If you are a fan of Cosmograf you’ll recall that the concept for my album ‘The Man Left In Space’ wasn’t really a story about a space man who forgot what time the bus back to earth was leaving. It was really about the attraction and pitfalls of success, what we strive for and what happens after we achieve our life goals.
History is littered with the sad stories of those that became the best at what they do, through years of dedication and hard work. They achieved their life’s ambition, the pinnacle of what possibly could be achieved and then things started to go wrong. Once they achieved their goals, their reasons for existing were brought into question in their own minds, and so did the very essence and identity of their lives. When this happens, the fame, adulation and glory inevitably makes way for alcohol drugs, depression and sometimes even suicide.
Most of us live far more ordinary lives and this in itself offers some protection from such extreme stress on our characters but we are still prone… More often that not, unhappiness and depression rears its ugly head when the life we are living no longer matches the vision of what life SHOULD be like..
In adulthood we are focussed on life goals such as a perfect career, children, a great relationship but our learned behaviours are pretty much the same as when we were children. It’s all about the goal not the journey… We were taught at school that success and happiness is only about good grades. But we were to some extent sold a big lie. One of the failures of the school system is this is often considered as all you need for a happy and successful life. It’s part of the story but once you have your pass for the next level…things can often get more challenging. This was covered a lot in the lyrics of Aspire, Achieve and the title track of the album.
If we focus unnecessarily on one part of our lives, to the exclusion of all the other aspects, and things go wrong, we run a serious risk of our lives being considered hopeless in our own minds… This is where I think depression lurks and grows.
Let’s imagine you are a young executive, climbing the career ladder in a top PR firm. You are the brightest talent in the company, your course is set and you will stop at nothing until you are a Director with a team of 50 below you. But this is an ambitious plan and it requires nothing but total commitment. You work 80 hours a week, never see your spouse and young children and you have no friends because you are always to busy to talk to them. You get promotion after promotion, you reach your goal and things are going great, but then out of the blue you are made redundant.
In this simple circumstance completely beyond your control, you are left without a purpose. You achieved your goal but life didn’t really care and decided that your efforts were pointless and in vane. Your sole reason for being on the planet has gone…This is a dangerous place…a vacuum that can easily be filled with all the wrong things.
This is an extreme example but I fear I’ve fallen into the same trap and it’s not an easy one to get out of.
The aspiring young executive in my example was only able to ‘Value’ his or her life in terms of their career. Some people define themselves by their loving relationships with their partners and kids, others by their own self image or what other people think of them.
I’m learning that the fulfilment in our lives is measured against our values of how that life should be, our expectations.
This vision of ourselves we can term our ‘Life Values’. Some people want money, some want fame and some want great relationships, some want security and safety, others want risk and excitement.
I’d constructed a blueprint of success in my own mind and when life did it’s best to tear it apart I found that what was left was no longer ticking any boxes against my original specification. I also think that at the same time my specification had changed too… the goalposts had moved. In the process of living my life I found my goals had moved out of sight….This is not a good blueprint of happiness. In fact it’s so confusing to me now that I’m struggling to read the schematic.
When this happens there are still choices….3 of them….1- Give up, 2- Change your life to meet the specification or 3. Change the ‘Life Values’ that you believe are important to you….
Doing 2 AND 3 could well be a better plan.
There’s another strategy which I think may help too…
Much the same as when investing in stocks and shares, I think it might be a great idea to spread your ‘Life Values’ to a number of baskets…Don’t allow your happiness to be defined by or a few goals. If your relationship is a mess, focus for a while on the other stuff in your life, your career, on your health..
Even in the most unhappy of lives there are things that bring fulfilment.
Hang onto the these things while you start re-modelling the other stuff…