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One thing that took me probably too long to figure out in life is whenever I stop working on my goals, whenever I don’t have a clear direction I’m headed, I get depressed. Very depressed. The kind of deep depression that makes me not want to get out of bed because there’s no point to anything, no point to existence. The kind of depression that makes me want to hit the bottle and never stop.
I’ve dealt with depression before; for almost a decade. The way I overcame it back then was by just doing stuff – anything – to keep myself busy. Doing chores, pushing myself to read books and go outside and walk around and cleaning my room and washing the dishes and just keeping busy. At first the busywork felt like just that – menial busywork. But over time, I started to feel like at least I was doing something, even if I thought it was utterly meaningless. But something magical started to happen – the more and more busy I made myself (even if it was just doing chores and killing time), the more I “forgot” about the fact I was depressed.
I’ve kept that habit up of keeping busy and filling my days ever since then – for almost 10 years now. And what used to just be menial busywork I’ve swapped out for deeply fulfilling goals I’m always working on; things that bring me true joy. Helping others with my coaching/this site, doing a podcast, spending time with friends and my girlfriend, going on roadtrips and adventures, creating a tonne of kickass memories with girls. Filling my life with exciting moments and goals I’m working on is what brings me meaning. The act of always working on something brings me meaning.
And this isn’t just me – many of my coaching clients and my mates have figured out the same thing. When you’re not working on something, when you have nothing exciting to fill your days with, life can quickly start to feel pointless. One of my mates and I had a very recent discussion about this and he said, “I figured out quite a while ago if I don’t have something I’m working on or something I’m building, I don’t feel like getting out of bed in the morning.”
I’ve lost count of the number of guys who come to me for help with their depression, only to tell me, “I don’t have any goals, there’s nothing I’m working towards each day.” As soon as I give them a couple of goals (tiny goals at first – I don’t expect a depressed person to immediately crush a monumental goal right off the bat), they start feeling a little better. As they keep working towards that goal, and then the next goal, and the next, all of a sudden they experience the same thing I did all those years ago – they almost “forget” about their depression.
And as soon as they stop working on their goals, or fall back into old habits, the depression returns immediately. So working on goals = depression slowly starts to diminish, not working on goals = depression immediately comes back in full force. You can’t get a more obvious A/B testing outcome than that.
There’s no reason to be alive if you’re not working towards something.
If I stop doing things, stop having a routine, stop having goals I’m working towards and things I’m working on, within 1 week I’ll slip into depression. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve done this over the last 10 years – I’ll have a day where I tell myself, “Fuck it, I deserve a day off from my goals. I’m doing nothing today.” A break is fine, but a lot of the time I’ll extend that into 2 days, then 3, then a week, then 2. Suddenly I’ve lost motivation to work on my goals, I’ll stop showering, I’ll jerk off to porn for 6 hours a day, I’ll stop working hard with my podcast/site, I won’t see my friends, I’ll stop playing sports, I’ll stop talking to girls. And of course, I’ll start feeling depressed.
This happens every single time I stop having something I’m working on, something I’m building. Without fail.
And then I’ll have a moment of realisation where I remember, “Oh shit you idiot – you stopped working on your goals! You stopped having a routine! You stopped building something! OF COURSE you’re going to feel depressed – what’s the point in being alive if you’re only stagnating?” I’ll immediately get back on track with my goals, and within a day or two I’ll suddenly feel motivated, rejuvenated, inspired and full of energy. The sky will be a little bluer, the world will be a little brighter, my life will be a whole lot more meaningful again.
When I have something I’m working towards, it’s like the world is my playground. Every day I wake up just absolutely thrilled to be alive, I spend every single second of my day trying to pack in as much productive time as I can because I’m super excited to get to my next goal. I have a smile on my face, just absolutely happy to be here.
I know that’ll all change the moment I stop doing something. Right now if I let go of my routine and my goals, within a week I would be depressed.
I read somewhere that depression is your body trying to tell you something – it’s a signal, a warning sign to tell you you’re fucking up. For me, depression is my body telling me to keep up the momentum, do my daily tasks, and to always be working towards something. Depression is my body saying, “You know that working on a mission makes you happy. Why did you stop?“
I’ve talked about all of this before in The Meaning Of Life & How to Be Happy. Being happy really is just a process of constantly keeping busy, constantly distracting yourself; really, another way of saying, “Just being in the moment”. Happiness is just being in the moment, focusing on what you’re doing right now, and filling your time with as many meaningful moments as you possibly can. Having something you’re working towards is the best way to do that, because you can fill most of your moments with productive time where you get that positive feedback every time you take a step towards your goal.
Keep busy. Always be working towards something. Take breaks; sure. I certainly do from time to time. But don’t let those breaks become complacency; don’t let them become depression. Life is most meaningful – and depression most distant – when you have a goal you’re working towards.
The Meaning Of Life & How to Be Happy:
Sick of feeling like a loser? I’ll kick your ass into gear: