Do you sometimes wake up, look at your schedule and wonder, what’s the point?
During demanding or unpleasant tasks, do the mental monsters creep from the shadows?
If so, you’re not alone.
It’s easy to question the cause of our actions when we’re struggling to keep going or the things get tough.
I find this particularly prevalent if I’m engaged in an activity that demands significant mental or physical resources.
During a tiring workout or frustrating work activity, the cognitive wheels start turning and self-questioning kicks in.
It’s almost worse before I’ve started, when I’m looking for that spark of motivation to lace up the trainers or open the laptop.
Why bother, I think. What’s the point?
This happens so often as to become an ingrained response and indeed, many of us are completely paralysed by the feeling.
After some Colombo-style self-reflection, I’ve identified two predominant causes of this sensation.
The reality gap
Discontent is often just the gap between your expectations and reality.
When you look at where you want to be and your current reality, it’s easy to get despondent.
Say you’ve fallen down the YouTube click-hole, watching socially crafted influencer videos of fancy brunches, beach breaks and bikini parties.
Then you realise you should probably clean the toilet or trim your toenails.
Slightly less glamorous and possibly not video-worthy.
Anyway, as the reality gap emerges through self-comparison, it’s easy to enter a funk and wonder, what’s the point?
The hard thing
Whenever we’re working on something hard, our mind screams at us to STOP!
I mean, once our basic survival needs are met, the purpose of pursuing hard things evaporates, at least according to our evolutionary impulses.
These impulses don’t have a good concept of time. They’re all about instant gratification over delayed reward.
So, even if you’ll receive a greater future payoff by working hard today, you’re atavistic instincts don’t care.
They just want you to indulge in the chocolatey cookie goodness of today, and tomorrow be damned.
The ego goblin
So to recap, either our life isn’t matching up to our elevated expectations or we’re trying to escape the hard stuff.
That’s when our ego gets involved…
Now the ego’s one slippery little fish and requires all it’s cunning to make us question ourselves and consign us to a pit of despair…
So instead of being productive little humans, we’ll watch Netflix with a face full of gummy bears.
It knows it can’t try the direct assault, so it gets sly, whispering dastardly questions that have no answer.
Things like, what’s the point?
Because it knows we’ll stop taking positive action to ponder our very existence, even though it won’t do us any good.
I’m mean, it’s not as if philosophers have been questioning the meaning of life since time immemorial…
So, rather than solve this universal riddle in a mental quickstep, we simply spin our psychological wheels on an unsolvable problem.
In any case, the ego’s got its way.
We generally won’t do the hard thing, or we get frustrated and take a break, retreating back to the comfort zone.
What’s the point then?
On a logical level, if we give up and stop striving, life gets noticeably worse.
Even if there’s no greater universal purpose, it’s better to embrace the pain of doing the hard thing today to create a better tomorrow.
There might well be no point to it, but there’s definitely no point in just giving up.
Trying might not get you anywhere but you definitely know you won’t get anywhere by downing tools.
So, when the going gets tough, ignore those evil ego whispers and just keep on truckin’.