Most people don't live a life that's in alignment with what they want to do. That's not a criticism of any of those people; for our entire history as a species we have had to spend most of our time doing things we don't want to do in order to survive.
All of us are going to have to do things which we don't want to do. Next week I have to file my taxes. Two days ago I had to wake up at four in the morning. The problem isn't that we sometimes have to do things we don't want to do, it's that we choose life paths that lead towards goals we don't actually want.
This creates a doubly bad situation, because progress towards any goal is filled with things you don't want to do. There's some strategy around minimizing that and finding enjoyment in mundane tasks, but let's not pretend that having people do things which they don't want to do is something to strive for. Then once you reach a goal you didn't actually want, you don't feel as satisfied as you expected you would, the lack of satisfaction creates disappointment, and you have to start on something new again.
I'm fortunate to have a life where I basically love everything I do. I love programming, I love working through problems with people in coaching, I love doing real estate deals with my friends, and I love writing. In my leisure time I do things which really satisfy me, like drink tea with friends, do escape rooms, go to operas and ballets and symphonies, work on little side projects, build things, etc.
In other words, my life is aligned really well with what I like to do. Some of it's fun, some of it's work, but it's all moving me in the right direction and makes me feel good on the way there.
This is partially because I was just dealt a great hand in life. I was born to great parents in a developed country, happened to make really good friends early, and was always supported and loved. I had every opportunity to create a life that was in alignment.
At the same time, I took that opportunity. At times I've put in a lot of hard work because the easier path wouldn't have been in alignment with what I want out of life. Other times it's been easy.
The critical part, though, is thinking about what it is you actually want. Most people don't know. You ask them what they want in life, they tell you, you ask them why, and then they have no idea why. And if they don't know why, then they don't really want it.
I've seen so many people who very smart and very hard workers not end up where they want to be. I think this is the reason. They only find out what they really want by ending up somewhere else. That's such a sad thing, because they could have gotten what they really wanted if they'd directed their energy properly.
Think about what it is you really want. Where do you want to be in five years? Imagine your life, the components of it, the daily lifestyle you'd like to have. Then think deeply about why you want these things and evaluate the reasons behind them. The more honest you can be with yourself, the better.
If anything you're doing is because society expects it of you, it's not your real goal. Society is organized to keep you from being fulfilled (and thus not in need of further purchases). If it's to win someone's admiration or respect, it's not your real goal. You'll never become satisfied if you're not your own judge. If it's because it's something you've always wanted, ask yourself whether you still do. Maybe a ten-year-younger version of yourself wasn't as wise as you are now.
Know what you want and why you want it. If your goals seem too big, that's fine. You've got a good shot at reaching them if you want them badly enough. If they seem small, that's fine too. Only you know what you really want. Reaching your goals is a wonder
Photo is a dog on a building in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Great article, I was thinking about that a lot lately.
However, I am starting to believe that the problem of most of the undecided people (including myself, partially) is a bit deeper, and might end up in two different scenarios depending on one’s personality. The thing is that no matter how hard we try to envision our future, we don't really know what we want and where we want to end up. With the seemingly constant pressure of the media and our peers sharing their lives and careers on daily basis, this usually leads to one of these options:
1. Making big decisions too often.
Example: starting by going to university to become a doctor, dropping out after a year to become a lawyer, dropping again to travel Australia for a year, coming back home to make a living as a musician, only to beat yourself up after a year that you should have rather stuck to that doctor career because this is not going to work out. But you never wanted to settle for something you didn't like and die after a life full of regret.
2. Sticking to that big decision you made some time ago, even if you start to realize along the way that you don't really want it.
Example: going to the university to become a doctor, getting a degree, practice for 50 years, die a successful doctor. In the meantime thinking pretty much constantly that it's a nice career, it pays the bills, you're respected in the community, but deep down you'd still rather be a musician, you were just afraid it's not going to work out.
Both of the scenarios are common and are pretty much accepted as the norm, but both of them are extremes. The trick I'd say is to find a balance.
If you're in the middle of your studies, don't know whether you want to actually pursue that career, but also don't have a clear alternative, I'd say just bite the bullet and finish your degree. But pick up that guitar and try to actively play on the weekends, for friends or in pubs, even when you start your career as a doctor. Save up some money on the side and try to get into a situation in work that you can take a long time off to visit Australia which you always wanted to do. Maybe people will like your music and you finally decide to give it a shot - and why not, you have the money to do it and your degree so you can always get your old career back if it doesn't work out and you need to pay the bills. The dreams and goals that are really important to you are the ones that will stay with you for years. You cannot decide on your future overnight, you need to wait long enough until you realize what your goals and dreams are, actively work on them and retain them in the long term, instead of involuntarily replacing them with ones you never actually wanted in the first place.
Apologies for this being so long :)
Dude I used to follow you and read all your posts. you can't please every body.
but now it seems you wanna be a self help guru (just my impression)all your posts are boring now and not even fun.
Where are the posts similar to swinging on a rooftop, swimming in pacific ocean and atlantic in record time, buying Magellan penguinJust pure fun posts.Like i said you can't please everyone, and continue on if it makes you happy if you are targetting the self help crowd. and just consider this constructive criticism. you may be a better writer now. but you're boring and dry as heck now.
A great, to the point post. Life will line up with what you want, but the question is, do you know what that is?
"The critical part, though, is thinking about what it is you actually want. Most people don't know." - Just yesterday I ran into this with a co-worker. He is looking for a new house, and has developed a list of the things he needs in a house. All his current time is spent on things like the type of counter tops, etc.. He has not done this in the rest of his life. Even if he finds a new house that meets his list, the shiny house will lose it's shininess, and he will wonder why he is so unfulfilled. How do I know this? I have lived it.
"Society is organized to keep you from being fulfilled (and thus not in need of further purchases)" - This is one of the biggest pluses for us when we unplugged from TV years ago, not seeing all the advertising.
Excellent post and spot-on. This is something I've observed in others and to a bit lesser degree in myself. More introspection and proper alignment of intent in order...
Thanks for sharing your perspective with all of us! Your posts are really eye-opening for a 'mainstream sheep' like myself :) So much to think about ..
Just to clarify ... at the end of your post I think you mean to say "(and thus in need of further purchases)" rather than "not in need" ... as that's why they don't want us fulfilled - to continue with mindless consumerism. Yes?
I used to dislike to work. I saw how most people lived their lives, slogging through work that they hated, and I was determined not to fall into that trap. I made the mistake of generalizing, lumping all work together in the same bucket.
Since then, things have changed. In terms of monumental personal life changes, becoming a hard worker is the most recent one I've undergone. About a year ago, for reasons I touched on in this post, I decided that it was imperative for me to become a hard worker. I didn't do it because I had suddenly fallen in love with work, but rather because I had began to feel as though I was behind. And believe me, it wasn't love at first sight.
To fall in love with hard work, you must understand why it's necessary. When I was young I was told that sugar was bad, but I never understood exactly why it was bad, so I kept eating it. Only when I learned how it chemically affected my body did I finally give it up. The same is true of work-- if you don't know why you have to work hard and love it, you'll probably never actually do it.
Work is your gift to the world. That sounds corny, but it's true. And believe me, you owe the world a gift or two. Think of all of the various things that millions of people around the world have done for you to enjoy the life you have. They made up languages, invented stuff, procreated at the exact right times to create your ancestry, and managed to not kill each other in the process. We're lucky to be here, and the high standard of living we all enjoy now is only because of those who came before us. Some, like Einstein, had huge impact, but even people you don't notice, like the janitors, are making your life better.
I was having a discussion last night with someone about what I wanted to do in the next couple of years.
One of the ideas that had been mentioned was focusing on building my personal brand. Writing more books, developing courses, doing product launches, etc.
And he asked me "do you really want to be famous?"
I said, first of all, if I did, the famous part would simply be a side effect. The real reason for doing it, is that I could essentially just live my life and have people pay me to tell them about it. I have interesting ideas to share, ideas worth paying for, and by writing about it I get more of them. My reasons for building my personal brand would be to minimize friction in my life, not fame or anything egoically motivated.
And, second of all, to answer the question... I don't know. The answer is, I don't know.