I don’t know about you, but it seems to me, there’s a bit more negativity these days.
Cliques and in-fighting run rampant in the workplace. Christmas Day is a tense stand-off with grudges rearing their heads on that day of all days (and fights over what to watch on TV). Misery pervades public transport. Black Friday sales unleash a kill-or-be-killed hunger for material goods. We all appear to have shorter fuses when interacting with each other in general.
Even an expression of ideas or dreams for the future is shot down before you’ve a chance to say, ‘It’s just an idea!’ It’s like we’re currently programmed to shut down difference.
How have we come to this?
It seems, before the economic crash of 2008, society was more relaxed and open, particularly to the pursuit of a different life course. Now, with the current pandemic exacerbating economic uncertainty, the pressure to pursue financially-secure paths is rising.
Why wouldn’t the pressure rise? Necessities are what they’re named. We need a roof over our heads, hot water, electricity etc. Pursuing unconventional career routes isn’t denying this fact but for some reason, it’s often assumed.
This may appear unrealistically idealistic and radical but hear me out. All jobs should lead to adequate living conditions, whether that’s working as a bank clerk or as a production assistant on a TV series. Not everyone can be a GP or solicitor or banker and that’s OK. If we all trained for those finite number of spaces, there would still be surplus people without employment. It’s more sensible to accept that everyone has their own talents that can contribute to society and push people to pursue them, rather than bring them down.
We’re at risk of pessimism masquerading as realism.
The arts, in particular, have suffered for years from this. Once commanding prestige, their funding has been reduced over the years and they’re now considered pointless career options. Even amid COVID, many artists and organisations are seeking financial help from the government. Still, snobbery in this situation persists, with some commenting that they should just get “proper” jobs. You shouldn’t be punished for wanting to earn by using your talents.
What’s the solution? Pragmatic Idealism.
We need to be practical and ambitious. Those two concepts sound contradictory, but they can work with the right mind-set. Here’s how pragmatic idealism can help you navigate life better:
- Having dreams doesn’t make you away-with-the-fairies or impractical. What’s the point of living if we don’t have things we want to accomplish? Everyone has goals, just to varying degrees of scale. People often focus on the end result rather than acknowledging the hours of hard grind for no money.
- Setting time frames for your goals doesn’t mean you have to abide by them. Nor does it make you a failure if you can’t meet each time frame. Life happens. You may have to delay certain things to meet necessities. That’s OK: you’re not giving up on your goals, you’re just prioritising.
- You won’t be able to achieve your vision without a detailed plan. While going at your own pace is ideal, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have tangible target points. Winging it is a romantic notion that some have accomplished. If you want to succeed quicker and more effectively, you need a plan. It’ll help you from wandering aimlessly and from feeling overwhelmed.
- People are going to oppose your life choices. Prepare a response that protects your ambition. Not everyone’s going to see your potential, which can be more hurtful when it’s those closest to you. It’s an unfortunate reality, however, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue what you desire. If we allowed peoples’ reactions to overshadow every action, we wouldn’t progress. We’re at this point because someone or some people took the brave move to go for the impossible and turn it into the possible.
- Goals help us progress in life, but they don’t determine our value. Success – or lack of success – can define who we are. It shouldn’t, yet it does. Your other attributes are just as important as what you’ve achieved or are yet to. Don’t forget about those: they’re what make you You.
- Killing yourself off to achieve your goals isn’t desirable. We currently exist in a culture that glorifies sacrifice for success. Everything is ‘Go, go, go. Resting is laziness.’ While discipline and drive are what we should all aspire to possess, they’re not worth damaging your health over. You’re no good to your life plan if you’re burnt out. Know your limits and pay attention to them.
Are you convinced? Try it and see for yourself. The end of the journey will be so much sweeter when you look back on how many obstacles you said ‘No, thank you’ to. Sometimes you can’t wait for things to fall into your lap. You have to go out and get them. That also means going after what you want without the approval of those important to you, but trust me, the payoff will be worth it!