A few weeks ago, I was working on a blog post, and I asked my wife to take a look at it before I published it. As she read it, she noted how my writing made it sound like I was unhappy with my life.
In fact, it’s not the first time someone has said that to me. I guess there are elements in my blog posts that give the impression that I’m not happy with my life (I’m sure that writing about my frustrations a few weeks ago probably didn’t help at all).
But that’s definitely not the case.
And I want to set the record straight.
For the Record
When I started this blog a few months ago, my primary goal was (and continues to be) to help others find ways to improve their lives.
If you’ve been reading my blog regularly, you know that I’ve been doing research, and teaching a class, on the psychology of passion for the past few years. Since all of this started, my students have been telling me that I need to find a way to get this information out to others. Many have told me that learning about passion has been life-changing and that others would likely benefit from hearing about it, too.
So, after thinking about it for a bit, I decided to start a blog that focused on passion and related topics. Ultimately, I thought that writing blog posts might be the fastest way to reach the widest possible audience (which is my real goal).
But I also thought that using my blog as a personal development tool might also be a good idea (as other blog authors have done; for examples, see here and here and here). I could try things on myself and then write about them.
And I could tell others about my personal experiences in hopes that some of what I write about might resonate with others and prompt them to make changes in their lives, too.
Because, ultimately, here’s what I think:
I think there are a lot of people out there who want to make changes in their lives.
My students. My friends. My colleagues. (I know, because they’ve told me.)
Some want to make small changes; others want to make big changes. But either way, they want to do things a little differently.
In short, they want to level up.
As I found out later, “leveling up” is a video game reference. It means that a player has earned enough points to acquire a new set of skills (or get a new weapon or move to a new location, etc.). Ultimately, having these new skills means that the player can now do things that will improve his or her performance in some way.
And that’s ultimately what I’m going for in my life right now: a little leveling up.
But let me make one thing clear: I am not trying to level up because I’m unhappy.
Not all all.
In fact, as I’ve written previously, I have many things to be grateful for.
An amazing family. Great friends. Good colleagues. A career that I’ve worked hard for and that’s going very well. Many wonderful students. Good health (even though I could stand to lose a few pounds). The best dog in the world.
So why, then, I am I trying to level up?
Simply because I know that I’m capable of more.
I know I can be a better husband and dad. I know I can be a better son and brother. I know I can improve my health. I know I can be a better friend. I know I can have a bigger influence on others than I’m having right now. I know I can be a better writer. I know I can be a better teacher. I know I can play guitar in a band. I know I can find better work-life balance (even though I’ve improved 100% over the last few years).
In short, I know I can be the hero in my own movie.
And most likely, that’s what’s coming across in my writing.
Not unhappiness. Not frustration. Not anger. Not despair. Not regret.
Just a real desire to be better than I am right now.
Just a real craving to level up.
Plateauing: The Hot New Trend
In fact, while I was thinking about this blog post, I was reminded of an article I saw some time ago in the satirical online magazine, The Onion.
The title of the article was, “Alarming New Adult Trend ‘Plateauing In Your Career And Relationship’ Sweeps Nation.”
The first couple of paragraphs read as follows:
“A hot new trend sweeping the country’s adult population has turned into a nationwide sensation, sources confirm, but many experts say the burgeoning grown-up fad may be a cause for significant concern.
It’s called ‘plateauing in your career and relationship,’ and it involves adult men and women hitting a wall in their professional and romantic lives and doing absolutely nothing to reinvigorate them.”
And later on in the article:
“Data from the investigation helped shed light on the possible motives for the massively popular but disturbing trend, which include the fact that it’s just easier this way and that moving forward at work and in relationships requires motivation, foresight, and planning, and that’s hard—especially as time goes on and the years start to add up and it’s just hard to find the energy anymore.”
“Sources confirmed that plateauing in your career and relationship is merely the latest fad to grip adults in recent years, following on the heels of popular trends such as giving up on your dream of writing a novel, having kids because it’s a box to check, and gradually feeling alienated in your own body after steady weight gain.”
As amusing as the article is, I think it also makes a very strong point: We all have busy lives, and it’s easy to get caught up in the day to day.
We get the kids ready for school. We go to work. We eat dinner with our families. We watch TV or read a book or surf the Web for funny videos. We get the kids ready for bed. We (try to) get plenty of sleep. We ______ [fill in the blank for your life].
And, for the most part, we really enjoy these things.
We’re content. We’re happy.
Contentment Without Plateauing
But in the midst of our contentment, we fail to notice the plateau (or at least it doesn’t bother us enough to pay much attention to it).
Or if we do notice it, we think that’s all there is—we think we’ve reached our peaks.
But here’s the reality: We can always keep leveling up; we can always keep acquiring new skills or trying new things that can improve our lives in some potentially meaningful way.
Moreover, although it may seem counterintuitive, contentment and happiness are not antithetical to change.
Personally, I think we can be content while still growing. I think we can be happy with where we are while still striving to push past that plateau toward a better future.
And that’s where I am. And that’s what my blog is all about.
So now you know.
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