Empty, meaningless, bored… Without a purpose.
A state familiar to most of us. The feeling of waking up and not having a greater reason to do what we do.
Unfortunately, and you can prove this by paying attention to the people you encounter on a regular basis, most of us get accustomed to feeling like this.
We assume that having a greater goal and sense of purpose is simply not for us and we resign.
We resign to the job that pays well but slowly kills us on the inside.
We resign to the relationship that is stable but brings us no sense of connection or passion.
We resign to a life of “what if’s” and “oh well’s”, never risking to pursue what calls for us.
However, while it may seem much more dangerous to follow what we can call “our passions”, I am going to argue otherwise, that in fact, the most dangerous thing we can do is to go for the safe choice.
Let me explain.
Putting It Into Perspective
Just to give some context, let’ s start with a fun game.
If you had to guess, without doing any calculus, how many days would you say human beings live for, on average?
The first number that pops into your mind: 50k? 100k? 200k?
Unfortunately, the numbers don’t go that high.
If you live to be 75 years old, the average life expectancy, then that means that you will have lived a total of 27,375 days.
Now, if you remove the ones you weren’t in control(until 18 years of age), then that leaves us with 20,805.
If you are 25 by now, then it’s 18,250 days.
If you are 40, 12,775 days.
Above is an image visually representing our weeks to live, that when viewed in this perspective, don’t seem that much…
Scary isn't it? And even scarier than the fact that death is imminent, personally, is the reason why I’m writing this article.
That is, the possibility of wasting our precious days, never having pursued what makes us alive inside, what makes life worthwhile for us.
This is not to say that you have to quit your job the second you finish reading this and pursue your life long dream of living in the Bahamas, by the beach, where you will surf every morning.
However, what I am saying is, whether that is your dream or something much simpler, as playing the guitar all day, that you should at least be making an effort to get there.
Not because you would feel happier when you achieve it, but because the process itself would, likely, bring you that sense of meaning and purpose you’ve been looking for. Meaning, that the closer and closer you get to your 27,365th day, you could be certain that you have used those days in a way that brings you joy instead of regret.
Because at the end of the day, the danger is not in going for what we want and failing, we can always get back up. The true risk, the one we should be afraid of, is in never taking the step forward, towards what is calling for us, wasting day after day wondering what would have happened if we just went and started that business, talked to that girl or took that trip.
It’s like being at the edge of a pool wondering whether we should jump in or not. We stand there, frozen, considering all the risks/ benefits, wondering if we will be able to swim, if the water will be the right temperature, if the towel is ready after, and a bunch of other, pardon my language, meaningless shit.
What we would have realized, if we just jumped into the pool, is that most of the things that concern us are not real problems and most of them get fixed by themselves.
What Makes It Meaningful to You
What is the activity that brings the most meaning to your life?
The one thing, that if removed, makes everything else pretty much pointless?
This will usually be related to something you have been very passionate about for a long time or related to your close family.
Really take the time to figure it out, because once we truly understand what drives us forward, all the rest becomes much easier.
By knowing that which gives our life meaning we can start to multiply the time we spend doing it and less on all the rest.
However, I know a lot of you are probably asking:
That sounds very nice and all, but what if I don’t have an activity like that in my life? How do I find it?
Glad you asked. Let me try and answer that for you.
For starters let’s do an exercise that I got from Neil Strauss to figure out what is the core value driving your decisions.
After we know your core value we will go deeper and figure out why that is your core value.
For now, however, this consists of only 3 questions.
1. What is the experience you most enjoy doing?
This could be anything, from dancing to skydiving to playing the guitar to anything in between.
The only requirement is that it must be something proactive, so watching videos on youtube wouldn’t qualify.
2. What is the ideal scenario of you doing that thing?
If you picked surfing, then for you, it may be doing it on a sunny day with a light breeze, surrounded by all of your best friends. When the moment to surf arrives, and as soon as you get in the water, everything just starts flowing, you are one with your board and the ocean.
On the other hand, if your activity is a much calmer one, like writing, then for you, the perfect experience may portray itself as a well-lit room, with soothing jazz playing on the background while you type away furiously on your keyboard.
Whatever it is, try and picture the away it looks, feels and smells.
3. Picturing that scenario right now, how do you feel inside? What emotions arise?
Here, try to really go deep, avoid the surface level emotions like “fun” or “nice”, it is important that you get to the core of the situation. Some common ones are: “freedom”, “safety”, “joy”.
What we learn from this is that while your favourite experience may be surfing, writing, etc, your core value for doing it is your answer to question number 3.
What this means is that while on the surface level it may feel like you are after surfing, writing, etc, what you really want is the emotion it brings inside of you.
Safety, freedom, joy.
With that in mind, maybe to your disappointment, I can’t tell you what your passion is.
I don’t think anyone but yourself can do it, however, now you know that whatever it is, it must cause that feeling inside you.
Whenever you are on the fence about doing something, see if it drives you towards that feeling or away from it. By doing this, you will be one step closer to finding your so-called passion and meaning.
What About Bad Days?
When things lose their initial glamour and you find yourself divided between progressing towards your goal, knowing it will pay off in the end, and starting a new, more exciting activity that may or may not give you what you’re after.
How do we deal with the internal conflict of doing the “right thing” even though we are being pulled towards the more exciting one?
This is something that all of us have been struggling with, dating back to Marcus Aurelius himself
Yes, you can — if you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centred, irritable. — Marcus Aurelius
But just one quote won’t help you any more than what you’ve been doing so far.
So, how do we combat this constant split inside ourselves, always divided between which rode to choose? Between discipline and a lack of it?
7 Steps Deep
I initially read this on a book by Dean Graziosi, about figuring out why it is that you do the things you do, a bit deeper than just the feeling itself from the previous exercise.
What this one requires is for you to take the thing you have decided to pursue and ask yourself
Why am I doing [Insert Activity]?
This answer will, most likely, be extremely generic like: make more money, have fun, etc.
That is why, after you have your answer, you are going to keep asking yourself this question
Why do I want [Answer To Previous Question]?
If your first answer was, for example, make more money, then here you will ask yourself: Why do I want to make more money?
After you have that, you will keep going, always asking the same.
This will usually go until you are 7 questions deep. This is where you will reach the core of your reason to pursue your current endeavours.
For me, I initially did this to figure out why I wanted to pursue entrepreneurship. What I initially thought was a quest for more freedom and money turned into, after doing this exercise, a quest to be able to support my family. That was my 7th answer.
The thing that you have to prepare yourself for though, is the fact that it will require you to be vulnerable.
It isn’t easy to say to ourselves the last answer because it tends to be something quite emotional, which for us men, isn’t always easy to do.
However, I urge you to push past the initial discomfort. What you will be left with, in the end, is a much greater sense of direction and meaning.
A true sense of purpose.
Equipped with this knowledge, the only thing left to do is, well, act on it. No matter how much we study and prepare, we must be willing to actually execute on it, otherwise, we will be forever stuck.
So, I urge you, more than doing these exercises, more than meditating on what you want to pursue, actually go and try things for yourself. Be willing to face the unknown.
It will be scary, you will feel lost and insecure, there will be a lot of emotional pain…
But it will all be worth it.
Don’t believe me? Go try for yourself.
I recently opened my course on the step-by-step process to deal with procrastination once and for all.
There are only 10 spots so check it out here before it closes!