What’s Wrong with Just Being Lost Once in a While?

“Take the time to figure out your next step but don’t spend too much time smelling the roses because I have a new book coming out soon called Getting Motivated With Tough Love, Move It Lard Ass”

This article was inspired by too much caffeine, nicotine and the appearance of yet another self-help book pushed on me by a ‘well meaning’ friend. Big sigh.

Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” – Buddha, one of the all-time heavyweights on the motivational speaker circuit.

This is not a self-help article, at least not intentionally.

Whenever I take a holiday abroad I usually end up getting lost. Paris, Prague, Dublin, New York, while sightseeing I have become lost in all of these cities and ended up wandering around for hours, no idea where I was going but enjoying the feeling of freedom, the act of just wandering aimlessly around a foreign destination and having absolutely no clue what was around the next corner. When I eventually realize I am lost I never ask for directions, usually because I either don’t speak the language or because it goes against the challenge of finding your way back without any help.

Finding your own way without asking for directions is not something that motivational self-help gurus want you to do. Being content with long or short term aimlessness is simply putting them out of a job; it negates their point of being. Their point is to show you the way, well maybe not all the way. If everyone became permanently happy and successful following their advice they would be out of a job and unhappy themselves. And no one wants a miserable unmotivated self-help guru, what a buzz kill. So, almost happy, but buy their next book and you can level up another notch on the happiness scale. You’re almost there.

The motivational advice or self-help book is a lucrative section of the book industry. These are the writers and experts who tell you that they know the secrets that will change your life for the better. For those with personal problems these experts, gurus and life coaches can make you deliriously happy – in fact by the time they are finished with you your face may exhibit a paralyzed Joker smile as you have a full blown happiness seizure. They have the power to make you quit smoking or find ways to get past your grief over the loss of a loved one or the breakup of a relationship. They can help you clinch that perfect job or find the ideal partner, you know, the aura surrounded partner, the one with the golden halo who is waiting to float on air towards you, the one that’s just beyond your reach because you’ve been ‘choosing’ the wrong type all your life you complete life experience amateur.

The business world is also full of these ‘how to’ gurus and motivational business speakers but the goal of the business guru is giving advice that may make you rich by paying them to follow their advice and therefore making them rich by making you a little shorter on the cash front to begin with. Got that? Hey you have to speculate to accumulate right?

These gurus shift books, DVDS and CDs by the warehouse full. No wonder they are always happy and full of pep, people are listening to them, throwing money at them to live the life that is seemingly just over that horizon, that ideal life that you would never be able to attain without the motivational guru’s help. And it’s all there waiting in the pages of their next ‘how to’ book. Wait, it didn’t work for you? Did you even finish the book? Maybe you didn’t follow the instructions. Did you skip over that chapter on asking the universe for what you want? You complete idiot.

It was all just there, a few more pages and that impossibly perfect life would have been yours. Buy the next book and this time finish it. If you can’t muster the effort to read the book then at least just listen to the CD while you sleep. That’s right, while you sleep, they are that good.

Most people go through periods in their lives when they are unsure of how to proceed or what to do next; in other words, completely lost. But what’s so wrong with being lost every now and again? Is it so bad to spend a few unmotivated months avoiding or making your own decisions on how to proceed with your life or working out your own answers to what you want next? Or should you be desperately screaming next, next, next, I need to know what to do next, someone tell me or else I’m just going to be this helpless jelly headed case for the rest of my life. People will shake their heads and say, “man what is wrong with this guy, he is so lost I don’t even know where he is, if only he’d start listening to Dr Phil. Get some help dude you complete loser.”

Of course there’s nothing wrong with looking to the self-help gurus, they have all the answers so why not just follow their rules? They are impossibly happy and rich and have fulfilling lives and are smiling from morning until night, I bet they start smiling before they wake up. I mean why not pay them for the answers; at least you are making someone happy while you are miserable, lost and wandering through the wilderness. Chi ching.

There’s nothing wrong with looking for or getting advice, the internet is full of advisors and self-help types and you don’t even have to pay for a lot of it. But just as there is nothing wrong with looking for advice there is also nothing wrong with wandering around lost for a while, looking for your own direction or maybe not even looking for a direction, simply enjoying the act of being aimless and doing absolutely nothing.

The Italians have a fitting phrase, il dolce far niente, it means the sweetness of doing nothing and it is a very important part of their culture or so I’ve read.

We are told from an early age by parents, teachers, careers advisors and employers that we must have a direction, we must know where we are going as soon as is humanly possible, if not before, and if you don’t know then you will soon begin to feel the fear. You WILL end up on skid row with the other bums who spent too long enjoying the sweetness of doing nothing and couldn’t find their way back. One of their biggest mistakes no doubt was not picking up a self-help book. Instead of lying in the gutter making a roof over their heads from empty MacDonald’s cartons they could be dynamic business leaders or Chief Executive Officers of Macdonalds by now, oh the humanity.

The sweetness of doing nothing isn’t something you will usually hear from the advice guru unless it’s, take the time to figure out your next step but don’t spend too much time smelling the roses because I have a new book coming out soon called Getting Motivated With Tough Love, Move It Lard Ass and you will want to buy this one. This one will definitely make you rich, happy, fulfilled, exhilarated, a successful boss, married to the perfect partner, slimmer and sexually irresistible to all who cross your path. You will awake each morning and smile, and your family will smile back at you, even your pets will smile back at you as you walk into the garden, shake that money tree and live each day under sun filled, rain free skies, almost vomiting up the happiness and joy that I have taught you how to attain simply by reading my book. Only $14.99 including VAT. BUY IT NOW. CAN YOU AFFORD NOT TO?”

To those who are lost and unmotivated, I say give yourself a break and enjoy it, relish it, because soon enough you will look back and see this as the long lost golden age of freedom. Remember that time when you were lost and aimless and had plenty of time to do whatever you wanted to? What did you do with it? Spent it reading motivational self-help books?

Well, at least you made someone happy.

Chi ching.

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What’s Wrong with Just Being Lost Once in a While?, 5.5 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
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About the Author:

Garry Crystal is a freelance writer living in the UK. His short stories and articles have appeared in print and online including Expats Post, The Andirondack Review, Turnrow Journal, Roadside Fiction and Orato. His first book Leaving London is available on Amazon and other retailers now. View My Profile

  • Ah I recall this one! Great article 🙂 I often get lost and whenever I do I get the most interesting ideas for paintings or characters. I’m not a fan of motivational books, especially not the hyped up ones like The Secret, but there are people who need them (or think they do). In the end it’s like you said…take a chill pill (not literally…) and enjoy being lost. You probably will be amazed with the things you wouldn’t notice if you have your nose in a self help book.

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  • Thanks TJ. Actually I think I may write an anti-self help book, i’m sure that would be a best seller.

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    • Definitely a MUST read too.

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  • Cher Duncombe

    Loved this article, Garry. There are many times when I feel as lost as Algernon in the maze. At least I’m not alone. 🙂

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  • Thanks Cher, it’s good to be lost but yeah this maze seems hard to get out of at the moment, should have laid breadcrumbs.

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  • Garry, You are right. To go off trail is to gain freedom and unique experience. More people need to experience being lost. Thanks for sharing the article.

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    • Frank more people could do with experiencing it for a while but it can be a scary experience to begin with, which is why self-help and motivational books are probably so popular. Advice shouldn’t cost anything, it’s what good friends are there for.

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  • Having grown up in Silicon Valley, “the sweetness of doing nothing” was not an option. I remember having a career counselor talk to my 7th grade class about what direction we wanted to take with our lives. Imagine a room full of pimply, awkward 12-year-olds deciding what they’d be doing for the next 70 years.

    It is only in the last 4 or 5 years I’ve begun to stop feeling ashamed for always wandering around. I’m nomadic both personally and physically, and there isn’t anything wrong with it. My life has been enriched because of it.

    Great piece!

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    • Jen, I can imagine some of the 12 year olds saying, “WTF, i’m only 12 how the hell am I supposed to know?”

      Maybe by being lost or having no definite plan you are opening yourself up to more opportunities or at least stopping yourself from becoming one of the herd of sheep.

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  • “Remember that time when you were lost and aimless and had plenty of time to do whatever you wanted to?” -- AMEN!! It’s when I found what made me happy -- I highly recommend it for everyone. Great article.

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    • Thanks Katy. You got happy when lost, so it does actually work?

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      • I will let you know when I am found again -- my exile isn’t complete yet 😉

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  • Anya

    Reminds me of a certain early New York City morning and several round trips on the L line. 🙂

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    • More than once, good times Ann 🙂

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