Okay so I want to start off by asking you to imagine the next 10 years of your life…
-How do you see yourself?
-Where will you live?
-What job will you have?
Now I want you to scrap every thought that just went through your mind…because life has a funny way of working out. What we plan for ourselves one day might not be what’s best for us next week, next month or even in years ahead. When we are too focused on one plan, we close ourselves off to opportunities we could have never seen coming. What if you didn’t have a plan at all? That’s not to say don’t have goals for yourself. Do. But don’t be afraid to stray from the beaten path. Contrary to popular belief, It’s OK to change your mind. Over the next few minutes I want to discuss three key ideas with you all: 1) Living on your own terms, 2) Defining Success, and 3) Self imposed limitations
Living On Your Own Terms.
We look at people in the news and hear stories of people doing crazy things, extravagant things- and allow ourselves for just a second to wonder “what if that were me?” before quickly returning to a more practical state of mind. Or maybe you have a journal or a Tumblr blog filled with experiences you are dying to live out. Well it doesn’t have to just be a dream. Traveling to foreign places, or starting your own business doesn't just have to be something that “happens to other people" it can be your reality. Oftentimes we get stuck on a plan that we, or someone else, has set for us. We all know talented individuals who don’t follow their passions because it’s impractical and not part of the plan. I think one of the reasons I am so passionate about this concept of NOT pre-planning life is because my parents took an unconventional approach with me and my endless endeavors during my childhood. As a kid I was, and still am, overzealous yet distracted. I wanted to do everything and anything- which resulted in a variety of complete identity reconstructions in my first 15 years of life. Instead of forcing me to continue a hobby I was no longer interested in, they supported each new ambition of mine as long as I showed genuine enthusiasm and devoted significant time and effort into the activity. It started in first grade. I wanted to be the next Jackie Chan. I signed up for Taekwondo lessons and ran around the house in my Dobok, uniform, performing a series of kicks and punches into the air. Then one day the instructor refused my request to go to the bathroom during class and I peed my white uniform. This unfortunate incident ended my taekwondo career and my rock star phase began. That Christmas I received an Avril Lavigne CD. After that, I only wore jean skirts and my black v-neck sweater with a built in white collar and red plaid tie, along with Walmart brand mock DC shoes. I even bought an electric guitar and took lessons from a guy named Mario. Later was the fashion designer phase. I received a small mannequin as a birthday present to which I would pin very unfortunate looking fabric swatches and spent a year attempting to learn to sew and scribbling outfits in sketchbooks. There was also soccer, volleyball, basketball, ice-skating, acting, marine biology, photography, graphic design… The list goes on.
Now maybe you’re thinking “wow you sure gave up on a lot of things” or maybe that “my parents should have pushed me harder” but by allowing me to explore any and all of my interests, they gave me a rare gift: the power to choose and place importance on happiness by way of people and experience rather than money. It’s not like every one of my new endeavors was handed to me on a silver platter. When I wanted that electric guitar in 1st grade, my parents promised to pay for lessons if I saved enough money to buy the guitar. I spent the better part of the next year doing odd jobs around the house for a few dollars here and there. The moment I walked up to the counter at the music store and payed for a cheap 200$ electric guitar in mostly 1 and 5 dollar bills was one of the proudest moments of my childhood. My parents push me to work hard at whatever I do, with focus and determination, and always strive for my best. But I happened to be one of the lucky ones. Many others aren’t quite as fortunate. There is so much pressure to define success as how much money you have. Therefore we strive for the higher paying jobs and refuse to stray from the beaten path. But who really determines success? The definition should come from within. If you value experience and happiness over monetary value, your definition of success will look vastly different from others. There will be people who tell you to “spend more time planning, and be ‘realistic‘. Maybe they’re right – maybe it is crazy. I don’t have an argument other than ‘this is what I want to do‘. But isn’t that a hell of an argument?”
Self Imposed Limitations.
To quote American Beauty, “It’s an amazing thing when you realize you still have the ability to surprise yourself”. We are not here forever. So yes, while you need to be responsible it's also important to enjoy yourself. Who says you can’t have both? Not having a plan absolutely doesn’t mean you stop achieving things. It means you stop letting yourself be limited by goals. I recently came across a quote on one of my favorite blogging websites, Elite Daily, the quote was from an author named Ty Baumanis, he said, “People always talk about how they don’t want to end up working in an office or at a job they hate. The only problem with that statement is few people do anything about it.” I think this can be attributed to the traditional family model. Go to school, earn a degree, obtain a 9-5 job and support your family. This is what everyone does- what we all do. I mean we’re here now right? Working towards that first step? Getting our degree. But that’s not the problem- it’s what we do with it after. We know what we should do. What we’re supposed to do. So often times we rule out other options that are less conventional. Because they’re “too unrealistic.” There is absolutely nothing wrong with following this path, if that’s what you want to do. But why settle if you picture yourself elsewhere? The funny thing too is even though the college/office job plan is the most popular- that doesn’t mean it’s the easiest. In fact, it’s actually the path of MOST resistance. Think about it- all those college graduates with the same degree and qualifications fighting for those same entry level positions. It turns into who knows Spanish? Who is the most diverse? That’s how employers are thinking now to distinguish individuals amongst huge pools of applicants. But what about those who dare to go where no one else does? Where’s your competition? You’ll have a much higher chance of accomplishing what you want if you are your own uniquely qualified person for the job.
The concept of a path itself is a tricky one. It’s the route we take to where we want to go. But when we focus too much on the destination, we lose sight of the journey. As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” I heard a metaphor once comparing life not to a path, but that of a sea. When we pick a path we assume we are walking on solid unchanging ground, instead of living in an ever changing and evolving universe. If you think of life as an ocean, when obstacles come your way, just as waves do, you can adjust yourself to accompany them without much upset before the wave passes. You go forwards and backwards and side to side because that’s the natural ebb and flow. An agile person focuses on preparation over planning because they spend more time actually “doing” than planning what they are going to do. Choose the journey that will bring you the most joy. That’s finding your purpose, and from there take advantage of what’s to come.