“Is life getting better for me, or worse?” I’ve been thinking about this question recently, because I think the answer holds the key to what attitude I should approach life with. If life is getting worse, having a negative perspective on life is the most natural, realistic thing you can do. If life is getting better, anything but hope is completely foolish.
A few months ago, I was getting drinks with a friend at a bar-cafe. We sat outside on the patio and were enjoying the cool evening air. As we discussed how each our lives had been going, my friend mentioned that he was constantly tempted to believe that his life was getting worse as he got older. He had seen examples all around him of people who had sharp physical and mental declines as they got older.
We discussed dating. I talked about how I spent most of my 20s in an awkward place with low self-confidence and self-respect. I could’ve counted on one or two hands how many dates I had been on during the entire decade. When I did finally enter the dating world when I was 29, everything was more complicated. You now had to wait several hours or days before responding to a text message. You had to seem busy and uninterested, no matter how interested you were. If a girl thought I was more into her than she was into me, I would “lose the power” in the relationship.
Another problem of starting to date in my 30s: there seemed to be a lot less people around who were still single. It seemed that as soon as people got out of college they were focused on getting married.
It felt like I was in a race, but everyone else had already finished by the time I had laced up my shoes.
I tried online dating, but this ended up providing too much choice. As Barry Schwartz pointed out in his Ted Talk, having too many options is actually bad. You can always imagine something else being better. You are less satisfied with your choice, no matter how good of a choice it was.
Online dating also felt shallow. In lieu of meeting real people and then using dating to explore an existing connection, online dating would have me meet strangers to see if any connection even existed. Since you often only have a few pictures and some superficial facts, you end up practicing how to judge people in a very shallow way. The people with whom you might legitimately connect with get skipped over. Online dating made people seem more 2-dimensional.
I had always heard things like “the right one will come along when you’re not looking” and “I took a break from dating and met the person of my dreams,” so I decided to also take a break. But that didn’t seem to work either.
It’s really hard to go on dates when you don’t ask people out.
This led to an internal conflict: dating is weird and complicated, but it is the gateway that leads to several things that I want most in life. I not only want a deep connection with another person, I want to have children. But being a father isn’t a job I can have alone.
Sometimes it seems like it takes an incredible amount of strength and self-confidence to have your deep desires go unmet and to still not falter.
As I sat outside at the cafe with my friend, I could clearly see the ways the future could be negative. But as I began to look at the facts, I wasn’t confident that this was the direction I was heading. Comparing myself to who I was just three years ago led to shocking results. I am:
- Healthier (I eat better, sleep more, go the gym regularly)
- Better off financially
- More self-aware
- More independent
- Better communicator
- More attractive (I dress better, have more confidence)
- More emotionally healthy
- Take more risks
- Have better hobbies (I read, write, and even listen to better music)
- Closer to God, family, and friendships
When I considered the facts, I couldn’t be pessimistic. Pessimism was just too unrealistic.
So I made a decision: I decided to believe that I didn’t miss out on anything by neglecting to rush to get married in my 20s. I also decided that because I had grown so much, I was going to be a much better match for someone, the older I got.
Do you believe that your life is getting better or getting worse?
What areas of your life have you let pessimism sneak in?
What small step can you take today to focus on growing?