After breaking up with his girlfriend, my adult son recently moved back home. I slipped into his room and discovered him lost in a car racing game. It looked simple enough—the button on the right controls steering, the lever is for acceleration and the button on the left for brakes. I accepted his invite and grabbed a control. I couldn’t keep the car on the track. With limited time, and low frustration suppression, I quit after the first race. A healthy life has many more controls to master than the simple levers and buttons on a video game. Learning to live in a complex world, quickly changing with technology and demands, we stumble like evolutionary novices driving high speed race cars crashing and stalling on a complex track of turns, stops and changes.
Figuring Out Life
We have three-pounds of evolutionary genius tucked under a protective skull. Our brain is the tool given to learn the intricacies of this complicated life. Effectively controlling our behaviors to create an enjoyable and productive life is not so easy. Our minds are powerful. We plan, act and adjust to life. Motivations that enable change, spill into consciousness as feelings—joys and sorrows. The guiding force can be tremendously painful, shocking our soul and giving wisdom.
The ability to plan, reminisce and create sidetracks enjoyments with endless chattering of guilt and anxiety. Our thoughts routinely embark on fruitless journeys into regrettable past and unrealistic futures. We punish ourselves for past choices. We worry over events that may never happen. STOP! Stop the chattering. We need to slow down—not as much acceleration and gently drift into the curves of life. We’ll make it to the finish line. We are designed to survive. But if we slow down, we can achieve more, enjoying the subtleties; we can flourish.
“The ability to plan, reminisce and create sidetracks enjoyments with endless chattering of guilt and anxiety.”~T. Franklin Murphy
Everywhere we look, someone is spewing out advice on how to live. Echoing in the empty walls of our minds we hear them.
“If you do this or do that you will be happy.”
They paint on a smile, and say, “look at me, do what I do and you can have a fake smile too.”
I wrote in regards to the Psychology fanatic blog, “one of the gigantic pitfalls of writing a wellness blog is the constant flow of patronizing advice. As wellness instructors, we often address symptoms, ignoring the deeper motivating causes. The patronizing advice, served with an arrogant air, condemns sufferers for their experience without offering practical guidance uniquely catered to the reader’s situation” (2021).
There are happy people out there, but happiness is a complicated solution, composed of more than a list of do’s and don’ts. Dispositions, personalities, early environments, and opportunities are all part of this complex compilation of factors.
We are forced to take this mixed bag of tricks, examine what we have, work to refine ourselves, and find what works best in our own individual situation to achieve our potential, and find a measure of happiness. Consequently, we only succeed through continued efforts of confronting our evolutionary novice abilities.
We have the cognitive resources to experiment with life and gain wisdom in our own journey to optimize our experience. Our experiments will be littered with flawed hypothesis and changing results. We may find that what made us happy in our twenties doesn’t work in our thirties. We must adapt instead of neurotically hanging on to the past.
“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”
~ Robert Frost
By intervening in the painful spinning of thoughts, we create space for more creative action. Slow down that racing mind. We travel faster with care, enjoying small nuances of living we have previously missed in the blur of fast pace living. Life is good; but complicated. Our systems are evolutionary novices, not ready for cruise control—we must mindfully intervene to enjoy the blessings of living.
Murphy, T. Franklin (2021). Patronizing Advice. Psychology Fanatic. Published 4-9-2021. Accessed 11-3-2022.