helped me start both small and large journeys to pursuing new goals. For instance, I have used this path to doing small things like teach myself how to juggle. This is also the path I followed when I decided at age 36 to go back to graduate school and earn a PhD in philosophy, even though I had only taken on philosophy class previously in my life. That was one of the hardest and best journeys I have ever taken. Before I went back to grad school, I was wondering in No Man’s Land for a few years, and the path I described above helped me to get out, go back to grad school, and finish successfully.

[2] This post of mine is in the self-help genre. As such, it is important to note that human thriving is both a personal and social endeavor. A person can be doing the best she can, taking personal responsibility, and living a virtuous life, and she can be greatly thwarted in her efforts by unjust social beliefs and practices.  Therefore, I write this post with the understanding that while we must certainly pursue our own personal flourishing, we must also work to correct social beliefs and practices that work against our flourishing and the flourishing of others. Personal responsibility and social justice must always walk hand in hand.

[3] This article describes the stories of a dozen or so famous people like Thomas Edison, Sidney Poitier, and J.K. Rowling who failed a lot before they succeeded. Note: Dick Cheney is one of the folks mentioned in the article, and I am not a big fan of him, but the rest of the folks are cool. And of course, if you are inspired by Dick Cheney, that’s perfectly fine.

[4] See above article.

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