I've noticed a common theme recently as I've been talking to friends, talking to family members, reading a lot of blogs I like: people seem to be wondering what the hell they're doing with their lives. And it's getting them really really down.
Even if you're doing something you like with your life, things like motivation, inspiration, energy, etc. can be really tough to find. It's like collecting mushrooms in Mario Bros; it's easy when you're in good health, but if you're a tiny Mario running around, trying desperately to find a mushroom before another one of those damn turtle-duck things touches you (even though you totally pressed the jump button in time; the game is totally cheating), you're vulnerable. Those polka-dot plant things will totally kick you while you're down. And Yoshi? He'll run away. And then what are you left with? You have to go all the way back to Star Road for a new Yoshi.
Anyway, I was wondering why so many people are dealing with this issue all at the same time. I think it has mostly to do with two things; 1: Many of these people are at the age where that's a perfectly normal thing to be concerned about, and even get depressed about. 2: I'm not sure anyone at any age knows what the hell they're doing with their lives. I feel like I hear a lot of people having thoughts like, "ooooh, that jobs sounds fun. Maybe I picked the wrong thing. Oh crap, what if I picked the wrong thing? I'm doomed!" (that's right; I can hear peoples' thoughts. I just got all Jean Grey on your ass.)
I don't know, I don't really have any answers. I only know what's helped me. I love being a pastry artist, but I like to make sure I devote time to my life dream (to make art that I'm proud of and that other people enjoy). Being an artist is hard; it's entirely up to you what you do, when you get it done, if you do anything at all. Your failures are your own, your triumphs are measured by your own ridiculously high standards, and if other people don't like it, all you can think is "Oh God fucking dammit, balls on a stick, fuckfuckfuck." A bump in the road is a punch in the gut.
So I have some tips. These aren't just for artists; whatever you're up to that you need self-motivation for, these might help you. Unless you don't need help, in which case: congratulations. I've read a lot of tips on this topic, and some are helpful, but I find a lot of "easy" tips are too hard ("You want me to make a LIST?! Are you crazy? I would have to go get a pen. Pens are in the other room. I'm not doing that."). All my tips hinge on the acceptance that you are NEVER EVER going to know if you chose the right thing in life. I guess my first tip would be to accept that. It's actually easier than you think, and it's a huge relief. Once you accept that, here are my tips for moving forward without certainty.
1. (This is, honest to God, the most important one): PUT ON PANTS. Especially if you don't have to leave the house. Put on some GOD DAMN PANTS. Pajama pants are unacceptable. Put on jeans. Sometimes I wake up and don't change out of my pajamas all day, and I just wander the house like a damn zombie. If you're going to wander the house like a zombie, you might as well do it in pants. Because you know what? If you put on pants, you start thinking, "well, I might as well put on a shirt and brush my hair while I'm at it." And then you're dressed and you start thinking, "You know what I like to do when I wear clothes? Sit at my desk." And so on and so forth. Once you have pants on, everything else seems to come a lot easier. It doesn't work every time, but your chances are better if you put pants on. It's all about momentum.
2. DO ANYTHING. If your goal for the day is to do a painting, or do research for your ground-breaking research paper, or groom 300 cats for that cat installation you're working on, that's fantastic. But if you don't feel like it and try to do it anyway, it's probably going to end poorly. Stop. What do you really feel like doing? Painting a masterpiece is great, but if you would rather doodle zombie birds, that's probably the better thing to do. As long as you're doing SOMETHING, it can pretty much be ANYTHING. (Facebook, Internet, and TV do not fall into the "something" category, btw.)
3. STOP MAKING SUCH STRICT GIANT GOALS. This goes along with my whole "I don't want to make a fucking list" rant. Lists and goals; these things are good sometimes, but sometimes they screw everything up. You set yourself up for some crazy project, you bite off more than you can chew, the whole thing becomes daunting. It's like you plant this cute little goal flower, but it turns into a giant, man-eating, violent, farting, huge mess, and you don't want to spend more time with it, and at first you just stop watering it, but it's too late; it has a life of it's own, and it's climbing out of its pot, yelling at you for not watering it, and you just want to crawl into bed and never do anything again. If you're going to set goals, make it simple (Goal: put on pants. If you can't put on pants, it's time for professional help.). I'm a huge proponent of the philosophy that bigger projects will occur organically. Play around in the dirt, and one day you'll notice there's something growing in it.
4. STOP APOLOGIZING. I see so many people apologizing to other people because they didn't do something ("I'm sorry I didn't blog yesterday" is one I see a lot. Or "I'm sorry the career I picked out wasn't right, and I have to quit."). We feel foolish or think other people are disappointed, but they're not. They're too worried about their own problems. If anything, they're excited to witness change in your life. Next time you feel like you let someone down, stop. Just stop. Instead of saying or thinking "I'm sorry," repeat this mantra: "I didn't like that at all; thank God I stopped doing it. To hell with anyone who wants me to do that shit that I don't like."
So that's about it. Again, these don't work all the time, and they probably won't work for everyone, but they've done a good job for me. After doing just one or two of these things, I'll sometimes look around and realize, "Hey, look at that! I didn't think I was even going to make it out of bed today, but here I am, riding a blue Yoshi (because let's face it, blue Yoshi flies and is totally the best), flying across this level, and I'm wearing pants!"