How small decisions determine our bigger purpose.
Today, people are filled with anxiety. There is so much opportunity that all choices to make in life that it fills us with fear. Add in the high visibility of others who have found their path on social media, and we become hyper aware of our insufficiencies. That awareness creates stress, which leads to bad decisions. This article will lower that stress. After reading, as long as you can muster some patience and courage, you will be able to better handle the anxiety.
Choosing your path is an emotionally draining if you allow it to be. All the “what if?” Do I actually know myself? Will I be wasting time? In the included image, there is a reason he is sweating, most people are uncomfortable here! In reality, your life has far more that two buttons to decide between. Your life is a giant quiz figuring out what you should be doing. Do you want to enroll in this class, or that class? That decision changes your knowledge and your skillset.
Do you want to make stuff, sell stuff, or support people? That changes where you fit in the world.
What many people are frustrated by is their own youth. In my early 20’s I was having an identity crisis and now approaching my mid-30s I see more of what makes me unique in the world, where my strengths are, and where my weaknesses are. This timeframe is different for everyone based on the influences that are all around them, but if you keep living your life, and making decisions the correct path will reveal itself. Misery comes from feeling society has put a time limit on you. That if you’re not setup and 100% confident by 20, you’ll be a failure. It’s entirely false. Just because Taylor Swift knew she wanted to create music at 12, doesn’t mean you have to. You can work a job, buy a house, save money, start a family, and still be figuring out your life’s ambition. Patience is a necessity here.
For a long time, I tried to put settling down, buying a house, getting married off, thinking that it would trap me, and when I finally gave up that line of thinking, I found myself the happiest I’ve ever been, and the clearest vision of my future I’ve ever had. You don’t have to have a clear picture of your ideal career before everything else. You can live a normal life for decades until you understand yourself enough to go where you want. And if you’ve saved a good amount of money in those decades, it will make it even easier when you make that decision.
I consider this to be equivalent to moving up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It’s hard to find our passion when we don’t have our food and water cared for. It’s hard to find our passion if we don’t have a place to live. It’s starts to get easier as we have strong relationships, and some sense of community that we belong to. It becomes significantly easier once we reach the self-esteem phase, when people recognize talents that we have. The external feedback at the stage starts to feed us energy that can be used to propel ourselves into something that uses our unique skills and passion. Following that unique skill and passion, is self-actualization and transcendence, and is the goal most people looking for a path are hoping to find. However, while there are exceptions, skipping the rungs that Maslow laid out is not common. Each of those rungs take different amounts of time to climb. It’s fine to be 50, and starting on what you’ve figured out is your true calling. It’s fine if you work till 65, and at retirement figure out that you want to be a writer and do it at that point. Society, Instagram, the media, doesn’t get to tell you when to figure out everything. Life isn’t not linear. You start slow. That’s the sticking point that makes everyone miserable. They project linearly from where they are to the end of their life, and it seems like they won’t be successful, or able to retire, or to be happy, but saving money, improving skills, making investments in yourself, all have compounding effects.
To start, choose a general direction of any sort. It’s easiest to choose between opposites at the beginning. Do I like working with people or objects? Do I like computers or biology more? The questions over your life become more nuanced until you reach your desired path.
I’ll give an example of how someone out of high school could develop their path. They like working outside, so they get a construction job. Then, they realize they enjoy the aesthetics of buildings and hate the construction environment and decide architecture is a better fit, they go get the architecture degree and the job. Then after 10 years they decide they’re sick of all the management aspects of architecture, they just like the artistry, so they become a furniture maker to have the creativity without the bureaucracy. This draws on their skills of constructing, their passion of not being tied to a desk, their creativity, and it makes them happy. It may have taken 20-30 years to reach that ultimate conclusion, but that’s how things evolve. It’s not like every single minute of the 20-30 years was unbearable, it just was a process of finding the exact combination that works and developing skills along the way. That’s an example of the quiz of life. You’ll find your path if you quit focusing on when, and instead continually evaluate, “Does this make me happy?” Make broad decisions at first, then move to more specific ones as your life goes on.
I wish there was an easy button, a quiz, a consultant or something that would make easier, but there isn’t. Out of the Choose.Create.Connect. mantra, this is actually the part with the least amount of guidance. Nobody can tell you what to choose. When your ready, you’ll know. Keep thinking about the other parts of your life too, and you’ll be lead back to the right choice eventually, but you have to have patience to let the experiences that guide your decisions happen while also having the courage to understand that many small improvements over time add up to something amazing over the long run. You’ll get there.
None of this is Right is written by me, Brandon Donnelly. I believe that small business is the backbone of a healthy economy and democracy. Small business encourages competition through generosity, creativity, and skill. Small business provides more opportunity for workers to find a job that works for them. If you believe in small business, generosity, or creativity, my writings are for you.