If you’re not careful, you can come up with all sorts of reasons why you’re failing and all sorts of things that aren’t quite right.
I came across a good term to describe this: a narrative of wrongness.
We can be so hard on ourselves so much of the time. Whether through critiquing the way we’re doing things, or feeling guilty for things we haven’t yet done, we can easily come up with lots of reasons why we’re falling short.
But we often take what matters most for granted and, as a result, overlook all the things we have in our lives that make it meaningful. These don’t have to be complicated; perhaps its the quiet cup of coffee stroking the cat in the morning, the warmth of the winter sun on your face as you’re out on a walk, or a catch-up with an old friend.
The things that make your life meaningful are often overlooked, crowded out by the PhD and the stress it entails. But they’re there – you just have to look.
Take me, for example. Running a business is a bit like doing a PhD. It’s stressful, uncertain, lonely at times and a steep learning curve. I could focus on all these downsides, and stress about the things that aren’t going right, or that aren’t quite where I want them to be.
Or, instead, I could focus on the fact I have friends around me that I love and receive love from, I’m healthy, I get to interact with inspirational people each day on a schedule that suits me, and I get to sleep each night in a warm, comfortable bed. These aren’t things to take for granted; they’re what makes life meaningful.
You see, there will always be things that aren’t quite right with your life. But there will always be things that spark joy and meaning. Focus on those instead.