Help me find some goals.
January 29, 2006 1:44 AM   Subscribe

Help me get out of a rut.

I love to play basketball. I enjoy just going after the goal (of a basket, pass, or the win) with everything I've got. My problem is that I don't feel that way about anything in real life. I have a very well-paying job and a good relationship, but no drive. Left to my own devices, I tend to surf the web or watch t.v. all day. If I won the lottery and could do anything I wanted, I'd probably do the same. I just am not that interested in doing anything.

But it doesn't make me happy.

How can I be one of those guys who's driven to do something in real life? I really don't seem to care enough about status, fancy cars, helping people, or whatever to pursue something. And I don't need the money. But I wish I could find something in life that makes me feel that sense of urgency that sports does. Whether it's a career, hobby, or whatever doesn't really matter.
posted by anonymous to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Find things you do love in life, and pursue them. This may mean trying new things, and trying a bunch of stuff you don't like.

You don't need to care about status, fancy cars, etc, to be happy in life, nor do you need it to be motivated.

Motivation can't really be forced. When you find something you love doing, it will come naturally. Try another sport, or leaning a new language, or learning to play poker or a whole variety of other things that involve challenge and a goal.

Basically, try something new and enjoy the challenge and the eventual reaching of a goal. The only thing I can think of that might motivate you to work hard, move up the corporate ladder, get raises etc, is if in trying something new, you discover an expensive hobby!
posted by twiggy at 2:11 AM on January 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

I know what you mean about sports - for me it's soccer. I have had the same feeling "this is what the rest of life should be like!". If you're interested in "optimal experiences" you might like to read Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's book "Flow" which does a pretty good job of characterizing them, although does not provide so much advice on how to get them.

My suggestion to you is to look at the thought patterns that are holding you back and change them with a bit of gentle positive autosuggestion. Essentially you need to persuade yourself that you are capable of filling your life with fun, engaging activities, and that you don't need to settle for boredom. The rest will follow.
posted by teleskiving at 2:48 AM on January 29, 2006

Try reading Paul Graham, especially How to Do What You Love. I found his musings very inspiring.
posted by themel at 3:26 AM on January 29, 2006

Ahh, ennui. When you weary of the world, as it sounds like you are, you may be ready to start pursuing a spiritual path.

Look inward, friend. Shift focus from the physical to the metaphysical. Try browsing the spirituality sections of your nearest bookstore and see if you find one that clicks with you. Look for Alan Watts, Wayne Dyer, Marianne Williamson, Eckhart Tolle, Deepok Chopra, et al. Whatever feels right.

If you look, you'll find great meaning on this path. And don;t worry. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear...
posted by wordwhiz at 5:40 AM on January 29, 2006

Sounds to me like you may be slightly depressed. The sports is working for you because the physical activity gets your endorphins up, but afterward you're just low.

Give therapy a try. Speak to your therapist about a short course of meds if that doesn't make a difference. Life's too short to drift through it.
posted by miss tea at 5:57 AM on January 29, 2006

Have you thought about becoming a basketball coach?

Seriously -- coach youth basketball. Maybe you could become a high school basketball coach. You don't have to do it for a living, but if it's something that you love you ought to spend more time doing it.
posted by josh at 7:33 AM on January 29, 2006

Unfortunately many people don't experience this kind of genuine urgency and passion until they begin to lose things that they care about very deeply, through sudden unforseen events, such as losing someone pivotal to your life.

Begin to see your time as incredibly finite. Begin to see the time you have with your loved ones as incredibly finite. Make a list of things that you long to do that you are only capable of at this stage in life. Some past-times are more suited to when you are retired and have more time, some only when you are young and have more mobility, some only when you have wealth to back them up, and some are good for the times in your life when you are poor and forced to be extra imaginative. What are you capable of now that you may never be again?

But the bottom line is, your time alive is limited and regardless of the public attitude, there is no prize handed out at the end of life for Most Media Ingested In A Single Lifetime. So my point is to act on your feelings now, and don't wait for something really painful to happen and point out to you unmistakably how much time you have wasted. Don't be self-conscious about displaying some excitement toward living; the only people who will judge you are the ones who feel smug and safe feeling nothing, and they will one day face their own rude awakening.
posted by hermitosis at 8:09 AM on January 29, 2006 [2 favorites]

First off, don't chase money or fancy cars. The end results provide such fleeting moments of joy that they don't seem worth the work.

I was once a drifter, someone not really in love with anything. I had a good academic career going (top of my class), a good paying job and a business that was starting from the ground up to be fairly successful, and I was only 20. I had "it all going" for me.

The problem was that it just wasn't satisfying. I didn't feel like my education was teaching me the things I wanted to know, I didn't get any satisfaction from the work I was doing and I just wasn't prepared to do the things (marketing, bending the truth) that it would've taken to acquire more clients for my business. I certainly wasn't depressed as there were many things that gave me daily joy, but in the metaphysical sense, I was drifting.

I made a conscious choice not to maintain the status quo; I felt that if I did, I would never break out of this cycle. So I broke out; I dropped out of school in my last year, I quit my job and I stopped actively pursuing the business. I got a lesser-paying but less "take-home stress" job and I started visiting my local library every week. I had time for friends and to pursue the things I wanted to learn. I had time to live.

I had time to realize that writing was the one thing that made me happiest and that as long as my life had quiet moments where I could create, I would be happy. I made another choice to live on the poverty line for a year and just focus on writing and travelling, after which I would pursue a career with stability but have had enough time to craft my skills. I am in the midst of this year and it has been the best one yet.

Don't be afraid to lose everything you have now; there is no shame in taking a social step backwards if it means you're taking a spiritual step forward. The things in your life constantly distract you from looking at the big picture and perhaps you need some time to do that. You'll find what you love. Some would say that I'm drifting now, but I'm more at home now than I have ever been.

Good luck.
posted by dflemingdotorg at 8:14 AM on January 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

Have you tried setting up an account at 43 Things? I find it very motivational in helping to fix a goal in stone and getting help from others to achieve that goal. It's free, too.
posted by btocher at 8:49 AM on January 29, 2006

I would not sweat it...I climbed the corporate ladder in the news industry to cars, homes, parties, etc...only to run for the door given the chance....I bought a house in the mountains and spend my time renovating it, usually alone, with no second thoughts about leaving that world behind. I guess my point is, much like those above, find your passion. You set the goals for what you think success is supposed to be. It might be a high flying corporate job with lots of responsibility, friends, and respect. It might be coaching a youth basketball team. I usually keep the idea of never having any regrets in the forefront of my mind. I am glad I climbed the corporate ladder, I learned a lot and met a lot of people...but I know I don't want to to that again. So, in the end, TRY some different things until you have that feeling basketball gives you. You may not find it but you will be occupied, doing something, moving forward.

I think it was William Blake that said, "Sooner murder an infant in it's sleep than NURSE unacted desire.

Go at your own pace and enjoy those around you.
posted by jamie939 at 9:42 AM on January 29, 2006

Once you figure something out, please share your insights. Like you, I'm in a big rut. Mine was brought on by a combination of job loss and no real interest in much of anything. Personally, I find so much of the self-help books/gurus/websites to be pushing just so much inane pablum. Plus the fact that so much of it seems directed toward single 20-somethings with no real responsibilities. It's easy for them to go from a well-paying career to become a shepherd or something.
Not so easy to go follow your muse when you're in your late 40's with a family.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:47 AM on January 29, 2006

As for having a desire to help people, sign up for some kind of volunteering session and commit yourself to go for e.g. a month and then you'll find you care about it, rather than sitting at home trying to muster up enthusiasm for some kind of abstract altruism. Basketball coaching sounds a great idea, but anything social and active would also take you out of yourself and out of the house.
posted by penguin pie at 10:25 AM on January 29, 2006

I think this is why we keep sports around: they are an easy way to manufacture something to care about. People need a cause to believe in and root for, and for many, their local sports team is it. A game sets uyp challenges, rules, and goals, and while we're playing we're totally engaged. Again, it's the fastest and easiest way to simulate a sense of real purpose, clear intent, and passion. You can take two points of view on that. The cynical one is that sports are the opiate of the masses, providing an illusion of purpose but no true value or meaning in the end. You seem to hold a little bit of that true. The non-cynical point of view is that it doesn't matter what the underlying significance/meaning are, that it's good to be engaged, challenged, and that striving after the goal, no matter what goal it is, makes us stronger and helps us grow.

Perhaps you should coach kids sports?
posted by scarabic at 12:14 PM on January 29, 2006

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