Lately, I find myself having conversations with people who seem to know exactly what they want. Actually, they seem to know exactly what they don’t want. People will complain about their jobs, they’re unhappy with their boss/responsibilities/location/commute, etc. They say they want to leave, they’d rather be doing something else, they want more time at home, they missed their calling, and so on. I’ve been there.
Sociologists have observed that humans often identify themselves strongly by identifying who or what they are not. For example, strongly rejecting someone’s spiritual beliefs or racial perceptions – you are identifying as the opposite. If you’re not like them, you must be like someone else, and you identify with the opposite. You’re NOT a racist, therefore your identity is strengthened as someone who does not classify people by their race. Make sense?
Yet this is only the first step. Once you identify what you are not – it’s time to decide what you are.
I’m not certain we’re doing that right now – are people taking the time to complete their thoughts nowadays? Between all of our distractions, are we able to play out our thoughts longer than a 30 second sound-byte?
Okay, so you don’t like your job – what DO you like? If you hate your hours, then what hours do you prefer? If your job is soul-sucking and depressing, so then what inspires you?
So much energy expended to daydream about what he or she would rather have. Energy and time spent thinking about what they are currently dissatisfied with in their lives. Why aren’t we then placing more energy on the positive side – focusing on things in life that bring happiness, pleasure, success?
So inevitably, here comes the question from me: “So what are you going to do?”
Answer: “Oh, well, probably nothing.”
What are you afraid of? Is the risk greater than the reward? Are you selling yourself and your dreams short? You never know if you don’t try. And yes, I hear you, to be fair – sometimes the sacrifices are indeed greater than the rewards. Each individual has to weigh with his or her own scale. Only you know what you are willing to sacrifice to get to your happy place.
So if this article strikes a nerve with you – maybe try this simple exercise (writing always helps me to straighten out my thoughts):
1. Jot down all of the things in your life that bring you happiness (working out, family time, watching an employee succeed, leading meetings, raspberry licorice, naps on Sundays, etc. leave nothing out).
2. Now write down all of the things in your life that are non-negotiable (HAVE to work in the U.S., need to be able to pay for cable, need to spend time with my kids, have to have nights out with friends, have to pay car payment, etc.).
3. Now check out how the two intersect. Is there room for movement? Are you able to make changes to your life without negatively impacting your happiness or your non-negotiables?
4. Make a third column of your crazy ideas – what job would you have today if everything in your life had gone as originally planned?
What little things can you do TODAY to increase time spend doing what makes you happy? What can you do TODAY to help you stay closer to your non-negotiables? What can you do TODAY to bring in some of your crazy ideas? You are in charge of your life, daydreaming is great – now just act on it.
If we just sit and complain about our place in life, year after year, without taking action, then what are we doing? Who are we living for, exactly? Are we LIVING?
My favorite poet, Henry David Thoreau said: “Do not worry if you have built your castles in the air. They are where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
You can do it.