As Tyrion Lannister once said, “Death is so terribly final, while life is full of possibilities.” I love this quote because it is so pithy and – given the disadvantage Tyrion has to overcome in a world as violent and lost as Westeros – hopeful. I realize it’s a quote from a character in an HBO fantasy series, but right now it really encapsulates how I feel both downtrodden in my expectations of life yet hopeful for the possibilities still open to me. We all have experience reconciling the disconnect between the life we want to live and the life we actually live – experience gained only by picking yourself up after each episode of disappointment.
It’s not easy. Kicking dining room chairs over, furiously screaming at the sky, and collapsing into a heap on the ground – these are some things we do to cope with the latest turn for the worse. How do you move beyond all this raw emotion? Better yet, how do we harness it towards productive ends? These are questions we all face during the transition out of college and into those much-anticipated “grown-up” jobs.
The best answer I’ve found so far is two-fold, and can be summarized as, “find purpose.” First, focus on the simple joys in your life. There’s a reason this is such cliche advice: the satisfaction from laughing with a few friends over drinks or the inspiration from reading a good book are treasures that connect you to the world and those around you. You find purpose in these connections, they make you part of something larger than yourself and preclude any plans for wallowing in self-pity. Practicing mindfulness really helps with this. The second strategy I’ve been practicing is to set long-term goals that you can build towards every day. We all know the satisfaction that comes from crossing something off a to-do list, but that satisfaction can multiply and even become genuine happiness. If each time we trace a line through text, we know we are extending our lines closer towards our goal, then the physicality of the pen stroke begins to symbolize our own empowerment to achieve our goals through hard work.
I realize these strategies may sound contradictory: Enjoy the simple pleasures of the present while looking forward towards the possibilities we have yet to realize. Yet they compliment each other nicely. Simply draw out daily goals that will, over time, precipitate the type of life you want to be living. Then you can live each day in the moment, with those daily tasks as a constant reminder of your ultimate purpose.
My main goal is to find a job more closely related to my interest in public policy research or advocacy. Yet as I pursue this, I also aim to ace the GRE, get accepted into a Political Science graduate program, refine my intellectual interests, and create an engaging blog (it can’t be that bad if you read this far, right?). I pursue this goal daily by reading, blogging, and reaching out to those that inspire me. So which possibilities are you chasing? And how will you live every day to draw closer to those possibilities? First, answer the questions and set daily goals. Then, live in the present.