read first: Harder Ways: Introduction
first, a conclusion
This essay is the final installment in the series “Harder Ways”, the trilogy I began about a month ago with the central theme revolving around being intentional with your life. Even though you might opt for a more difficult one, exchanging effort and hard work rewards you with better mental health and a more meaningful journey.
Do not give in to the temptations of the Easy Way, but rather built up your resilience to it. Deliberately choose activities and form habits that are conducive to a happier and more
In the first installment of “The Importance of Time”, I touched up on the limited resource we have every day. If we’re not dedicating the majority of our time towards making positive strides forward, then we are disrespecting and wasting the life we are given to pursue our best existence. Our choices now have longer-lasting consequences than we think.
We may be limited in our resources, but everyone is given the same 24 hours. What we choose to do with it is up to us. Our world is consistently developing more and more ways of getting what we want as soon as possible, but the reality of the situation is most things can’t be achieved without an investment of time.
In “How to Buy Your Happiness”, I went over the two most popular ways that people seek to obtain temporary feelings of satisfaction and euphoria: retail therapy and drugs. These temporary means of achieving a so-called state of “happiness” will do more harm than good. Usually, they are a distraction from the rougher and darker facets of life, indicative of deeper issues that desperately need to be addressed.
Fixing the underlying problems that are begging for relief through these pseudo-remedies should be our goal instead of pandering to the short lapses of bliss.
These topics are all similar in that they teach the mantra of anything worthwhile is going to be hard to get. Even if it might seem like common sense, the unfortunate reality is that not a whole lot of us are willing to see things through to get what we really want.
In the final essay, I’d like to conclude with the topic of escapism, a self-defense mechanism that many of us seem to employ in order to distract ourselves from the important things that may cause stress in our lives. My hope is that we will begin to realize these patterns throughout our own lives and seek to correct them.
By utilizing our time productively, giving attention to the deeper issues that need addressing, and finally, facing our issues instead of running from them, we can culminate a set of mindsets and behaviors that will ultimately become a catalyst for unbelievable changes.
fight or flight?
Fight or flight or freeze. The stress response concept can be applied to so many aspects of our lives, but it doesn’t always seem like we’re always in some kind of wild state of fear.
When we first think of these kinds of scenarios where the acute stress response is required, the imagined physiological state has adrenaline pumping through our veins, heart pounding out of our chest, and hands soaked with sweat — the typical “freak out”.
However, if we look a bit more closely, it’s surprising just how often we’re running away from the stress in life that requires real focus and attention. Not necessarily requiring us to be actually sprinting, it could be as inactive as ignoring its existence.
Sometimes, the biggest problems within our lives don’t come from the stressors themselves, but from us putting them aside until they swell up and become too immense of a task for us to handle.
I can look back on so many times I’ve put something off just for it to come back and hit me ten times harder right before its deadline.
The most prominent mode of a flight response to life is escapism, or “the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.” It could be as natural as getting lost in a book to as extreme as zoning out for hours on an acid trip.
YouTube allows you to laugh at funny Vine compilations or learn something new and interesting. Sleeping allows you to literally blank out of reality and, if you dream, you can exist in a different realm.
TV shows allow you to peer into a realistic world where incredible things happen. Video games allow you to immerse yourself in a completely interactive world where you can essentially become someone else and do things otherwise impossible.
Escapism is extremely tempting and accessible.
It can be so subtle in nature because we’re not even aware that we’re running away — it can be entirely subconscious. We don’t even have necessarily have to notice it, like pulling out our phones to avoid an awkward situation or crossing the street just to avoid confrontation. I can’t tell you how many times I do those things without even noticing.
Escapism can be totally socially acceptable. Binge-watching dozens of Netflix episodes or even sleeping until the late afternoon hours — everyone seems to do it from time to time. On the other hand, there are some destructive forms such as indulging too much in pornography to avoid loneliness or relying on substances to pass the time or feel better.
Some might call it doing something to pass the time, I’m calling it escaping reality. We’re either too scared to face the situation or too lazy to crack down on our responsibilities.
This is the Easy Way: opting to ignore what’s really important and instead focusing on avoidance tactics.
Escapism has many different synonyms. Keeping yourself busy. Taking a break. Procrastinating.
Procrastination is probably the prime example of escapism, and I witness it especially in college. A responsibility is set: a deadline for an essay, a test or quiz, or just making it to class. That responsibility causes stress, and it would be much easier for us to ignore the stress than to acknowledge the problem and solve it.
Yet that’s what makes it so harmful. We waste more of our time trying to run away instead of spending possibly a fraction of it dedicated to getting it out of the way. Apparently, we’d much rather suffer quite a bit all at once than a little bit each day.
Why, if getting the work done immediately makes so much more sense, do we still procrastinate?
Sometimes, procrastination is one of the ways people find getting work done exhilarating. Who doesn’t like the satisfaction felt after working for four hours straight on an essay and turning it in at the last minute? Yet, it’s a risky gamble, to say the least. You’re pitting your time and energy against your priorities. It’s not healthy for your mind nor your habits.
I’ll reiterate it: we procrastinate because we’re too scared to face the reality of the situation and too lazy to crack down on our responsibilities.
We know. We’ve heard the same lecture over and over again. Get it done now so you won’t have to worry about it anymore. The Hard Way is just that, facing your problems head-on.
As cliche as it is, there’s truth to that statement. Reiterating it might not do much, but explaining why we are willing to resort to escapism and procrastination might help us investigate it a little further.
Of course, it might be easier said than done, but taking the first step is always difficult. Nobody said life is inherently easy. Ask yourself, what am I ignoring right now? What important things do I need to start on, or have been neglecting? What will I benefit from facing these things head-on?
The first thing that pops up in your head should be something you clear out of the way. Taking action could be as easy as making a to-do list or as monumental as locking yourself in a room until it’s complete. Whether it’s as small as paying off a bill to as big as writing a term paper, it’s better to have 1% complete than nothing at all.
Writing this series has been incredibly rewarding. It’s forced me to look at the deeper issues within my life and demand that I take action because I believe I deserve better.
Settling for a poor situation should not be on anybody’s agenda.
Harder Ways has touched on similar topics, yet a different lesson can be learned from each one. However together, they teach that life is a difficult journey that we all go through. Regardless of how we started out, the reality of the situation is that we can all take action when it comes to our existence.
Sometimes it’s not about the situation itself, but rather how we handle it.
Personally, I think that we should all strive to take advantage of the potential we all have. It’s the ultimate goal: to achieve our perfect ideals. And, as these concepts begin to take life, achieving such a plan for greatness doesn’t seem so far away.
Thanks for reading,
A huge thank you to my sister, Joanna Luong, and my father, Shunfu Hu, for deciding to sponsor me through Patreon! I greatly appreciate all of the support you all are sending my way!