I’m burying my morning run sneakers today. They’ve served me well for more than 4 years and as from today, they will rest in peace. I discovered holes on both sides of both shoes and as I was thinking about all the mornings and miles we run together and all the ideas I got while wearing them, they’ve inspired me for this post.
For a while now, I’m writing a chapter in my thesis about identity and self-concept that comes with it. I do this, because it is important to understand how identities are shaped in order to later on understand activation of stereotypes and prejudice. It’s fascinating how our contemporary world is imbued with concerns about the Self, from within the Self and for the Self. The self-help industry and happiness industry are thriving as we are sinking deeper and deeper into isolation and lack of trust on one hand and try to cultivate sometimes even super powers, skills and competencies on the other, all in order to prosper, make progress/profit or to impress people who often don’t even care about us.
What about our character? Our moral responsibility for this world? Our sensitization for injustice? We are too busy finding ourselves and we get lost in overthinking (a nice word for that is ruminating). We forget that overthinking often leads to negative thoughts and can even detach you from your basic life purpose. We don’t become good by thinking about being good. We don’t master a certain skill or learn a new habit if we only think about it. We don’t solve our problems with our partner if we analyse our relationship until there’s nothing left to analyse. We don’t find ourselves by constantly being soaked in our thoughts and by spending every second we have, focusing on ourselves.
That’s, in most cases, a mere waste of time. Time you’ll never get back.
As usual, this is nothing new to discover. I’m always impressed how we as mankind have learned so little and that the Greek philosophers have figured most things out already.
If you want to get on with your life, get moving. Go, stand up now and DO all the things you are thinking about doing. Or simply stop thinking and start doing. Aristotle suggested this, as he said:
We become just by performing just action, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by performing brave action.”
Character is forming through doing, through engaging with others in meaningful conversations, through getting on with your life, wherever that may be. So put away your self-help book and go out. Stop thinking about all that could have been or all bad things that have happened to you and call somebody who is about to celebrate their birthday and ask them what they want for a present. You don’t need a therapist to “fix” you. You don’t need an expert to tell you how to live your life. You just need to start DOING things and through doing things that are meaningful for you and have benefits for the community, you’ll shape your character in terms of self-respect, courage, moral responsibility and empathy. If it scares you, good. It means it is worth it. If you have doubts, great. It means you are doing something challenging. Are you afraid you’ll fail? You probably will at least sometimes, and that’s awesome, because you can’t learn if you don’t fail every now and then. Don’t follow others who want to make you a happiness industry consumer. Go figure out what makes YOU getting on with your life. And figure it out by just doing it.
What difference would that make for you?