Ask Steve is a new advice column from Steven Spohn. Drawing from personal experience and years of giving advice, Steve hopes to blend humor, positivity, and heartfelt opinions to guide you through the tough times in your life. You can ask Steve a question here. Check back every week for a new topic.
I’m glad you’re going to start doing this. You always seem to have your life together. I wish I could be more like you. How do you go about deciding to do these things? What makes you post positive things and want to help people?
The world hasn’t been so good to me lately. I’ve thought about quitting my job, and I don’t feel like I’m going in the right direction. What should I do?
Scared in NY
Hi Scared in NY,
Having your life together is all a matter of perspective. While I might seem to have my life together, I assure you it’s mostly an elaborate contraption of smoke and mirrors, mostly held together by chicken wire and old Pizza Hut containers.
There’s never really a point where we, as human beings, are completely satisfied. That’s why bumper sticker companies make millions off of “life is greener on the other side” slogans. Take money, for example; some people think money buys happiness. I’ve got friends who make $250,000 a year, and they aren’t always happy. I have other friends who make less than $20,000, and they aren’t necessarily happy either. Some others believe it’s love, career, family, possessions, achievements, and/or academic accolades that make you “truly happy.”
So, how do you find what’s actually responsible for happiness?
Trick question; it’s different for everybody. The first step is to find True North for you. For me, it’s helping people. You can see it threaded in everything you’ll ever find about me on Google, by asking my friends, and even nine out of 10 of my worst enemies. Except for George, that guy is a jackass.
True North is often referred to by many different names, but overall it’s a matter of finding what virtue is highest on your scale, what motivates you, what lights the fires of your passions and allows you to burn the brightest you possibly can. It’s that feeling deep down inside your very soul that screams out what you want to be doing with your life. For some, it could be earning money, raising a family, serving their country, inventing things, or even just helping people. How you go about following that magical, imaginary compass is what we call the path of your life.
No two people will end up on exactly the same path. However, multiple people can have the same True North. These are the people who fancy similar dreams and have similar values as you. They are the members of your tribe. They are the ones who will support you and make you feel like your life is coming together. Once you find people who are either on similar journeys or simply supporters who believe in your direction, it’ll be easier to stay focused following your path because the people around you will be cheering you on every step of the way.
While you may feel like you want to be me, I assure you, you don’t. I have difficulties and struggles just like anyone else. That’s what makes being human so amazing. We all have our own triumphs and obstacles. Each of our struggles are justified, valid, and just as important as everyone else’s. That’s why it’s important to focus on the obstacles life has given you, not somebody else.
That popular movie star you idolize and wish that you could be? They may feel completely alone. They might not have anyone they can trust. They may question everyone’s motives because they have no idea who is actually in it to be their friend, and who wants to be riding their coattails.
The guy who has a loving family, 2.5 kids and the white picket fence you wish you could have? He could be in debt up to his eyeballs because his wife cheated on him last year and took their savings to an island off the coast of Mexico. That woman who got the promotion you wanted and just posted the celebration photos on Facebook? What if I told you a few minutes ago she was crying in the bathroom because she couldn’t stop thinking about her mother who recently passed away from cancer and that promotion was the one thing holding her together?
Would you still be envious of them? Would you still feel jealous? Would you still want to trade your life for theirs if you had to take good things AND the bad?
Each and every one of us has a collection of demons hidden just beneath the surface of our lives. Sometimes you fight the demons and win. Sometimes, you decide to put on the Hallmark Channel and cuddle together for a while. And, yes, sometimes the demons will win a battle. It happens to all of us. You’re not alone.
What I found after many years of soul-searching was that following my True North helps me sleep at night. It also helps me be content with the battle against the demons I choose. If there is one secret I wish someone had told me when I was younger is that you choose your demons in life by making choices along the way. But in the same way that you choose your demons, you can choose how to fight them. Make them battle on your terms.
If your job or relationships or hobbies aren’t giving you a feeling of satisfaction or fulfillment you deserve, then you need to start planning your next move.
Take a moment to reflect on your life and locate the memories of times when you felt the most happiness. I mean, like, rolling around naked in a pile of thousand dollar bills happy.
It’ll take some time to dig down and take inventory of your life. But when you do find those precious moments, you’ll find a common thread between them all. That thread is your True North.
Now that you’ve made a drinking game out of how many times I just said True North, and you’ve begun to figure out what that means to you. Congratulations! If you manage to figure out even an inkling of what it is you’d like to do with your life, you’re ahead of a lot of us. Even if you don’t exactly know what it is you want to do or what exactly will make you happy, at least heading in the general direction of what makes you less miserable is a good place to begin.
What do you do from here?
You start chasing that feeling. Chase it like your life depends on it because it does. While that sounds incredibly obvious and probably not worth the amount of money you paid to read this post, many people get caught up in planning, dreaming, wishing, and hoping that their dreams will come true. But they never actually make moves to start making those dreams come true.
Don’t allow yourself to fall into those traps. Life is all about momentum. By taking even the smallest of actions today, you’ll make taking a bigger action much easier tomorrow.
If you want to be more positive, you can start doing that by making it your mission to compliment one person in your life, every day. Bump that number up as the weeks go on. Be sincere. Never fake. Always grateful and humble. Make others feel good, and that’s bound to help you feel good about yourself.
Most importantly, ignore misinformation and negative advice from people who don’t have your best interests at heart. You’ll read “gurus” who will tell you things like:
Fake it until you make it!
Keep going, happiness will come!
You’ll never get anywhere if you quit now!
It’s all bullshit. 100%. Total. Bullshit.
Your feelings of anxiety, restlessness, and even unhappiness are completely valid. If you aren’t happy where you are in life, there’s no reason not to change.
A wise person once said, “change will not occur until the pain of not changing outweighs the pain of staying the same” — You’ve already identified that you need to change. You’re in pain. The only way to stop that pain is to make adjustments in your life.
If you’re unhappy, you have to do something about it. While there will be plenty of people to help you along the way, no one person is going to come along and solve all of your problems for you. You still have to do the hard work yourself. It’s intimidating and scary, but you’ll thank yourself in the end.