Just Start Doing Stuff

by Frost on May 19, 2011

At some point in our lives, we need to figure out our Purpose In Life.

But we don’t have to do it today.

When I woke up and decided I needed to make some major changes to my happy, comfortable, but ultimately purposeless life, I spun my wheels for a while. Sure, I wanted to change. But into what, exactly? The only thing I knew for certain was that I had found one path – conventionally defined nine-to-five success, evenings and weekends a sea of liquor and loose women  – that didn’t work for me.

But then I realized that it wasn’t necessary to have a fully armed and operational life philosophy and sense of purpose before I acted. Why not just start doing things that feel right? Even if you don’t know where you’re going, your gut is a compass that will tell you if you’re taking clumsy steps in the right general direction.

When I first realized that I was on a slow road to a dull, un-extraordinary life, I made three major changes:

  1. I focused on my health. I started hitting the gym hard. More importantly, I discovered non-conventional paleolithic fitness. I gradually changed my focus to optimizing my diet and exercise routine for maximum gains with minimum time expenditure.
  2. I started reading constantly. I realized that I had given up my undergraduate-era habit of tearing through a book a week, regardless of how busy, hungover or sleep-deprived I was. I woke up to the fact that my experience of the western canon of literature was on par with a typical 19th century middle school student, and I still had entire worlds to explore.
  3. I started clearing out crap that was occupying my mental energy. Rather than sit frozen in place, waiting for a sense of purpose to fall in my lap, I decided to start clearing out the junk that was clogging up my time and focus. I ruthlessly cut my non-essential expenses. I stopped caring about politics. I ended relationships with insane girls, and released myself from feeling obligated to keep in touch with friends who did not contribute to or inspire my life. I cut myself off from the information overload of modern mainstream media.

At first glance, there’s no common theme to any of these changes. Nor do any of them have any direct relevance to what I was feeling. I hated my job, so I… worked out more? I was bored of easy drunk girls so I… stopped reading the newspaper? There doesn’t seem to be much logic to it.

But here’s the thing: I hadn’t found any logical answers yet. And if I had chosen to wait for them, I might still be waiting. So rather than sit, paralyzed, I made a few simple, obvious modifications to my life. I went after the low-hanging fruit.

Is my ultimate purpose in life to get buff? Nope. But good health is a tool that gives me the energy and focus that make everything else easier.

Can I die a happy man, once I’ve read every book mentioned in The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages? Not at all. But it will help me understand the world, my place in it, and how to bend it according to my will.

As for distractions like politics, news, TV, video games, and mindless internet surfing – their deleterious effect on a man’s ability to conquer the world is obvious. (To hedonists with no desire to conquer anything, I’ll just say: There are greater pleasures in life than the minutiae of North African civil wars and How I Met Your Mother. You’re better off spending your limited time elsewhere.)

So if you find yourself – as I was – caught in a rut that you’re not sure how to escape, my advice is to just start doing stuff. Pick up new habits, discard old ones. If you can identify basic, obvious shit in your life that you need to change, take care of that before you start worrying about what it all means.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

FordRangerGuy June 1, 2011 at 9:36 am

“Can I die a happy man, once I’ve read every book mentioned in The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages? Not at all. But it will help me understand the world, my place in it, and how to bend it according to my will.”

Strangely, I just picked up Bloom’s book from the library when I read this today.
I think it’s a great start. I’d love to hear later that you’ve stuck with it, because I think it’s a worthy project for self-enlightenment. Just my .02

Btw, yours has become a favorite blog of mine.

Mister Lettuce May 31, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Oh, and this post made me think of a great short story by Norman Spinrad:

Mister Lettuce May 31, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Smart advice, Frost. It seems that so many people in our world are content when they hit a certain point. For some, it’s at High School: once you’re the top jock or biggest players, that’s all that matters. Same thing with college: you live your life dulled with alcohol and women, and you think you can live like that forever.

But we can’t stay the same and remain on top. Stagnation will cause us to crumble.

The top high school jock now bags groceries at the supermarket.

The college fratty is now bloated, bald, and aimless.

We have to challenge ourselves.

Extinguish May 31, 2011 at 4:37 am

That Western Canon looks to be an impressively long list. I know “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” is, I believe, over 1200 pages.

Mackroyal44 May 30, 2011 at 11:14 pm

You guys with success are complaining about lives people would die to have. But, then again guys in the game seem to never be satisfied with what you have. I bet you a homeless bum would trade places with you any day of the week.

ABlackGuy May 22, 2011 at 1:18 am

Thought I was the only one doing this type of thing.

Princeps May 20, 2011 at 4:23 pm

This is great. Just what I needed. Though I will say it’s tough to snap out of a funk once you’re in one.

Neill May 19, 2011 at 9:30 pm

Great advice.

I noticed this a couple of years ago that people whom I admire for accomplishing a lot don’t necessarily have it all planned out from the start (as I used to think). They just pick something to focus on and move towards it, one thing at a time.

Yes it’s great if you find your ‘life’s purpose TM’ by the age of 16, but otherwise just keep picking things to move towards them.

I mean what else are we gonna do?

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