Are you addicted to the quick and easy answers?
We live in the world of instant gratification. Huge questions of love and life are solved usually within 90 minutes in the movie. There are numerous websites that offer answers of all kinds. Or you can just type a question like “What is the meaning of life?” in Google search box. (Seriously – if you haven’t done this yet, try it and see what you get.)
I’m afraid so many people are getting conditioned to this quick and easy answer system that they have largely given up their right and responsibility to seek answers themselves. I was alarmed when I did the key word research for my article The One Word That’s Sucking Up Your Energy Right Now. Here are some of the questions people often ask to Google using this dis-empowering word SHOULD:
- Who should I vote for?
- Where should I live?
- What career should I choose?
- Who should a Gemini date? *
- Should I stay with my boyfriend?
- What should I do with my life?
- What should I make for dinner?
- What should I write on a headstone?
(* Apparently, Geminis ask this “Who should a (zodiac) date?” question most often, followed by Sagittarius. I’m a Gemini myself, but I have no idea why this is so. Do other Geminis really think the internet can answer this question?)
How the quick and easy answers steal your joy and peace.
Let’s say you ask “What career should I choose?” and Google or your career counselor tells you, probably based on some personality or talent tests, that you should become a teacher. So you become one. Do you think you will be happy and confident with your career? Teaching, like any other professions, comes with lots of challenges – your teenage students are distracted and rebellious, administrators are demanding, and there are so many things to do – and the pay isn’t very good. So?
I’m not saying the teaching is not a good profession. The problem in this example is that the foundation of your choice to become a teacher is so weak. On the other hand, I know several people who left high income jobs to go back to school and became teachers. They chose the teaching career because, through their own experiences and search for the meaningful life, they came to realize they wanted to teach. They are happy with their choice because it is a choice they made consciously. And they have peace in them.
My friend Ken beautifully wrote about the joy we find in our life journey in How I Traded My Life For Future Security And How I’m Getting It Back. Again, the search for answer is as valuable as arriving at the answer.
The more challenging the game, the more fun.
There are cases for quick and easy answers. When I buy an electronic gadget, I want to start using it right away. Reading the long manual is no fun, and I really like it when it comes with “Quick Start” instructions. I can learn about additional features later. For now, I want to get things done with this new gadget and then go out for a walk.
But our life is not like stuffs we buy for consumption. We are in life – where do you want to go after you save time and energy by getting the quick and easy answers on critical questions of your life?
Further, just like certain games, life is more fun with challenges. Ask yourself – do you enjoy a game that you know so well and are 100% sure to win, to the point that you know exactly how you win and finish the game? Would you even bother playing it?
Enjoy bearing the big questions.
Recently, I was exchanging emails with Steve at Brip Blap about I Have A Dream . . .. This article did fine as a blog post, but as a meme, it was a total failure. No one sent me articles. Steve asked me if it’s too late to submit his article, so I replied, “You are welcome to participate any time, but let me ask you – do you think the project was too grandiose? Or did I not market it enough?” He says that the project is great but it does take some time to write because it requires good thinking. And in this busy world, few people takes time to think even when they know it is something worth thinking.
Hmm. . . How can I make sense of this? I conclude it was great if the post inspired some people to think about the big dreams of life. It’s okay they didn’t get the answers quickly. Keep asking yourself the big questions.
It’s not just the question of your dream. Find and embrace big questions that are worth spending your life for. Carry the questions, check back often, while you live and enjoy your journey.
Your energy you can otherwise utilize to make positive changes in your life and enjoy life more.
Don’t undermine the power of words. We express our ideas with words, and we also create with words. This one word creates illusionary world that never exists anywhere but feels so real. The more you indulge in this illusionary world, the more energy it sucks up from you.
The word is: SHOULD
Let me illustrate how this word works. Does this sound familiar to you?
Jane stops at Starbucks on her way to work. “I’m running late. I should have left earlier.” She orders her regular latte, and after a few seconds of hesitation, also orders a blueberry muffin. “I shouldn’t be eating this. . . I know I should eat healthier. My sister’s wedding is four weeks ahead . . . I should go on a diet.”
When she gets her office, she is indeed late, and her boss gives her a glance. “How un-nice he is. . . I’m just a few minutes late. He should treat me better. Maybe I should look for a new job.” It’s a busy day at the office. During the lunch break, she watches the news in the breakroom. “We really should end the war. The money should be used for our kids’ education. . . “
Now compare it to this revised version.
Jane stops at Starbucks on her way to work. “I’m running late. This happens so often – I will set the alarm five minutes early for tomorrow.” She orders her regular latte, and after a few seconds of hesitation, also orders a blueberry muffin. “Okay, I’m giving in to my sweet teeth. But how can I eat healthier? My sister’s wedding is four weeks ahead . . . I want to lose a few pounds and look nice. ” As she drives to work, she thinks how she can avoid eating too much sweets. Perhaps, it will help if she eats breakfast at home. This means she needs to get up even earlier. She is not sure if she can keep up with it, but she decides to give it a try.
When she gets her office, she is indeed late, and her boss gives her a glance. “Uh-oh, good morning to my cranky boss. I’m a few minutes late.” she says in her mind, and starts working – she doesn’t think of a potential job change as a reaction to her negative experience with her boss. It’s a busy day at the office. During the lunch break, she watches the news in the breakroom. “I think we’ve had enough of this war. It is wiser to use the money for our kids’ education. . . “
Do you notice how the SHOULDs are creating the illusionary world?
Things are either IS or ISN’T, but never SHOULD. Jane is late for work because she left the house late. Thinking she “should have” left earlier doesn’t change this fact. This morning’s lateness is already a done-deal. So move on, and if she really doesn’t like running late, think how she can do it differently tomorrow morning, and do it.
Likewise, she is either eating the blueberry muffin or she isn’t. Thinking she “shouldn’t be” eating it doesn’t change the fact nor the muffin’s calorie. But when she thinks she shouldn’t be eating it, her mind goes to the false world of should’s. First she counts all the reasons why she should be eating healthier. She might go ahead and conclude that, now that she knows better, she should be able to eat better. In the wonderful world of should’s, she immediately becomes slim, and boom, suddenly her mind comes back to reality and shocks her. She asks herself, “I ate the blueberry muffin? How could I?” She laments the reality for not living up to the beauty of the world of should’s. “I should have known better.”
Preserve your mental energy for real life.
When our minds are occupied with the ideas of how things should or shouldn’t be, we are pouring our precious energy into this illusionary world. Again, the world of should’s feels so important and real. It feels as if it were just there an arm’s length away and we could grab it by pouring a bit more thought energy into it. All the perfect should’s: What we should do. How people should act. How the world should be. We can spend hours – or even our whole life – thinking about these should’s. And nothing would change.
If we want to change something, we first need to realize and accept how it is. Then we intend to change it – in this real world, not in the illusionary world of should’s. We come up with a goal, make a plan how to change it, and implement the plan. Goals are typically described with WILL, not SHOULD.
Or maybe we don’t need to change it. We don’t need to change every little things that are not quite pleasing. And it is certainly not mine to change the way you are – it is yours. (Unless you ask me to help you.) So I’ll just enjoy what I have rather than wasting my energy thinking how you or something should be.
Word game that makes a difference.
There may be cases where the word SHOULD is justly used, but I am assuming we can do away with 90% or more of it. Make it a habit to check if you are in the nowhere land of should’s, and when you notice you are, reword the should to is or isn’t to come back to reality. This may sound like a silly word game, but it works. Don’t you think Jane in the second scenario will do so much better?
Use your energy wisely to either make the real change or just enjoy what is.
What is your story of how XXXX should be?
Further reading: Note that MLK didn’t say how America SHOULD be, but said WILL be, and state your own dream. I Have A Dream. . .
Another related reading: Bust another guilt-inducing word HAVE TO. Releasing the Energy of Obligation.
Thanks to Jirel for including this post in Carnival of Inspiration and Motivation.