Do You Live a Life of Quiet Desperation?

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things. – Henry David Thoreau, Walden (Chapter 1)

Are you convinced that what you see is what you get? Are you convinced that there is no God, no miracles, nothing below the surface? Do you see light? Direction in life?

When we become convinced that nothing exists beyond what we can perceive with our senses, we develop a certain skepticism. That skepticism, in turn, often evolves into cynicism, apathy, and indifference. Once we are blinded by these forces, we can erroneously believe that our lives are fine — even if they are not. We must ask ourselves, “Is my life really fine, or is it just comfortable?”

Many of us would rather choose our comfort zone over the truth. After all — comfort zones are very powerful, and they are a force that feeds our self-destructive habits. They (comfort zones) prevent us from rocking the boat, changing the status quo. We stop caring if the status quo is healthy for us, or if we are really growing. Staying in our comfort zones leads to what Thoreau called “lives of quiet desperation.”

“Quiet desperation” is when we begin to resign ourselves to the circumstances of our lives. We lose the “fight” in us. We give up on actualizing our potential. We don’t even realize how much we are missing.

Exercise: Ask yourself in your MyMLC journal: Do I lead a life of quiet desperation? Maybe in some ways I do, and in others I do not. Where in my life have settled into my comfort zone and stopped growing? And above all: name one thing you will do today to shake up your “comfortable” numbness?


This is an excerpt from: The Anatomy of Self-Sabotage.

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