Naturally, human beings strive to achieve their goals. Success delights and satisfies us, and failure depresses us (and lets us grow and strive for more, eventually). But what about the state in between success and failure? What if things just work “easily”, without any major ups and downs or highlights worth mentioning?
Boring, you might think. It sounds as if the person in this situation is just floating in a never-ending stream of dull life events, merely existing, without having to confront any waterfalls or rapids. It sounds a little bit like Finnish nature – beautiful, but without much variety, and after a while you are so used to it you don’t see the beauty anymore. The band Passenger sing in their song “Let her go” about exactly this phenomenon – you don’t appreciate what you got very much (until you don’t have it anymore). As much as I want to disagree with applying this to every situation that I encounter and instead celebrate the present and try to value people around me, I have to admit that also I always felt an extra hint of happiness about very little things after a long “low” period. In those moments when I am just happy that the world and my friends exist and the sunset is as beautiful as it is, for example: Without having been numb and depressed before for a while, it would probably be impossible to find them as amazing as right then.
Concluding from this, we don’t only seem to need ups because we naturally strive for success, but we also seem to need downs to appreciate the “normal” life more. What would that mean for our floaters now? Not only do they miss the thrill of success, they also become blunted towards the little things that are supposed to make them feel good!
Yet such indifferent people, being in the situation they are in, don’t feel the need to change anything. Have you ever been working in a job that is not quite your dream job, and you always planned to find something else… but you neither found the time nor the energy to do so urgently? If you are unemployed, however, and you need to change something (just to, let’s say, buy food and pay your rent), you put a lot more effort into achieving this. Which is why you might end up with something even bigger than you initially planned for.
How can our floating-around-people then ever change their situation, if they don’t even realize they want to? Some people seem to have a higher self-protection mechanism than others. They become unhappy and unsatisfied, grumpy and cranky – and after a while, hopefully, they realize they might need to change something. Some people are just numb and don’t feel much joy but also not much pain. And some are unsatisfied and never figure out what the reason is. Fact is, however, that our brains are programmed to strive for success. Like a bee’s mechanisms are programmed to take care of the hive, and no one needs to tell them that they should go and collect some pollen now, or die defending the hive. They just do it. So if we stick around to one thing for a too long time just because it is easy and the road not too bumpy, we will become dissatisfied, naturally.
I have some friends who stick around in the wrong places for the wrong reasons, namely because it is easy. No one challenges them, no one demands too much of them, they just float around and do their 9-to-5, and can apparently see this as a future until the end of their time. As tempting as a job after which you go home and do nothing sounds in times you despair of completing your thesis, you’ll soon miss the challenge of learning new things once you are finally in that situation. Encountering obstacles and overcoming them, and finding solutions, all by yourself, seems to be more tempting than this 9-to-5 life suddenly.
If one of these easy-peasy friends read my lines now and recognized themselves, they would probably protest loudly and claim how happy they are with their unchallenging life, I am pretty sure. Yet, at the same time, they somehow know they are dissatisfied. They might just not yet have found out why – while I claim I have: Without learning from disappointments and defeating challenges, our lives are just a little bit… pointless.
So if something bugs you and you don’t quite know what (easy to recognize by extremely aggressive behavior without any particular reason, for instance), just lift your butt from your sofa and try to find out what it is. A frequent habit like a weekly exercise might already be enough to get your engines going again. If you wanna start with something easy instead – the success of a clean versus a dirty window all due to your own muscle power can be overwhelming! And mine happen to need some maintenance…