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Life’s Little Problem – Always Full, Never Complete

Life’s Little Problem – Always Full, Never Complete

Sometimes I don’t understand what my problem is; I always just want something more from life. I don’t know what I want and I don’t know why I want it, but I’m never really satisfied, not for long anyway. It’s like I’m frantically rushing to catch life’s flight, afraid that I’ll miss it, but I don’t really know what flight is it that I need to catch and I don’t know which airport it takes off from!

This need for more starts pretty early. In school it’s the marks –should be higher than the next guy, in college it’s the looks – should be better than the next guy, at work it’s the compensation package – should be fatter than the next guy. Life as a whole, well, has to be fuller than the next guy. Has to be at that maximum level of everything, but somehow, even when you reach that maximum, you start worrying about a new maximum, it doesn’t end.

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Sure, wanting more is a good thing, ambition makes the world progress, but why is there always this feeling of discontentment? Striving for the best is great, but why does it come with a constant restlessness and fear of missing out?

Why is life always so full, but never fully complete?

You know who is complete? A 5 year old child, just take a look at one – raucous  screaming, clothes in disarray, dirt on the face, running about stepping on people’s toes and making them jump (my toes still hurt from the one who stepped on mine today). So effortlessly complete. Doesn’t need to get anything, doesn’t need to be anyone. We were all there at a point in time, and then somewhere between 5 and 15, we became incomplete.

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We were taught that we need to do extra, to achieve extra, to stay ahead – but even as we learnt ambition, no one seems to have noticed that we also learnt that ‘we are not enough’. The more we learnt about all the things we needed to do and be, we also unlearnt how to love ourselves as we are. Even as we learnt to be at the top of everything, we forgot how to accept ourselves when we are not at the top.

We all learnt social etiquette, but we never learnt how to treat our own selves

I wonder, among all the math lessons we were taught, why didn’t they knock off one of those barely survivable trigonometry lessons and teach us how to love ourselves. Honestly, we need to spend some time on this one – ‘How to love the person you will spend the rest of your life with’ – guess who – YOU!

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People write a hundred odes to unconditional undying love for partners, for parents, for children, for friends, for animals – why not an ode to unconditional self love. We celebrate the fact that we can love the people in our lives irrespective of their flaws but we cannot even bring ourselves to accept our own flaws…leave alone love ourselves despite them. Of the hours and hours we spend obsessing over whether ‘XYZ’ likes us, we don’t even dedicate a minute to asking whether we like ourselves.

If we were to take all the adults on earth and give them a test on self acceptance and love – more than half the world would be sitting in detention trying to make up credit for the subject they just flunked!

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As long as we are failing at that subject, no matter how much we stuff our life and make it overflow with success and social recognition, our discontentment and need for more will not go. We will keep looking for that external validation – something out there that will help us feel like we have done everything we need to do, proven everything that we need to prove. Well, there is nothing out there and we know it. If in our heads we are not good enough, we will never feel good enough. One could win the Nobel Prize and feel great for a few days until that voice in the head starts whining again – do extra, achieve extra, stay ahead – you are not good enough!

The fact is simple enough – all we need, to be complete, is a little bit of love, to give to ourselves. A little acceptance for being average, even as we strive for the best. A little kindness towards our own failures even as we pursue success. All it needs really, is to look in the mirror every once in a while and say “Well lousy fellow, you need to stop lazing around, you need to stop messing up, you really need to stop skipping gym and eating those donuts – and – I love you.”

Featured photo credit: www.consciouslifestylemag.com via consciouslifestylemag.com

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

Curiosity

Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

Patience

Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

A Feeling for Connectedness

This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

How to Self-Taught Effectively

With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

1. Research

Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

Learning the Basics

Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

Hitting the Books

Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

Long-Term Reference

While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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2. Practice

Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

3. Network

One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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4. Schedule

For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

Final Thoughts

In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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