When Things Keep Repeating Themselves (General)
September 14, 2018
Author: Bianca Yang
A broken record that keeps repeating itself is using the repetition as a signal that something is wrong. People who keep repeating themselves to you are signaling that they don’t feel they are being heard. Repeatedly failing a class signals that you haven’t actually learned any more from the subsequent iterations than you did on the first. Walking down the same path in a maze signals that you are lost and that no, you shouldn’t have made a left at that intersection. When your life keeps repeating itself, it’s a signal that you are neglecting something important, something critical to your happiness and fulfillment and productivity.
What are examples of your life repeating itself? Setting the same resolution every year on Jan 1 and never achieving it. Telling yourself to quit your job and open that bake shop you’ve always wanted to have every time your manager says you’re not in line for promotion. Saying you’ll start going to gym, start getting fit, every time you see that gym membership fee on your monthly credit card statement. When you keep feeling like you’re lost in life and you keep hearing the same advice on how to get unlost.
When things keep repeating themselves, it’s time for you to slow down. You need to figure out why these things keep happening to you and why you keep ignoring their messages. Are you better off for ignoring them? Then move on and stop trying to repeat things fruitlessly. Are you worse off for ignoring them? Then take the appropriate action and work towards a better life. You have all the resources you need before you. You know what to do. So just do it.
It is easier said than done to accomplish such a feat, but perhaps here is also a good time to remind you of your priorities. You don’t have to do everything everybody else thinks is good for you. You don’t have to become vegetarian and do yoga and lift heavy weights and play basketball if you don’t see those activites as priorities. You don’t have to do anything that isn’t a priority? If you don’t know what your priorities are, I’d suggest you think about whether you have an itch in your life. Do you have some desire, some nagging ideas, some thing which can propel you towards greatness? PhD students are likely all aware of this. It takes, for most people, a lot of soul-searching and (years of) painful thinking before they finally find that area of the world which absolutely holds their attention. One day they’re thinking about how much they hate having committed to networking when they realize they have a brilliant idea for compiler optimization. If that itch for compilers is real, the more they scratch it the more it feeds them. The less they scratch it, the more it eats away at them. The scratch becomes the central engine of their lives.
Regardless of whether you have an itch or not, the priorities must be things that increase your desire to be alive. Once you want to be alive, the rest will follow. What makes you want to be alive? Your work and your interpersonal relationships. So focus on cultivating good relationships and on finding fulfilling work. Once you have found what you need, nurture and develop and refine them further so you wake up every day more energized than the previous. That is the way to live a good life.