There are certain things I’ll never do. I’ll never go BASE jumping. I’ll never go to the Moon. I’ll never smoke a cigar. This is because I want to not do these things. It’s good to know; it means I don’t waste time trying to decide how to spend my time among millions of possible options. I focus on what I do want to do, like seeing fireflies one day. The other thing is that I’ll only be able to do the things I want to do when my intentions are clear. I need to act on my intentions, and I need to plan those actions, or the things I want in my life will never happen.
There is a trick to this. I know I want to see fireflies, and I know they are harmless and that it will be fun for me. Maybe romantic even. If I can come up with a (second) solid reason to go to a place where fireflies live, at the right time of year, it’s almost certain to happen. Why wouldn’t it? I can probably just go to a free public park one evening and there they will be. The only way I can mess it up is by trying to take a bunch of pictures and getting frustrated when they don’t turn out.
What do I do, though, when I have an intention that may not be fun, cheap, or effortless? What if I keep claiming I’m going to do something and not putting any effort behind that claim? They call it ‘procrastination’ – which is Latin for ‘wasting your precious life.’
We need to accept the facts and admit the truth to ourselves. I’m never going to go to the doctor about this. I have no intention of saving money for my retirement. I don’t even think I’m going to live that long, and that’s Plan A. I’m never going to lose weight. I’m never going to set foot in a gym. I’m never going back to school. I’m never going to write my book. I’m never going to clear out my storage unit. In fact, I’m never going to clean my bathroom or have all my clothes washed at the same time, either. I’m never going to quit drinking soda. I’m never going to quit smoking or drinking alcohol. I’m never going to stop yelling at my kids. I’m never going to stop being angry at my spouse. I’m never going to forgive That Person. I’m never getting off this medication or this CPAP and I’m certainly never going to make any of the lifestyle adjustments the doctor wants me to make. I’m going to my grave with unfinished business. I’ll die in debt. Other people can tie up my loose ends and clean up after me. This is MY LIFE and it’s mine to mess up as I choose. I don’t WANT to be my best self, and nobody can make me. I choose this. I choose this body and this living environment and these situations. Every day I have left is going to be just like this, except for when it gets worse, and I’m fine with that.
Things changed for me when I realized that everything I was doing was my personal Default Mode. I went to my default job on my default commute. I wore my default clothes and my default hair. I ate my default food. I slept on my default schedule. I read my default books and I wrote in my journal about my default feelings and I had many default conversations. I thought my default thoughts. I wasn’t particularly in favor of any of these default modes. What were they, factory settings? Could I get an upgrade? Was I missing an instruction manual? I spent a few days journaling about the objective reality of my life, which felt miserable to the core, and decided to make an effort to improve everything I could.
I started doing some research and experimenting with my life. It turned out that my default modes were not fixed after all. I was fully configurable. I paid off my debts, fixed my sleep issues, changed my diet, got fit, changed my wardrobe, and burned all my old journals. I adopted some new philosophical positions about living intentionally and being emotionally present for others. Lo and behold, every part of my life that had caused me (and perhaps others) such misery is now completely different.
I don’t particularly hold to this idea that we create our own reality. Say that with a straight face to a tsunami survivor. It makes no sense. The truth is that we are pawns of fate as well as creators of our own destinies. We may very well be living out the consequences of natural disasters or other people’s actions. We do still have the power to choose our own attitudes, which thoughts deserve our continued focus, and how we react to and express our emotions. We have the power to set boundaries and form intentions. Those are absolute powers. We also have virtually unlimited power to choose our actions, our associates, and our personal environments. When we fail to realize these powers, our lives are determined by entropy; by reaction instead of action, by external instead of internal forces, by others instead of ourselves. We float in a formless void, lacking inspiration, drive, or initiative. We become like the unborn. It is our birthright to shape our own destinies using the full extent of our abilities. We must set intentions to truly live.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.