Posted by Judy Anne Cavey on July 30, 2012
In the bestselling book by Po Bronson, What Should I Do With My Life?, the author takes us on an interesting journey to answer the title’s question. He does this by imbedding himself in the lives of several people across the U.S. who, in one form or another, answered the elusive question posed. Some planned for a shift, while others stumbled into a new way of being and seem happier than the planners. No matter how they got there, the point is, they eventually got there.
Unemployed? Employed but miserable? This book might awaken possibilities that have gone dormant.
Change in Hard Times
Mr. Bronson points out that he learned in hard times, “people usually changed the course of their life.” However, in good times, “they frequently only talked about change.” Considering those out of work not only in the U.S., but around the world, there are literally tens of millions of people trying to figure out what to do next. So, don’t feel alone.
Why is it that we postpone making changes? Psychologists point out humans hate change, yet change is a major part of life. Forced into making changes, people often discover themselves in better situations. But the operative word here is forced. Through lay-offs, recessions, post-recessions and possible double-dip recessions (some say we’re headed for one now), people bounce back through the changes they make.
Give Yourself Permission
“I found that the biggest obstacle to answering the question this book poses is that people don’t give themselves permission to take it seriously”, states Mr. Bronson. Why? The bottom line, the big “F” word…fear. And fear can be so intimidating that people would rather stay stuck in that place, miserable, than initiate any change.
When we stand face to face with our fears, it’s only then we can see how unreasonable they really are–but it takes courage. For example, let’s say you have an opportunity to relocate for a great job in a nice location. You’ve done all your homework (see my posts here on relocation), spent enough time exploring the possibilities, but it feels “safer” to stay put. In the back of your mind, you know passing up this opportunity will be a bone of contention from now on–the “what if” scenario. But you refuse to give yourself permission to take a leap of faith beyond your fears. As one of the book’s first interviewees states, “Fear is like a wound within our emotions.” He suggests that we first acknowledge it exists and then find out what kind of fear it is: “Is it fear of poverty, of loneliness, of rejection?”
Do you have fears you haven’t yet faced? Right now, take a moment to ask yourself what your greatest fears are and if they are unreasonable.
Purpose Revealed or Discovered
The book touches on the idea of revealed or discovered destiny. A percentage may think the easy answer would be a revealed path for the future by a Higher Power, others prefer the idea of discovering on their own a new route in life. I know people who have done both. No matter your perspective, what’s important is something somewhat tangible has been laid at your feet.
The $65,000 question today is: “What will you do with it?” Pretend it doesn’t exist, pronounce it too difficult to execute, or hold your breath and jump off the high dive into a new life? I’ve taken a my share of high dives, most often for a long while I was paddling as fast as I could to keep my head above water. But then, I got out of the deep end and pulled myself up. You can’t buy a feeling like that!
Day Job Philosophy
There are many people living the “Day Job Philosophy”. They find a field and stick with it come Hell or high water–often both–clenched jawed, they endure an existence they hate day after day. I’m sure if you asked them, they’d say they were “fine” and can’t understand why anyone would want to examine their life, or follow a dream. But, as Mr. Bronson puts it, “The goal is to bring what you do in alignment with who you are, so you don’t end up being someone you don’t want to be.” Well said, don’t you think?
One particular interviewee in the book was constantly trying to prove his worth by pleasing others, measuring his worth through their expectations. He wasn’t pursuing his purpose. That’s no way to live. We have to recognize people-pleasing behavior before it chokes the life out of our true purpose. You can’t be someone else, you have to be you. And if that means walking away from a six-figure income with major perks, so be it, money isn’t everything. But satisfaction from having pursued a genuine purpose is everything.
I once knew a very gifted musician who could play several instruments well. Instead of pursuing his hearts desire, he went the chosen path laid out by his controlling parents. To them, money was god and demanded he pursue an advanced degree in business. He’s successful financially, but as miserable as they come in every other respect because he wasn’t true to himself. Secretly, he holds a great deal of resentment towards his parents.
Call it Whatever
Whether you call it your purpose, path in life, new direction, God-given role, career direction or what makes your heart sing isn’t important. It’s what you initiate that is. Taking the first step by putting one foot in front of the other until you get there, wherever there is, happens to be the formula.
Here’s the good news: being smart, rich, thin, young or blond doesn’t make the journey any easier! And with that I’ll leave you with two words from Mr. Bronson’s chapter at the end of the book–patience and resilience–the life jackets you’ll need when you jump off the high dive.
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