A few years ago, I stumbled on a letter I wrote to my future self when I was 15. I’ll spare you the bad writing but, it was frustrating to see how far I had strayed from the plan.
I hadn’t moved to Australia, I wasn’t an architect. I wasn’t rich and I wasn’t travelling 6 months a year.
In the eyes of 15 year old me, I was a failure, yet, I had done many other things.
Turns out, John Lennon had it right…
Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.
Although I had done other things and made progress in other ways, I had lost track of what my ambition wanted me to achieve.
Through being busy, I had chosen opportunities, relationships and a lifestyle that only met my short term needs. It was time for me to reclaim my ambition.
You can’t rely on serendipity
Some people are lucky, they find passion for acting, medicine or police work early in their life and stick to it. But, they’re the exception; it’s a lot harder for most of us.
Through trial and error, we’re good at discovering what we don’t want (a 9 to 5, a business, a boring job, stress) but terrible at discovering what we really want to do.
How can we know how we’ll feel about things we’ve never experienced?
At some point, whether we know what we really want to do or not no longer matters. We need to earn a living as we’re swallowed by the flow of daily life.
Along the way, serendipity might hit us or it might not; you can’t rely on it, you need to be in control.
Interrupting the flow
The first step I took in order to regain control of my ambition and stop letting life drive me was a drastic one: I moved to Asia.
Moving to Asia meant abandonning some relationships, closing a succesful consulting business, discarding many things I owned, embarking on an unclear path, but most importantly, interrupting the flow. I took a step back and started to understand what my “right” path should be.
I was away for 331 days, travelled 92,364 kms, worked, didn’t work, looked for work, started my own thing, closed my own thing and moved back with a newly gained perspective on what my life should be.
I think its a huge step to know what you want. I know how things can steamroll and often, we have a hard time to take a step back, look at the big picture, analyze, realign and move forward. – Ex-colleague
What you can do for yourself
Through being busy, we often lose our ability to take strategic life-changing decisions. Without ever wanting it, we’re swallowed by the flow and a form of self-perpetuating status quo sets in.
To reclaim control of your path, it’s essential to have time to think and know what it is you want to win in life; you need a plan.
If you have one, make sure it’s loose enough to adapt when life changes on you. If you don’t, why not set up a series of experiments to help you proceed by elimination and identify what you no longer want in life.
To force a serendipitous outcome, you can try jobs you’ve never done, mingle with people that are nothing like you, restructure your life in a completely different way or be willing to listen to opportunities you would have never listened to before.
The important thing is to realize that the best opportunities in life are not the short wins; they’re the opportunities that best match your long term vision and “right” path.
Everyone’s on a path, but are you moving in the right direction? Are you on your “right” path?