Regaining Idealism

I’m sure some of the older dopers can sympathize with this. As we get older it seems most of us become more jaded, and less idealistic. Broken relationships, diseases, social-conflicts, injustices of all kinds, lost jobs and dreams…etc. Is there a way to regain the idealism of youth? Is it even worth it? I have a hard time imagining things to motivate myself other then the simple avoidance of pain. I will do a good job at work so I don’t have a bad day, and I’ll keep exercising to keep myself from feeling lethargic. I look at material possessions, ideas, people, as things that are impermanent (like anything I suppose). I sometimes wish I could go back to being a younger version of myself who wanted to change the world, and was excited for the future. Now I just want to have good days, enjoyable conversations, and a lack of pain. Can a person return to being idealistic and energized after so much life that has happened? Or is it simply normal to become more settled with lower expectations and drive for life?

I’ve never been idealistic. But I have always prided myself on being creative, which probably shares some of the same qualities as idealism–like self-confidence.

For short term boosts, I turn to caffeine. I’m serious. I take half a caffeine pill every morning. Within minutes after taking a dose, I’m full of all kinds of ideas and crazy notions. I also get strokes of inspiration after long walks.

Often when I go traveling, I am able to use the time to reflect on my current state and see those areas where I’m falling short.

I, in contrast, have always been idealistic. And I’m not jaded at 57.

I had a bunch of concepts and ideas in my head as a 21 year old about how I would ideally want to live. I got the chance to actually do several of those things (if not all at the same time, as of yet) and found that, yes, that’s really nice.

Other notions and beliefs have not yet come to fruition; I’m still working on it. But as concepts they still explain the world I live in. They are fundamentally optimistic despite being radically critical of the status quo and the current structures and belief systems of the world in which I live.

If anything has changed markedly since I was in my early 20s, it’s that back then I was intensely angry and fired up to defy the world; but my plans and ideas were not so impossible to actually implement (or at least many of them were not) and I’ve had a good and satisfying life, I’m a happy and mostly satisfied person; my remaining change-the-world inclinations stay in balance, where I don’t feel obligated to put on my Don Quixote suit and I try not to become so invested in the attempts that the frustrations make me miserable, but at the same time I know I’d be miserable in a different way to set all that aside and give up… there’s a sweet point where pursuing it intently makes me satisfied, gives me fulfillment, and I try to stay in the zone of that sweet spot.

I think the idealism of youth gets marred by the surprises of misfortunes. Achieving big things seems easy if you just do it, though as you live your life you get caught in storms and disorder is imposed. After awhile, just succeeding as an organism certainly does rise to a priority. It’s (potentially fatally) rough out there!

So, now you have a precarious perch as a successful organism and don’t want to rock the boat. OTOH, in a phychospiritual kind of way, you wonder if that’s it, because it doesn’t exactly seem jam-packed with meaning to just stay there indefinitely. A larger, non-selfish purpose would lend a sense of meaning to the whole affair, but also risks rocking the boat.

Which is really better? It is a question of personal conscience IMHO- some Roman emperors claimed authority over the consciences of their subjects, but we don’t have that today in the US, or in most of the world really. I bet there are all kinds of answers to your question, all generated from mildly unique subjective premises.

Should you wanna go back? I dunno, maybe ahead is better. Personally, I’d like to be successful enough to ‘retire’ early and devote my energies to changing the world. My younger self might have wanted to do that, but in a lot of ways anyway, only my older self has the means and perspective to actually have an effect.

Accomplishing big things later in life will require overcoming obstacles- you’ve got inertia, physical problems, cynicism and other mental damage to deal with. You will have to put in extra effort because things are not straightforward. I am not suggesting you take the following link in a literal way, but rather just contemplate what Ganesha stands in for.

I know that is a weird reference. It would be great if someone knows of a more relatable equivalent, maybe in Jungian psychology or Western religion.

ETA: I can think of one example.