It’s possible that these exact words that I am now writing have already been written at some time in the past by some other person, who was most likely much more educated and qualified than I am. Every photograph I’ve taken in every country I’ve visited is the same as all of the other photos from all of the other travellers. Every mixture of chords that I could conceive to put together into a song has probably already been played, surely by someone who plays the guitar far better than I do. My boyfriend always says that no matter what you do, there is a 12 year old child somewhere in the world who can do it better. He’s probably right, but is that any reason to give up? How can we find purpose and meaning in a world where it’s all been done?
In our permanently connected world of over 7 billion people, we are bombarded by these two definitive and contradicting statements: 1) In order to be a happy and successful person you must be true to yourself and embrace your own uniqueness. 2) You are not in any way unique and every thought you have has already been had by someone else at some time. The problem with trying to be unique in this fast-paced interconnected world is that we have access to see what so many people are already doing. I used to feel amazing about having visited 36 countries until I met a guy who had been to over 90. My uniqueness was suddenly not only ordinary but also rather lackluster. Then I read an article about another man who had visited all 201 countries in the world (Graham Hughes) and rather than being inspired by him I felt as if my hopes had been dashed. I could never achieve what he had achieved, so what was the point in trying? Are we doomed to strive for greatness, only to achieve mediocrity?
I encountered this problem when trying to name my blog. I wanted a unique name that truly encapsulated the essence of my theme. I didn’t want to be a copycat of someone else’s blog or book or idea. I had a clear vision of my theme – well-being, self-development, happiness, my own personal journey– Aha! ‘Journey to Happiness’- Taken, and a bit obvious. Maybe I should specify exactly what I want to discuss about happiness. I want to emphasize my involvement in choosing my own destiny. Aha! ‘Choose Happiness’- Registered trademark of Coca-Cola. Darn. What about ‘Miss Happiness’? ‘Tempus Fugit’? ‘Gotta Be Me’? Nothing was new. Nothing was unique.
My problem was that I was googling these names and hoping to find zero entries, but there was always a blog or a book or a website for every name I searched for. That’s when I made my biggest mistake. I started searching on twitter. Now even the names I’d added to my short-list were no-gos. No matter what I thought up, there was already a twitter name or hashtag. I had to take a break and clear my mind. How could I create my own blog where I share my unique insights on what it means to be happy and how to enjoy your life if I couldn’t even come up with a suitable name? I had been thinking about writing a blog for months and every time I got started I would quickly give up. I might write one or two blog posts in a word document on my computer and then get frustrated and decide that writing a blog isn’t the right path to take. I would psych myself out and tell myself that a blog is pointless because “everyone else already has a blog” and “it’s all been done”.
The more I thought about the options, the less I felt connected to the names. I wanted this blog to be an honest expression of my thoughts and opinions, and a way to connect with other people who are going through similar journeys toward taking charge of their lives and choosing to be happy. The more I worried about the name, the more the negative thoughts started streaming in: “Noone’s going to read the blog anyways so who cares what I name it,” or “I don’t even know if I can write” and “I always give up on these sorts of projects, so I’ll probably give up on this one too.” Once this self-doubt started to seep in I began to question if I should even have a blog at all. Writing a blog involves putting my words out there for other people to read and scrutinize. What if no one reads it? What if someone I know reads it? What if people don’t like how I write, or what I have to say? Am I strong enough to deal with criticism? I let this tiny setback of searching for a suitable name throw me completely off course. It was just like when I used to play Monopoly with my brother and when I started to be afraid of losing I would flip over the game board. Instead of fighting, I just gave up. we
There are hundreds of thousands of people writing about exactly what I plan to write about. There are countless books about happiness and well-being and optimism and how to enjoy your life. Where I am going wrong is thinking that these things have any effect over whether or not I should write my thoughts and opinions. It took me years to decide to learn to play the guitar, for the exact same reasons. I thought it was too late to start. I thought that every second person I pass on the street can play the guitar, and half of them can actually play well. I bet another third of those people can play multiple instruments. Maybe some play in a band. Maybe some are professional musicians! My line of thinking was that I could not compete with the rest of the world as everyone else was obviously much better at playing the guitar than I was. Then one day I woke up in the morning, walked into a music store, and purchased a guitar. I didn’t contemplate which guitar would be best. I didn’t weigh my options of purchasing online or buying from a shop. I knew that if I thought about it for very long I would find a reason not to do it, so I just went out my front door and bought a guitar. I sat on the internet for hours, printed out little diagrams with the chords and taught myself how to play A, C, D, E and G. I watched Youtube videos and learned how to play a few bars of Nirvana and Fleetwood Mac songs. I eventually signed up for lessons. I’m still not great and I don’t think I can even play a full song all the way through, but at least now I have started and, though it’s tough, I try to only compare my playing with how good I could play last time. I don’t compare myself to Dave Grohl. I didn’t learn to play to be a professional musician. I wanted to learn to play for me. I wanted to enjoy the feeling of making music and of learning something new.
So why am I comparing myself to professional writers or to psychologists who have been studying happiness or optimism for their entire careers? I want to enjoy the process of reading books, watching Ted Talks and speaking to other people about their journeys toward a fuller, more enjoyable life. I want to wake up in the morning and feel that I have a purpose. I want to know that I am making an explicit choice to focus on the positive, and leave the negativity and depression and self-doubt behind me. If writing a blog helps me to achieve these goals then that will be my success, not matter how many other people have written about ‘seizing the day’ and ‘following their dreams’.
Will the name of my blog be the sole criterion in my success? No. Names can be changed. Background colours can be updated. Choosing the right type of font will not make me happy. Realizing that all of these issues are secondary is what will really help me to move forward. More than that, it’s imperative that I accept that I have been using the excuse of “I don’t have a proper blog name yet” to explain why I haven’t gotten started. It’s scary putting yourself out there, but leaving your comfort zone is an important step toward fulfillment and happiness. It doesn’t matter how many people have taken similar steps before me. It doesn’t matter how many other thousands of blogs about happiness exist. If I think it’s all been done, then I’m wrong. It hasn’t. My story is still yet to come.
P.S. The song “It’s all been done” by the Barenaked Ladies has been going through my head the entire time I’ve been writing this entry. Enjoy!