Ask Andrew W.K.: Feeling Motivation in the Face of Discouragement

Photo Sandra Sorenson
[Editor's note: Every Wednesday New York City's own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions, and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose or -- no surprise here -- a party. Need his help? Just ask:]

Dear Andrew,

I've been really discouraged lately. Without going into too much detail, a lot of my dreams just haven't panned out the way I planned. I used to have so much hope and drive, but now every day I just feel more disillusioned. Part of me keeps telling myself to never give up, and then the other part of me is saying I'm a loser and am just fooling myself thinking I can ever accomplish anything in life. These days I've been feeling more unmotivated and depressed than ever. What if you're just too frustrated with failure to bother trying anymore? How far can you push yourself?

Yours truly,
Discouraged And Down

Dear Discouraged And Down,

You can push yourself incredibly, incredibly far. You can push yourself further than you can imagine and then realize you have only barely started pushing. You can push yourself until it feels like you have drained every bit of energy you have, and then still find a way to push yourself even further. And then further. Forever. Until you die. This is called "going for it." This is called "being hardcore." This is called really living your life.

It's strange how we've been conditioned to think that life is supposed to be "easy" and feel fine all the time. The only way to make life easy is to not be alive. So much progress has been made in many areas of day-to-day living, but the core experience of being alive and caring about stuff will always be challenging. All the modern technological conveniences we have aren't there to make life easier, they are there to make it better -- more convenient, more efficient, and with more opportunity, but not free of effort.

Putting effort into life is what life is all about. It can seem like we have worked very hard so that we don't have to work very hard anymore, but it's just the opposite. We have striven and toiled for generations so that some of us are lucky enough to have the chance to follow our dreams with greater power. In the old days, we had to use almost all our power just to survive -- to find water, shelter, food. Little by little, we learned to master our environment, and later, to master ourselves. And now we can dedicate as much of our energy and precious time mastering and pursuing our highest ambitions and dreams. We are benefiting from the efforts and sacrifices of previous generations. They went through hell to set things up so that we could use our time to do what we really want, beyond just the fight for survival. In comparison to what it was like to live 1,000 years ago, or even 100 years ago, we have absolutely no right to complain about how hard it may seem to follow our dream. We must realize how lucky we are in the first world to even have the luxury of pursuing any sort of desire, beyond the simple desire to not die.

So, we must push ourselves. That is the whole point. It's not supposed to be easy to achieve your dream. Accomplishing goals and making your life the way you want it is like exercise. Just as when you push your body and it hurts but then grows stronger, pushing your soul also hurts, but then rewards you with a bigger and stronger experience of the world. Letting your body lay around your house all day is easy, but your body will grow weak as a result. Letting your soul lay around your life all day is easy, but your soul will also grow weak. We must decide to follow our dream no matter how hard it feels. We must commit!

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