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Apathy meant that I didn't care enough to put on the smiley mask, and I retreated from everyone. Being alone was more comfortable than being surrounded by the people I was trying to placate or please. Do you know what else ties our personal quirks into one potent package? Giving ourselves a purpose in life. Think of each part of your personality as a finger. Individually, they might be kind of pretty, or useful for some things like pressing a button, making a promise, or picking your nose. But only when you can coordinate all your fingers so that they work towards a clear larger purpose, only when you can employ your whole hand, do your options and potential truly open up. Why do we need to press this button? Why do we wish to live by this promise? And why on earth are we picking our nose? Will it get me closer to where I want to be in life? Knowing what you want out of life is such a fundamental question to answer, and yet for many it can be tricky to tackle on the spot, especially beyond vague terms. The thought of growing old is scary enough. To also be homeless, or at least house insecure, and to have to scrape by on Social Security checks or meager savings, well, that's downright terrifying. Fortunately, the future isn't fixed, so no one has to succumb to this fate. I'll never say to anyone that taking control of the future is easy. And, indeed, it can be a good deal harder for people who have had fewer opportunities throughout their lives, whether because of financial hardship, family strife, or health issues. But even in those cases, a new future can be created. It starts by creating a clear picture of the future you want. To See Yourself in Your Future House, You Have to Go Shopping for It Today

As Maddox and I made our way back to the conference, I got him to think more clearly about the kind of home he wanted for his family. You know, man, Boston is nuts, he said, shaking his head. Being alone, though, was pretty awful, as I'd grown to dislike myself intensely. Not liking yourself is uncomfortable because there's no breather from oneself; Depression is a cruel illness in which, in essence, your very being is at war with itself. Your body that works so efficiently to keep you alive comes up against a brain that feeds you a barrage of negative, disempowering, and scary thoughts. The loss of hope and the isolation make it an unstable, uncertain, and frightening place to be. I was there for an extended period of time and have been back a fair few times since. In that pitch-blackness, my boundaries swung the other way, like a pendulum. Extremely rickety and fluid ones were replaced with walls of stone and gates of steel, and I didn't let anyone in. The people-pleasing came to a sudden halt, but I was also keeping the good stuff at bay. Those dark times, which I still fear to this day, have been the undoing of me and--though I hate to give them any credit--the redoing of me. Everything you've learned up to this point has been to help you get a solid idea of what you might want before you even really think about it. Each step has been designed to help you stop living a life where you're constantly reacting, and start living one where you have some control over the ebb and flow of events around you. Knowing what you want is what seals the deal, solidifying your role as an author. Take a brief moment now to think about what you want out of life. Look at the way you've chosen to spend your me-time lately. What have you found helps you feel alive? When dealing with people, what values do you need to assert in order to feel like the author of your life? Which standards are non-negotiable in your life?

Remember, you cannot control what others do, but you can control what you do; Beyond that, what do you need in order to feel supported or secure? The prices are crazy, and they're only supposed to get worse. I mean, how am I supposed to prepare for that? This is a common pitfall in futurecasting. Before people even start the process, they're already psyching themselves out with all the reasons it won't work. My advice in that predicament is this: take a chance on yourself. I'm not saying throw all caution to the wind or ignore the realities of your situation. If you're living on a schoolteacher's salary, maybe don't pin your future on a luxury penthouse. But don't be afraid to stretch your image of yourself. Remember my challenge from the previous article: dare to dream a different dream--a dream of a future that you really and truly want. Well, for starters, you need to make the future feel real and imminent, I said. Managing my mental health has been a long learning curve: a process of tweaking, pivoting, and flexing. It's mostly trial and error as I navigate new things to see if they'll help or not. Boundaries and self-care go hand in hand. Without boundaries, we might understand the importance of self-care but not protect the space within which to do it. While self-care became the foundation where my actions of self-kindness slowly became louder than my negative self-talk, boundaries became the framework I built to protect my physical, mental, emotional, and digital space. I wish I could say it's been easy, but that annoying adage is true--nothing worth having seems to come easily. Creating boundaries when we haven't had many to begin with changes relationships. It's often for the better, as balance is redressed, but sometimes relationships don't stand the test of healthier, more equal boundaries.

Once the power is distributed more equitably, some relationships sadly don't survive. Boundaries sort the wheat from the chaff, but what we're left with is precious and honest and sincere. What do you look for in platonic, romantic and professional relationships? What level of cleanliness or tidiness do you need in order to feel at ease? Some people need a clean sink (like me), others need a swept floor. Others just need a shiny bathroom, or a well-made bed. Finally, who do you admire? What ideals or cultural movements speak to you? Who do you see as a role-model? What is it about these ideals or people that cause you to view them this way? What values within them make them so admirable in your eyes? Outside of your person or ideology, where else can we find the values you admire? Go searching for it. Start looking for a house. We don't have the money, Maddox protested. Doesn't matter, I replied. In fact, it's better that you don't have the money yet. When you do, you'll know what you want. It will give you and Doug a target, something to aim for. To see yourself in your future house, you have to go shopping for it today.

That sounds like an advertising slogan, Maddox said with a sideways glance. He was right. This boundary work comes with growing pains, too, as we strive to undo old habits and create new, uncharted ones. Speaking up and out, honestly, takes courage that we can't always muster and takes some getting used to, while also not forgetting the boundaries of others and how we navigate the marrying of theirs with our own. Nowadays, my boundary pendulum hovers somewhere in the middle--still needing work at times, still swinging ever so slightly to people-pleasing--but they've eventually gotten to a healthier place. New experiences like motherhood or leading a team take time to adjust to: They require conscious thought, boundary-creating, communication, and learning. I've finally developed a stronger sense of identity, dreams, opinions, possibilities, and my moral compass. In a nutshell, that's where I've been, where I am, and why I'm writing this article. As with most things we focus on, what we zoom in on expands and we see it everywhere. That's what this boundary conundrum is like; I find myself talking, learning, and thinking about it a lot. Anyone who knows me now can attest that I'm always willing to talk about this stuff--it's super important because it underpins our relationships with everyone and everything. How do these values resonate within you in this new context? All these questions can help you build up a more detailed idea of what you want out of life. When you can, set aside the me-time to answer all of them properly, in as much detail as you can, with journaling and doodling to help you fill in the gaps. When you've identified what is important to your overarching dream, you become more aware of where you can give ground and where you must stand firm when playing the game of give and take with the world around you. Wants and Don't Wants This is another exercise to help you obtain an even clearer idea of what you want from life. This advice is intended to be run alongside that of the previous subheading, but the important thing, above all else, is maintaining a flow of self-discovery. Anything that furthers this without diminishing your health can be included.