When we are young, it is easy to grow and achieve. Youth is built for that. When we go to school, with each passing year we graduate to a higher grade, and we learn new things. If we come from an advantaged background, our parents may pay for us to take music lessons or to learn a sport. This lifestyle of learning gives our younger years a certain energy and momentum.
But once we leave behind the schooling chapter of our lives, and we start the work and family chapter, we often get into a holding pattern. Personal achievement ends up taking a backseat to real life responsibilities. And then we stagnate. We stop learning. We stop improving ourselves. And suddenly it feels like life is passing us by.
As adults, we do all kinds of things to pretend that we aren’t stagnating. For instance, we pretend that being busy is the same thing as achieving. I know a lot of people who are addicted to being “busy.” Certain mothers I know love to be busy chauffeuring their children from one activity to another. I know other folks who love to be busy with their jobs.
This obsession with busyness is a way for people to distract themselves from the fact that they they’ve stopped growing personally and intellectually. Their lives are like someone running on a treadmill. They are doing a lot of running and getting nowhere.
God did not create us to stagnate. He did not create us to simply “survive” life. Our routine should not be to get up in the morning, meet our basic work and family responsibilities during the day, watch television in the evening, and then go to bed at night. That is bare minimum living. We each were made for more than that.
We were made to improve ourselves continually, until the day we die. If we stop continually improving, we naturally feel dissatisfied. I believe that most midlife crises are not the result of people being concerned about getting older. Rather, people have midlife crises because they are frustrated because they have become boring. They have stopped learning, developing new skills and growing in emotional maturity. So, they mistakenly look for quick fixes to deal with that frustration – extra-marital affairs, excessive shopping, extreme adventures, etc. But none of those fixes deal with the underlying problem, which is that they themselves are personally stagnating.
The main reason why we stop growing is that we don’t have time the time to pursue the activities that would allow us to better ourselves. Or rather, we do have time, but other people hijack our time. Certain people continually ask us to do things for them or with them. As a result, our free time to pursue our own interests goes out the window.
I currently am blessed with a husband who never makes demands on me or my time. If I take the time to do things for him or with him, he is delighted, but he never expects anything from me. His independence allows me to pursue the things that interest me – writing, studying foreign languages, reading, playing my flute, etc.
But I have spent parts of my life dealing with people who took up my free time with their needs, personal issues and dramas. And very often, my own need to improve myself took a backseat to their selfishness. That is no way to live life. We were meant to learn about things that interest us. We were meant to continually acquire new skills. If we don’t do those things, we truly feel like life is just passing us by.
If you feel like you are stagnating in a sea of mundane responsibilities and your time is consumed with addressing the needs of others, today is the day to turn that around. Pick one accomplishment that you would like to achieve over the next twelve months. Maybe it is to start learning a new language. You can motivate yourself by planning a trip to a place where they speak that language. Perhaps you want to learn to play a new instrument, or resume playing an instrument that you haven’t played in years. Spend the next year taking lessons. Then treat yourself to a concert with a musician who plays that instrument.
Maybe you have a special interest you want to pursue. For instance, many people are history buffs. They pick a particular period of history and delve into it fully. You may find the Civil War to be fascinating. Read all the books that you can get your hands on which focus on this period. Watch the best films and documentaries about it. Then treat yourself to a vacation at some of the most important Civil War sites. I refer to that as “adult learning” – learning for the joy of the knowing more about a subject versus learning for a grade.
Take time this week to consider how you might make your life a little bit more interesting. Stop watching television. Stop texting, tweeting, posting, and surfing. Stop letting life pass you by while you engage in pointless activities. Instead, grab life by the horns. Invigorate your life by learning new things or new skills. If you do this, you will feel more alive and rejuvenated.
Meerabelle Dey has a B.A. in History and Religious Studies from the University of Toronto and a J.D. from Fordham University School of Law. Much of her legal career has been spent dealing with issues affecting women, children and the poor. She has lived in the United States, Canada and the Middle East. Meerabelle now devotes her time to writing. Her mission is to use her writing to inspire others to achieve God’s unique purpose for their life