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The Deadly Dangers of a Life Adrift
Calm waters can be deadlier than stormy seas.
In times of trials and tribulation, when our life’s vessel is buffeted by the winds and waves of adversity, we often yearn for more placid waters.
As we pitch and roll, we imagine that, if we could only get back on an even keel, life would be so much better.
But calm waters can be even deadlier than rough seas.
Adversities to overcome can be a blessing. Hardships can harden you, keep you sharp, provoke you into purposeful action, rouse you into rapid decisiveness. Exigencies can make your priorities, and often your plans, obvious and straight-forward.
Of course a stormy sea can also overwhelm and capsize you. But a pacific ocean has its own particular perils.
An easy life can lure you into the fatal depths of a false sense of security. You let your guard down and lose your edge. You start to drift toward the siren songs of compulsions (like constantly checking your phone), whims (A Ted Lasso marathon might be fun…), distractions (like taking a 5-minute TikTok break that ends up lasting an hour), and temptations (like eating a whole sleeve of Oreos because it’s there).
Without adverse conditions forcing you to work the sails, you can become adrift. And if you drift long enough, eventually you will find yourself lost at sea.
Aimlessness becomes listlessness. Listlessness become ennui. And ennui becomes despair.
So what’s the alternative? Do we seek out misfortune intentionally so that it may discipline us? No. But in the absence of externally-impose rigors, we must impose rigor on ourselves.
Here are two ways to stay on course in calm waters and avoid the deadly dangers of drift.
Develop and Follow Routines
Plot regular trade routes for key parts of your days. Institute a morning routine that starts your day on the right foot. Design a “tying up loose ends” checklist that lets you leave work at the office instead of mentally bringing it home. Carve out regular quality time with your loved ones with family dinners and game nights. Formulate a bedtime ritual that eases you into a good night’s sleep. Form strong habits that leave no psychic room for derailing distractions.
Keep and Consult Next Actions Lists
Keep what David Allen calls “next actions lists”: clear instructions for getting things done that make it easy to be productive. Draft them when you’re sharp, so that when you’re not so sharp, you can just follow your own marching orders instead of having to figure out what to do. The easier you make it for yourself to intrepidly sail onward, the less prone you will be to drift. Make a habit of consulting your next actions lists whenever you are between tasks. That habit will be an anchor that pulls you back you from chasing distractions.
Don’t let the comforts and protections of a fortunate life in the modern world lure you into a life of frustrated potential, gnawing angst, and quiet desperation. Develop habits that prevent drift by providing aim and anchorage. Chart a challenging life course for yourself to fully feel alive.
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