Updated: Feb 28, 2022
Have you ever been in a situation where you felt stuck and frustrated and felt that there was nothing you could do to get out? Have you ever felt empty even when you achieved your goals in life one after another? Are you asking yourself now when the covid pandemic will be over so that you can get on with your life?
The good news is regardless of where you are when you ask these questions, it tells me three things, you are alive, you want to live well, and you want to have a life filled with joy and meaning.
As we pursue improving our lives or avoiding pains, we often go with ways that appeared to work for us in the past: work harder, study more, be more disciplined, drink more, or take more pills. But unfortunately, the results are not always satisfactory, and we often become even more frustrated, disappointed, or even depressed.
Today, I would like to bring you back to the basics of our primary motivations and how we make decisions. To survive and live well appear to be the driving force for most of us. We learn everything through what we see and how we feel from our environment. We gain knowledge and wisdom to live better and to be happy. We long for a thriving life that is filled with joy.
Ever since we are born, we begin to pursue this, perhaps, even without our awareness. We set our expectations based on what we see and what we experience. We are not machines where wisdom and knowledge can be downloaded to our brains. It is a slow, rewarding and depressing process taking a lifetime to obtain. We are easily overwhelmed when trying to learn many things at one time. We can only handle three to seven bits of new information at one time at best.
How do we learn and process information since we are easily overwhelmed? To make decisions effectively, we leverage the outcome of our past choices and adjust our expectations accordingly. That, too, can be exhausting. Instead of analyzing every experience we had in the past, the collected experience is summarized as feelings and emotions stored deep in our hearts to guide us in making decisions. e.g., when we are with our families and friends, we feel safe and loved and act freely. When we are with strangers, we have feelings of danger or uneasiness, and we conduct ourselves more cautiously. Perhaps crudely, feelings can be described as a barometer to measure the success rate of our actions against our expectations.
We should recognize that the feelings/emotions are our friends, and they help us make choices, a powerful motivator. All of us make choices based on feelings. Even so-called logical choices are based on emotions. e.g., when we give a speech, instead of focusing on our presentation, we often worry about how well we compare with others. As a result, we usually will not do it until we feel confident. Without feelings and emotions, we humans cannot function at all.
We should also note that feelings can also be a stumbling block. They often undermine our interests and keep us staying disappointed or depressed. e.g., we avoid rejection or failure, run away from suffering and discipline, or give in to our fear. All of this potentially prevent us from growing and trying new things, which often keeps us in misery.
I realize feelings are shaped by experience, meditation, and expectations as I examine these things. By shifting expectations, the same routine can have a very different outcome. Instead of leaving it to a default defined by our upbringing, actively shaping and nurturing our feeling is the key to a thriving life.
One may ask how? How do I know what is good for me? How should I perceive what I see? How should I set my expectations and pursue what I dream? How can I balance all the competing emotions?
I do not know how you make such difficult choices. As for me, I have found my answers, and I like to share them with you as stated in Psalms 19: 7-10.
7 The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. 8 The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. 10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.
Please check it out. Live well and thrive.