Most people I’ve encountered aren’t exactly super excited about their lives. They aren’t necessarily unhappy either. I would say the day to day baseline of well- being often is set on feeling “ok”. I suspect this is a natural result of not following our dreams or acting on our passions. It’s so easy to fall into what I refer to as following “the check list”. Don’t know if you’ve noticed but the majority of people seem to follow the same pattern and striving for the same goals. The way I’m going to describe the check list life is a tiny bit simplified, I fully understand that life is complex 🙂
Anyway, the check list is based on the standard norm of how life “should” look and is composed of different themes. These themes include education, career, money, owing of property and civil status among other things. Each theme has different levels and social status attached to them. The goal is to check off as much as possible in the right direction to have the “perfect” life. The check list model is based on achievement and not personal emotional fulfillment. When we adapt this lifestyle it’s almost like we are set on autopilot mode and our drive steams from what’s believed to have value socially rather than inner preference. I imagine the check list (or chart to more precise) looks sort of like this:
Check list of life
|Social status||Bottom status||Highest status|
|Living situation||living with parents||renting||buying an apartment||owning a house|
|Income||no income||low income||average income||high income|
Sticking to the check list in life has benefits such as social acceptance, ego boost due to status, sense of belonging ( doing what everyone else seems to be doing and having similar goals) and predictability ( the list has no room for surprise elements). The best part of this lifestyle must be it’s comfortableness. You see, you don’t need to dig deep within and uncover yourself nor do you need to take any risks to follow your own path. The path is already laid. Life becomes a constant haunt for rewards based on looking good from the outside instead of how we feel about the achievement on the inside. I suspect most are choosing such a life unconsciously believing it will lead to long term happiness, even though the journey might not be pleasant. With every accomplishment there is a high though. The downside is that the high is a temporary gratification. Slowly with time the well-being returns to the “ok” baseline.
Using the check list as a template in life becomes troublesome when we identify and/or measure our value only according to it. It’s especially easy to use the list against us in a criticizing way when something is not ticked off. Singles for example, are “supposed” to move in the direction of the relationship box and then all the way to marriage which equals the highest status. Especially if children are involved, that’s extra points! As you may figured out already, viewing relationships as an achievement is of course flawed within itself. I’ve found that a lot of single people (mostly long term singles) often seem to think it somehow indicates they are “less” than those in relationships (regardless of relationship quality). I’ve also noticed that it’s common to believe that being single somehow implies not being good enough or not working hard enough to have earned an “upgrade” in civil status. This can obviously harm the perception of self. Another consequence of the check list is that negative emotions such as frustration, hopelessness or sadness might appear when we don’t leave singlehood if we crave the happiness kick.
From my personal life, I found there are defiantly ways to realize that you are more than the limitations of the check list. It all starts with asking ourselves how we wish to live life. If the answer is something you can’t really control (like a relationship) then pick what’s next. For me the answer was easy. My dream is to travel so that’s what I did. Now, I understand that packing up and traveling full time is not for everyone. But you don’t really need to do something extreme. As long as you choose to dedicate yourself to anything that includes excitement and a bit of fear you’re good. For example, I had a session the other day and asked my client what he honestly was dreaming of doing. Something that scared him a bit. My client answered that he really wanted to learn how to dance. He expressed nervousness about it but after talking through his fears we found a suitable dance class for new beginners. That’s an awesome start!
Challenging ourselves and getting out of the comfort zone is the only way to discover how capable we actually are. The confidence you feel once you do this, is way beyond the benefits of the check list. A positive effect hopefully is gradually starting acting more on what excites us and less on what’s expected. Doing this automatically downplays the importance of the check list and its significance starts to dissolve.