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Self-Knowledge • Know Yourself

How to Recover the Plot

On a regular basis, as often as every few days, we are prone to lose the plot of our lives. We are not talking, here, of insanity, rather of a very understandable and reasonable tendency to forget quite why we do what we do, what matters, where we are headed and – to put it at its grandest – who we are.

The very legitimate reason we do so is that ordinary living requires us to pay extraordinarily close attention to every step we’re taking, which can rob us of the capacity to keep the bigger journey in mind. We are obliged to look out for every rock and puddle and so end up with no time to raise our heads and survey the landscape. Deep within a particular paragraph or sentence, we miss the overall sense of the story. Days can pass without a chance to check in on ourselves. We are standing far too close. 

This is a consequence of how demanding every incremental stage can be. The demands of practical action subsume our energies for orientation. We can possess a lot of meaning and – for periods – forget entirely what it might be.

We should allow ourselves every right to lose the plot, the time to refind it – and access to a few simple tools to do so.

In a quiet moment, with a computer or a pad of paper handy, we should attempt to stir our minds with the help of some of the following enquiries:

– What do I still enjoy?

– What matters?

– Where would I want to be by the end of my life?

– What can I let go of?

– What have I been trying to do recently?

– Who do I admire?

– What is there no longer time for?

– Who still counts?

– What’s a good life?

– By next year…

– In five years…

– In ten years…

– If I had three months…

– On my deathbed…

– What I respect…

– I need to be more ruthless about…

– I need to explain to…

– I want to be known as someone who…

– What’s still exciting…

– If I can forget all the administrative and practical hurdles…

– If I wasn’t afraid…

– I am…

– I want…

– If only…

These plot-finding tools may sound basic in the extreme, but there need be nothing unprofound or negligible about our answers. Some of our responses are waiting fully formed behind a curtain; others must be reassembled like the fragments of a shattered vase. We’re asking ourselves for nothing less than the rationale behind central elements of existence. 

There’s a particular kind of nervous exhaustion which deserves to be understood for what it really is; not just tiredness but a build-up of anxious confusion as to our overall direction. We shouldn’t be ashamed; we are simply creatures that constantly lose the thread of our very complex plots. It’s a sign of supreme sanity – and a life that is destined to go in some highly interesting directions – to regularly forget what on earth we might be up to.

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