Ever since I was 11 or 12, I have been very lazy with my life. I had to deal with a lot of mental issues most of my life. I had pretty severe depression for years, since I was 9 or 10. Now I'm turning 19 in a few weeks.

I feel like this decade (or more) of depression, social isolation, and basically no structure or discipline, has caused my mind to feel devoid of any motivation for anything. I sit at home all day, besides going to school, and just read books and internet. I barely do anything, but that. I don't have a job, only in summer. I don't have a car or driver's license. Never had a relationship. And I have so many dreams for my future, that I can't choose which one to pursue. Now I sit here and am about to graduate high school, with no skills, goals, or anything.

The only thing I know is that I want to have some kind of creative job where I make books/comics/music/films/video games. I am interested in all of those things, unfortunately. I think about different stories and stuff that I make up in my head all the time. But which thing should I pick? And why don't I want to begin pursuing my dreams? I feel stuck in a certain mindset. I haven't really worked on any sort of skill since I was 10 years old when I programmed a few crappy video games and had straight A's in school. Once I hit middle school and was really depressed, it was gone. I am so confused why I'm so lazy still.

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The darkest period in my life was in my teens as well.  It gets better, but only if you work on it.  I still have my rough days (who doesn't?), but the difference between just a few years ago and life now is night and day.  Here's my advice:

1. Fix the basics.

- Get some form of exercise in 3-6 days a week.  Lift, walk, run, hike, bike, stretch.  Anything.  Your body was meant to move.  Work hard and smart.

- Get outside more often.  You'd be surprised what some sun and a breath of fresh air can do!

- Eat right.  Less processed and refined food and carbs.  Cut down or eliminate fast food, bread, pasta, and sugar.  Eat more vegetables, meats, nuts, and fruit.  Your body will thank you and you will feel the difference.

- Socialize.  It can be with your family, friends, or even strangers.  Make new friends.  If you're like I was this will be the most difficult task.  It will be uncomfortable, but force yourself to do it.  We are social creatures.

- Sleep.  Make sure you get what your body needs.  Set aside 8 hours a night at least.  Consistent bed times will help.  If you are well rested, you'll have the energy and mental clarity to make the changes in life. It'll also improve just about every other aspect of your life as well.

2.  Do something.  Anything.  Surfing the internet or watching TV is a time killer.  Get your driver's license.  Apply for a job.  Volunteer. Take up a new hobby.  When you're not doing anything, you will start to ruminate.  Once that process begins, it's a downward spiral until you slowly crawl out of that episode.

-In addition to this, you need to realize there are unlimited possibilities.  You will succumb to decision paralysis and go back to surfing the internet to kill time if you don't notice.  Action is the key word here.  DO something.  People who tell you that you can achieve anything by just wanting it really bad or thinking about it are full of shit.  Get off of your ass and get to work.

3.  Stop making excuses.  We have a tendency to justify poor decisions or inaction.  Those justifications often become habitual excuses for future poor decisions.  Depression is an absolute bitch, but you can punch her right back.

4.  Don't burn yourself out.  Remember the old adage, "It's a marathon, not a sprint".  That applies here as well.  Aim to improve 1% a day... metaphorically speaking. Even something as small as a short walk outside, inviting a friend to dinner, or choosing the salad over the lasagna is a victory.

5. Challenge yourself.  Push your limits.  Don't get cozy.

It won't be easy, but it will be worth it.  It also won't happen overnight.  PM me if you have any questions, I'd be happy to help.

Thanks. The only thing I have above is the eating right and socializing thing. I like your ideas. 

This is really good advice. As someone who has a tendency to ruminate, these are simple but powerful steps to overcome. There is a laywer/writer I admire named Bob Goff who routinely tells people that they don't have to know all the steps, just the next one in order to accomplish something great. Tony's response contains a lot of tangible next steps.

"Creative" can be learned, in my experience. Talent is helpful at the start, but hard work is the other 98% of what gets you there. 

But I would agree with the "driven" aspect. You have to want to do it, and be willing to do it for no more audience than yourself.

I don't have talent, so I just get up earlier. ~ Henry Rollins

I feel like school kills most of any sort of creativity, even in those classes, and I only did the bare minimum to pass. I did okay in those classes, but wasn't particularly interested in them due to the structure. But my opinion is that modern public school is complete soulless garbage. I would say I am creative only because I have pages of ideas for many things and even things like comic scripts and half finished video games and music, but it's all unfinished.

Re: "school kills...creativity:"

After one has mastered the task at hand, the student can be as creative with the skill as possible. But, while learning the task, it is a necessary fact that the learning be very controlled (appearing less than creative).

Eg: teaching a student a song by allowing them to play any melody that feels good is ineffective. However, once you teach the student the exact notes to plan and when, and the student has mastered the melody, THEN s/he can improvise away from the strict melody.

I feel like school kills most of any sort of creativity, even in those classes, and I only did the bare minimum to pass. I did okay in those classes, but wasn't particularly interested in them due to the structure. But my opinion is that modern public school is complete soulless garbage. I would say I am creative only because I have pages of ideas for many things and even things like comic scripts and half finished video games and music, but it's all unfinished.

Nonsense.  You did the bare minimum to pass because you're the type that does the bare minimum, if that, for everything.  Don't pretend scholastic laziness was some sort of 'creative' principled stand, when it's actually just the path of least resistance.  It's not like you were creating anything outside of school.  And, you didn't take advantage of scholastic opportunities enough to even know what the limits are.

You disliked the "structure" because you're lazy, not because it stifled your creativity.  Quit lying to yourself, or trying to spin your personal failings as systemic problems.  While there are systemic problems with public school, you're not the type that would ever run into them.  Because you don't push the limitations of anything.

It's not school.  It's you.  And, creativity needs structure to thrive.  It needs a schedule.  It needs a deadline.  It needs a goal.  It needs a plan.  Structure is precisely what you're missing.


A) There is no "foolproof" way. Humans are all individuals, and we all have different motivators. Therefore, none of us can present you with a foolproof way.

B) Ask yourself: "Who is an expert in tweaking personality traits?" "Who has spent several years in college and many years in the field and many years researching ways to tweak personalities?" Your answer should lead you to the only profession which does this: psychology. While you may stumble upon some "technique" that may help, it will be completely random and may take decades. The quickest way (according to research) to tweak your own personality is with a psychologist (therapist, counselor, psychiatrist, etc). Seek a professional who is licensed, not just a friend who gives good advice. Seeking advice from a non-professional is equally apt to mess you up further as it would help you. Stick with professionals when it comes to something so very critical as personality. (you wouldn't have an Ear,Nose,Throat specialist treat your colon cancer, nor should you have non-professionals attempt to work on your personality).

Incidentally, you mentioned "very depressed." If that is the case, you do need to see a professional.

Remember: depression is a complex medical condition which affects multiple systems and processes. ONE symptom of depression is that it can lower mood. Other symptoms is that it lowers motivation (which is exactly what you are complaining about). It also interferes with decision-making, encoding information, decoding information, and other processes.

Don't self-treat or self-diagnose depression. Again, professionals have researched and identified the most effective treatments, and know when/how/why to employ different treatments. Your learning about depression will never, ever match a person who studied it in college, went to graduate school specifically to study it, passed many different criteria to practice it, and continually stay current by studying the latest and greatest of all the research on depression.

It may sound nutty, but eat better food.  It's amazing how clear headed you feel after a week or so.

You need to find your lynchpin habit.  What gets you moving?  What gets your blood flowing?  What makes you feel alive?

In many cases, there is one habit in people's lives that, if they focus on it, the rest falls into place a lot more smoothly.  Gym time.  Prayer/meditation.  Preparation/planning.  They're typically the kind of activities people would call "sharpening" (from the Abe Lincoln quote, "Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I'll spend the first four sharpening the axe.").  Activities that sharpen you, that make you function better, that grease the wheels for everything else.

You need to do some searching to find that lynchpin habit.  For my wife, its meal planning.  We figured out several years ago that the lynchpin of our household budget was her grocery shopping and cooking at home.  That one change completely upended how smoothly our budget worked.  More recently, she figured out that her days go much smoother if she spends a couple of hours on Sundays pre-cooking and pre-packaging her breakfasts and lunches for the week.  It's completely upended everything from how much time she has in the mornings to how well she sticks to whatever diet plan she's on at the moment.

For one guy I know, it's gym time.  If he makes it to the gym, his day goes smoothly.  If he doesn't, it's a trainwreck.  But, not just gym time ... but the habit of laying out his gym clothes in the evening before he goes to bed.  That's enough to get him out of bed, and on the way to the gym.  If he has to go to the closet and grab gym clothes, it's much harder for him to roll out of bed.

That brings me to my second point.  Find your weak time, and streamline it.  Prepare for it.  Know it's coming, and have a plan.  Find a way to take down the weird barriers that keep you from being productive.

For instance, I've found if I write down the phone number of people I need to contact tomorrow directly on tomorrow's to-do list, I'm much more likely to actually make the call.  It's such a stupid hitch.  But, the necessity of looking-up the number right before the call actually slows me down substantially, to the point that I'll get distracted and do something else.  If the number is right by the 'to do' item, I'll just dial it.  So simple.  So stupid.  So helpful.

Part of that is planning.  Getting moving is a lot easier when you know exactly what you're doing.  It's a lot harder when you need to both figure out what to do, and then actually do it.  You need to have weekly planning sessions on Sunday evening -- wherein you list everything you need to get done for the week, and tentatively distribute the activities into daily to do lists.  It takes about a half-hour once you know what you're doing.  And, have daily planning sessions to lay out what you want to get done tomorrow.

Brett has a pretty solid Youtube video on the subject ...

For a few months, I watched that 10-minute video literally every Sunday to drill the habit into my head.

Right now, your problem is inertia.  Objects at rest tend to stay at rest.  You'll need lofty goals down the line ... but, for now, you need VERY short-term goals and short-term to-do lists, and you need to overcome your tendency to stay at rest.  Find what gets you moving, find what's stopping you from doing it, and plan your weeks and days out to get out of your own head. Build momentum.

There's no substitute for action.



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