Mark Blasini


3 signs you are in tactical hell


Note: See my previous post on tactical hell for a more in depth description.

It's often very difficult to recognize when we're in tactical hell in our lives, primarily because its fundamental characteristic is precisely its invisibility - i.e. that we cannot see our situation for what it is. We are so mired in the day-to-day struggle that we can only see a day or week or so ahead. We cannot see the overall pattern or trajectory we are headed in.

But there are some key signs or characteristics that you can pay attention to if, in life, you feel like you are experiencing a struggle.

The first sign you're in tactical hell is the feeling of recurrence. If you feel like you're going through the same struggle every day - the same argument with your significant other, the same power games with your coworker, the same up-and-downs with your weight or exercise routine, the same roller-coaster with your emotional state - then you are very likely in tactical hell.

What makes tactical hell a hell is the feeling that you are encountering the same cycles over and over and over again. Things seem to get better, then worse, then better, then worse, ad infinitum. That is hell.

The second sign you're in tactical hell is a general feeling of frustration in your life. A feeling of "If only [my significant other, my boss, my coworker, my brain chemistry, etc.] could just change." If only my partner could see how she is ruining our finances; if only my coworker could stop being so difficult; if only I could get my shit together and work out or stop overeating; if only Congress would pass this bill, etc.

It is the feeling of powerlessness, of the lack of control, that makes tactical hell so frustrating, so miserable. As bestselling author Robert Greene writes in The 48 Laws of Power,"The feeling of having no power over people and events is generally unbearable to us - when we feel helpless, we feel miserable."

The third sign you're in tactical hell is an overall negative outlook on your future. The interesting thing about tactical hell is that it is not all bad. Because we are raised to be tacticians, to think and live tactically, we generally know how to solve the problems we face in life. We do make some progress; we are able to keep our head above the water, if barely.

But because of our constant feelings of recurrence and frustration, our overall outlook on our long-term future tends to be pessimistic. We do not feel like there is much to look forward to, or what we do look forward to is often momentary escapes from the hell - partying, drinking, entertainment, vacation, splurging, etc.

As a result, we do not create long-term aspirations for the life we want to live, or if we do, they are simply dreams, maybe-someday thoughts, fantasies. We are not committed to seeing them come true. This is probably the worst consequence of being in tactical hell.

Look out for these signs in your own life. Ask yourself:

  1. In what areas of my life do I feel the same struggle or battle or conflict is recurring?
  2. In what areas of my life am I frustrated, with the feeling of wanting someone or something else to change?
  3. In what areas of my life do I not have an overall positive, optimistic feeling about? From where do I often try to escape?

In asking yourself these questions, you can identify where your struggle is. And that, often, is half the battle.