How to be an Effective Idealist

In Personal Development, Philosophy by Eudaimonia Comments

Life is full of questions. What is this experience we are all going through? What the hell am I doing here? Why am I doing this? Who am I? What does this all mean? And most importantly – why the hell am I paying for 40 fucking channels of television that only exist to sell me cheap kitchen gadgets at 2 AM in the morning for 3 easy installments of $19.95?

All questions that will undoubtedly take a lifetime to answer, and likely only known for a flickering moment before the candle burns out (or in the case of that juicer you bought on QVC – after a few glasses of white wine shames you into starting a healthy week-long scrambled kale fast….yum).

While these sorts of existential questions plague most of the conscious population, none are more burdened by the attempt to tether these questions into a single life maxim than the wild-eyed and overly romantic dreamers collectively known as idealists.

I know because I’m one of them, and yes I know – we idealists annoy most people.

“How dare they think the limited amount of time they have on earth be spent pursuing a life they love? Shouldn’t they all just forfeit 5/7th of their lives, buy a motorcycle, buy a McMansion and be happy like everyone else?” -The Pragmatic

 “Just give in, get in line, and accept the status quo already!” –The Realist

“Ahh, what does it matter? This world’s going to hell anyway!” –The Cynic

Believe me, we idealists hear your calls for mediocrity and capitulation loud and clear. But, like Atlas holding up the weight of the world on his shoulders, idealists like myself tightly clutch our view on what life should represent, and through the transitive property – how this view is reflected upon us as individuals and practiced personally.

As an idealist, I’m passionately concerned with personal growth and development, and I hold myself to incredibly high ethical standards (sometimes to my detriment). We constantly strive to be the best version of ourselves as we hoist our views on a world that is at best indifferent.

But, that’s okay – the goal of personal development and growth is…personal.

If we can’t have dreams to become a better person in this life, what are we doing here? Nonetheless, many idealists have found a great deal of success by weaving their inner dreams with the reality of the exterior world.

Indeed, many great things have changed in this world for the better by the dreamers that persist and doggedly pursue their personal version of utopia…

  • Thomas Paine’s writings led to the American Revolution and started the period of enlightenment
  • Martin Luther King, JR led an actively oppressed group to attain civil rights
  • Nelson Mandela fought to end apartheid
  • Countless writers & entertainers have brought a new narrative to our world
  • Scores of scientists have invented a new ways of life
  • And lest we forget, Luke Skywalker stood up to Darth Vader a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away to aid rebels wanting less intergalactic governmental regulation

Unfortunately, the stark reality is that for every 10 dreamers born into this world, 9 will eventually have their dreams smashed and be ground by the machine – only to accept the external status quo with heads hanging in defeat.

Here’s the hard truth:

  • Idealists don’t change the world through the act of persuasion. They change it through the metamorphosis of themselves, which changes those around them in a chain reaction.
  • The most successful idealists cooperate with an unyielding realistic world by passively weaving their dream into the minds of others. Importantly, they give away their dream freely in hopes that the world takes credit for it.

Or as Mahatma Gandhi – one of the great idealists of the 20th century once said,

“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.”

So if you’re an idealist and the world has rejected you over and over again, fret not.

Don’t worry because everyone has his or her ideas rejected over and over again. It’s a part of life. You cannot succeed without failing time and time again. The only difference between you and the rest of the world is that you take your rejections a lot more personal, as your dreams are tied into the mental fabric that is you.

Drop the personal connection between you and your dreams (don’t worry you can still hold them tight), and realize you’ll be much closer to succeeding by repeatedly trying than by taking offense from the first rejection and deciding to pack it up and quit.

Fret not over your works being unheralded across the universe.

Don’t worry because most people’s work goes unnoticed, and if it is noticed – well it’s usually post-mortem. Only the aggregate of many people’s work changes the narrative of the world. If you need praise for bringing your dream to fruition, you should question what is driving you – the dream or the recognition?

Fret not when all you desire is to have your life’s work have meaning to parallel your personal convictions.

It sucks not being able to follow your dream career, whether it’s noble or not. It’s true, sometimes you can’t make a living off of stupid human body tricks. I can clap with one hand (honestly), and you would think literally answering a Buddhist proverb would earn me something…it hasn’t.

Change your view; make your life meaningful outside of work in the meantime. Make your life full of meaningful hobbies (or disciplines as Nick Offerman calls them in American Ham). Become an expert and slowly begin to make money off your expertise.

And most importantly…

Keep working hard to improve yourself, keep holding yourself to your high standards, and avoid the steady call of cynicism.  As my favorite comedian George Carlin points out “Scratch any cynic and you’ll find a disappointed idealist”.

Before you know it – you’ll have lived your life the way you’ve wanted all along, and most likely will be able to look back and smile at what you’ve accomplished. You might have even changed someone’s life for the better, which might end up changing the world.

And, if not you can rest assured that it was better to live a life according to your dreams than to never have tried at all – no matter how crushing of a burden your dreams seem to be.