Life Sucks, Then You Die

August 15th, 2007 by Steve Pavlina

What if you hate your life?  Or maybe you don’t quite hate it, but you’re just not happy with your current situation?  Perhaps you’re depressed, bored, or apathetic.  Or maybe you just don’t see the point in living at all.

If you don’t see the point in living, then you’re missing the point of life entirely.  The point of life is to enjoy it.

Your life is your creation.  It’s not something that happens to you — unless you make the foolish mistake of abandoning your position as its chief architect.  If you find yourself in that situation, don’t feel bad.  We all make that mistake at some point.  We all forget that we’re in charge of our own lives and that our experience of life is largely under our control.  But the truth is that we live by choice.

If you think your life is out of your control, it’s because you’ve chosen to relinquish the controls.  What happens when you let go of the controls of a vehicle in motion, such as a car you’re driving?  Its behavior is unpredictable.  It may spin around in circles… or get stuck somewhere… or even crash.  Isn’t that precisely what happens to us when we abandon responsibility for living our lives?

Surrender

What about surrendering your life to a higher power?  Isn’t that a good thing?  That depends on how you apply it.  If you think surrendering to a higher power means relinquishing the controls and hoping everything works out OK, well… I hope you don’t try this while driving 60mph on the freeway.  That type of surrender is precisely the opposite of conscious living.  It’s not spiritual.  It’s not divine.  It’s just dumb.

True surrender is a deepening of responsibility, not an abdication of it.  In this form of surrender, you make the very conscious decision to align yourself with a so-called higher power.  This higher power might be your version of God, Source, nature, your higher self, or something else you regard as beyond your human ego.  You can be an atheist and still undergo this form of surrender.  It’s a decision to cooperate with what you believe is the greater good.  In practice it means letting go of your resistance to life and deciding to create a life of joy instead of one of pain.  You don’t give up control of your vehicle here — quite the contrary.  You keep total control of your vehicle, but you commit to driving more intelligently, using the roads instead of ramming into trees.

Emotional feedback

Your human emotions serve as your feedback mechanism on your life’s journey.  They’re like the dashboard display on your car.  When your dashboard indicates a problem, it means you need to fix something with the car.  It doesn’t mean the dashboard is broken.

If your car can’t move forward because you’ve run it into a tree, and your speedometer indicates 0mph despite your flooring the accelerator, is that the car’s fault?  Do you exclaim, “Damn this stupid car!  I hate my car!” because it can’t barrel through the tree?  People would think you’re crazy.  But that’s exactly what so many of us do with our lives.  Maybe getting stuck was your fault and maybe it wasn’t, but remember you’re still the driver.  You aren’t going to get unstuck by blaming the car; that will only perpetuate your stuckness.

When you’re not enjoying life, that’s a message you need to listen to.  Feeling bad about your life doesn’t mean you have emotional problems or that you’re psychologically damaged in some way.  Your feedback mechanism is doing its job just fine.  You’re supposed to feel bad when your life is out of whack.  You just need to interpret the message properly and then take action to correct the situation.

For example, if you’re feeling chronically apathetic, depressed, or bored to tears with your life, perhaps the message is this:  Your life sucks!

That is to say… your current life situation is not at all what you want.  You don’t want to keep experiencing what you’re experiencing.

Now upon receiving this feedback, many people, for one reason or another, respond as if the emotional feedback was itself the problem.  Maybe we need therapy or drugs or escapism to fix those pesky negative emotions.  That’s like blaming your car for running out of gas.  It’s supposed to eventually run out of gas.  That means it’s working properly.  Likewise you’re supposed to experience these negative emotional states when you’re veering off course from what you want.  That means your emotional feedback is working properly.  Be thankful when this happens because this feedback is extremely valuable.

Choose your response

Once you start getting negative emotional feedback, you’re supposed to act on it.  It’s a signal to get off your butt and move, to change what you’re doing.  If you’ve been stuck in negative emotions for a long time, it means you’ve been failing to heed the message.  It’s time to do something about that feedback.  Trying to avoid dealing with it is like ignoring a warning on your car’s dashboard; you’re only going to make things worse if you delay.

If you feel negatively about your job, change it.  If you feel negatively about your relationship, change it.  If you feel negatively about your body, change it.  If you feel negatively about your financial situation, change it.

I’m not saying change will be easy.  But it’s always within your power to change something, and it is a lot easier than wallowing in self-pity.  Thinking about taking action but not taking action is harder than taking action.  If you’re stuck in negative emotions, you’re making things unnecessarily hard.  You’re picking the most difficult alternative available to you.  It’s easier to get off your butt and get moving.

You may not fix everything overnight, but the very act of getting into motion will usually be enough to turn off those negative emotions.  Then you’ll start feeling positive and happy again as you begin making progress towards what you want.  Just being in motion towards a better situation feels good, sometimes really good.

If you’ve been feeling down for a long time now, it’s because you’ve been wallowing far too long in a situation you don’t want.  If you don’t want your current situation, leave.  You know you don’t want it, so stop tolerating it.

Stop kidding yourself.  You’re not powerless to change.  In your mind you’re probably making the key actions a lot more complicated than they need to be.  It’s pretty amazing how many stuck situations can get unstuck with just a few moments of action.  Here are some examples:

If you don’t like your job, go to your boss and say, “I don’t like this job, so I’m quitting.”

If you don’t like your relationship, go to your partner and say, “This relationship isn’t working for me, so I want to break up now.”

If you don’t like your body, go through your kitchen and throw out every item you sense will make your body worse if you were to eat it regularly.  Then go shopping and replace those items with choices you feel will make your body better.

If you don’t like your finances, take your current monthly income and mentally increase it by 50%.  Then start brainstorming what you’d need to do to become worthy of earning that amount consistently.  Write that figure down on a piece of paper, and tape it to your wall where you’ll see it every day.  If you have a job you like, go to your boss or your boss’ boss, tell them that figure is your income goal, and ask what you’d need to do to start earning it.  If they tell you it’s impossible, you know you’ll need to switch jobs too.

Getting unstuck is about making simple decisions and taking actions, always moving away from what you don’t want and towards what you want.  If you don’t know what you want, then just move away from what you don’t want until you figure it out.

No matter how bad you feel about your life, you’re not helpless.  You probably contributed a great deal to getting yourself into your current situation.  Even when you think someone or something else is to blame, you probably had the power to intervene to prevent it if you really made an effort.  But the past is over, so there’s no point beating yourself up about previous mistakes.  Just commit to being a bit more conscious going forward.

Your power lies in your ability to make decisions.  If your life sucks — and your emotions are drowning you in that message day after day — then stop making the same decisions you’ve been making in the past because they clearly aren’t working.  It’s time to start making new decisions and acting on them.

If you don’t know what to do to correct your situation, just do something different than what you’re already doing.  You know those lame decisions aren’t working, so they can’t possibly be right.  Maybe your new decisions will be better, and maybe they won’t.  Either way your emotions will continue to provide feedback, and you can adjust course as you go.  Anything is better than staying stuck, since you know that’s a dead end already.

Choose happiness

Don’t settle for a life you know isn’t working.  Change it.  If necessary do something radically different.  Fire everyone who doesn’t make you feel good about yourself.  Quit everything that makes you unhappy.  Reboot your life situation.  If other people whine about it, screw ‘em.  They’ll get over it.

You’re here to create the life you really want, not to endure a life you don’t want.  Your power to make decisions and take action is all you need to get you out of a crappy situation.  Exercise that power consciously.

If you still don’t know what to do, then ask yourself this question:  What would a happy person do in my situation?  If you start doing what you think a happy person would do, you’ll start moving towards a life that naturally resonates with happiness.  If you’re really clueless, you can even post in the forums on this site, describe your situation, and ask other people what they’d do to change it for the better.  Lots of people have already done this and have gotten great responses.

Never give up

I’m no stranger to the “my life sucks” period.  I’d drag myself out of bed sometime after noon, play video games for hours, maybe hang out drinking with friends or play poker, stay up late, go for a long walk thinking about how much my life sucked, crash feeling depressed, and repeat.  For months I kept doing the same thing over and over.  And life kept right on sucking.  My emotions kept telling me, “Damn this sucks!”  That whole period of my life is one giant blur.

Finally I’d had enough and reached the breaking point, and I decided to change it.  I finally woke up and realized that I was the one in charge of this life and that I actually had the power to change it.  Even so, it still took me a few years before I was in a situation I felt I wanted.  The outer change was neither fast nor easy.  But it was a heck of a lot easier than wallowing in self-pity.  And I started feeling a lot better as soon as I got moving in a new direction.

I stopped hanging out with unsupportive friends, stopped drinking, stopped gambling, moved to a new place, started running, and reconnected with some positive old friends.  I made lots and lots of changes.  If I couldn’t figure out what would be better, I just went for different.  And it worked.

If you’re going through a tough time right now, I feel for you.  I’m saying that as someone who’s been there.  Obviously I haven’t been through the same experiences you have, and we can compare notes about who had it worse later, but I know what it feels like to feel that life is totally pointless.  I know what it feels like to wake up each morning with the hazy hope of finding something mildly interesting to do that day… but always being disappointed with the reality.  I know what it’s like to look towards the future and see nothing to look forward to of any consequence, aside from the shallow possibility of a new movie or game to distract me a while longer.

I also know that the solution is to wake up and realize you’re doing this to yourself.  Recognize that you’re the creator of your life — not your family, your boss, your spouse, the government, or society at large.  No one is coming to rescue you.  It’s all you.  If your life currently sucks, it’s entirely up to you to change it.

We human beings are immensely resilient.  Even when we’re in seemingly hopeless situations, we can still dig ourselves out and make something better of it.  The only way for life to become truly hopeless is to decide to lose hope.

Your life will improve the moment you realize life isn’t something to be endured or tolerated.  It’s an experience of your own creation.  Your thoughts and actions are the primary forces that determine the reality of your day-to-day experience.  If your life sucks, it’s because you’ve been a sucky creator.  But you can get better.

In this lifetime you are the creator, the architect, the engineer, the artist.  Use your gift of consciousness to chisel yourself a masterpiece.  Then keep improving it as you enjoy the heck out of it.  And never, ever give up.


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