[ Essay ] I don’t owe anyone anything: Now what?

I used to think that I wasn’t moving forward with my private projects—writing, building online business, or cooking which uses more than one seasoning—because I lacked time. At the beginning of the Chinese new year, I launched a campaign to stop excusing myself, and followed these steps:

  1. Make a vow to put an end to the current laziness/busyness.
  2. Wake up at 6:00 and devote two hours for my creative activity and then leave my apartment for work at 8:30, energized with sparkling inspirations and renewed joy for the day.
  3. Three months later, go back to Step 1 (and hate myself).

Everything necessary was provided to accomplish this project: time, place, tool, clear objective, and even a mild pressure. That leaves only one parameter which wasn’t working: me. What had I been occupying myself during the “creative camp”? Kitten videos (accompanied by Mr. Botfly), Doom II (Yes), Twitter (the social media version of The Sun), An early masterpiece from Peter Jackson, director of LOTR (but probably unlike something you expect). I lost confidence, energy, and passion on everything, and soon the apathy turned to a period of mild depression.

Thankfully, my inability to be persistent was dominating all aspects of my life—including depression. I got depressive enough to get bored of being depressive, crawled out of life as a social hermit, and looked inside myself to see what was wrong. And I found out this: Plans and goals, the heart of my motivational program, did not motivate me at all. Instead they drained my energy; or my body refused to listen to my brain. (To be exact, motivation-by-goal technique hasn’t worked for me for the last two decades, an insight that nearly kicked off the second wave of depression.)

Why had I been setting goals even though they weren’t effective? It was because of my twisted logic on using “goals.” Deep inside, I thought delivering measurable results on a regular basis was necessary to be approved. By whom? Didn’t matter; they existed only in my imagination. Whatever I did was valuable only if it was recognized by someone. I was worthless and powerless, therefore I needed approval to survive—that was the core of my “motivational” program. No wonder why goals never worked: they were there to pull me back instead of push me forward. The more I focused on meeting goals, the more I (subconsciously) admitted that I couldn’t stand on my own, and therefore the less I became who I wanted to be.

Now at least I know I don’t owe anyone anything; it is time for me to stop trying to please my invisible stakeholders and listen to my own voice. Focusing on the end result does not work (for me), therefore I concentrate on the processing stage: Accept whatever comes, run it through my body, and let it go without trying to control the outcome. I’ll see where it takes me.

I am probably still in the “Alright, I know where I am now, and now what?” state. It’s not a bad feeling, as Tom Hanks’ smile says at the end of Cast Away.