We ended with the question: What’s the secret to living a life true to yourself and not the life others expect of you?
I promised you two answers: A complicated one and a simple one. So here we go!
Complicated path first: You need to define success, develop a clear philosophy of life, and take repeated steps to actualize your philosophy. It involves uncovering your values, creating a vision, defining goals, and digging deep to push through barriers. It's sometimes fun, often hard, perpetually ongoing, and incredibly fulfilling work.
It’s totally worth doing.
But I have a hard time recommending it as a starting point, because it’s not what I did.
At least, not intentionally… not at first. (Now I do it all the time, which is why I can recommend it at all...) When I first decided to follow my own path, I took the simple approach: Take a risk.
Here’s the formula:
1. Think of something cool you want to do.
2. Take one step in that direction.
When I quit my engineering job, I didn’t go through a lengthy process of self-discovery or planning. It happened almost on a whim. See, a week earlier, I had given a presentation at a student leadership conference. After my presentation, another leadership speaker in the audience asked if I had ever considered speaking professionally. I was floored: “You can speak professionally?!” We chatted. I thought it sounded incredible. But I already had a job, and having a job is what an engineering graduate is supposed to do.
But one morning, after a long commute in the rain, I had a realization: I didn’t like what I was doing. I was told I’d move up quickly, but that didn’t sound particularly appealing - more responsibility, longer hours, and more stress over something I didn’t really care about. So I typed up an apologetic resignation letter. As I left the building, I declared to myself that I was now a “professional speaker.” I had no idea what that meant or how to do it. But I took the first step. I took the risk.
And that one step led to another. Then another. Doors opened. Opportunities appeared.
And that’s basically why the simple and complicated paths get us to the same place: Motivation follows action- not the other way around!
I had no idea what I was doing, so I had no choice but to learn hard and fast. I joined associations. I found mentors. I read books like my career depended on it. (It turns out, it did!)
It doesn’t even have to big a big step. Just take one step, and you’ll be motivated to take the next.
In the pursuit of doing something cool, we ALSO end up learning something new about our values, our vision, our goals, and our barriers. Knowing this about ourselves leads us, one step at a time, towards creating the life we want to live.
Next post, I’ll tell you more about how taking risks leads to learning: It has everything to do with how our brain changes when we step out of the Comfort Zone and into the Learning Zone.
But don’t bother waiting for that - just start with the simple technique!
Think of something cool you want to do. Got it? Good.
What’s one step you could take towards that? Got it? Good.
Now stop reading and go do it. Just one step. Take the risk!