If we are lucky, life will happen to us. If we are even luckier, it will be long, eventful and, maybe even relatively pain-free. So if we’re all operating under the assumption that we’re going to be here for a while, maybe we should make some plans for the time we’re here? If they don’t work, they don’t work, and we can pick some new ones. If they do work and they’re awesome, we’ll still probably have to pick some new ones. But, since it’s going to happen, why not try to make it something at least moderately enjoyable? Maybe you don’t know what those plans are yet, or maybe you have a slight inkling, but here are some tips that might help get the ball rolling.
1. It’s actually very cool to try. Trying is where all the good stuff is. We are here to be challenged and satisfied. Growth is interesting, plateauing is boring. Energy needs to shift and move; stagnancy is where we begin to suffocate. We’re not afraid of work, we’re worn out by busy work. We’re tired of working relentlessly on the wrong things. We don’t need work to be easy. We want to feel like we are helping, or doing something worthwhile, or feel like we’re accomplishing something, instead of just spinning our wheels. Work gets so much of our time and energy; of course, we’d rather spend it doing something we enjoy.
If you don’t know what that is yet, here’s a tip. Get very involved in whatever is in front of you. Even if you don’t love it, try harder. Care more about it. Even if you have to fake it for a while. Be more engaged with whatever it is you’re doing or the person you’re talking to, as challenging as it may seem. More engaged people enjoy things more. Even if it’s a little bit of a lie at first. Pretend like it’s interesting and that it matters, and soon it will be both.
2. Look forward to being bad at things. So many of my clients are afraid of being “bad” at things. I had one client who was so afraid of being bad at her job search and then be bad at her new job, she almost didn’t quit her job. She was afraid of all the things she assumed she didn’t know (and would therefore get wrong). She was almost willing to stay at the job she hated because she believed that she would be bad at the process of change. A process that, yes, might be hard and frustrating, but that is really hard to prove that you did it wrong. She was willing to hate her life for the next however many years rather than risk being bad at something. I mean, it’s scary. I can see her point. But is it really a way to live?
So, we started questioning her fear of being bad at something. What was the worst that could happen? Apparently, it was that she could make a mistake in front of everyone and then everyone would know she had made a mistake. Her credibility would be shot forever, and she may as well quit that job too. If her best friend or co-worker had done that (made a mistake), she would have thought they were being unnecessarily dramatic and basically insane, but yet if she did it, it was all true. She expected herself to be perfect at all times, no matter how much leeway she gave to others.
We thought of previous times in her life when she hadn’t known exactly how to do everything when she started but was able to figure it out over time and be successful over time. Turns out, she had a proven track record in her life of these exact circumstances. This was no different. She knew enough to get started and she would learn the rest as she went through the process because that’s what she had done before. And she did. She quit her job and started a new one that she was very excited about. Totally nervous, but excited about her bravery, impressed with her having done the hard work, and scare-cited about the change she was able to make.
3. You can’t laugh at what you want. Or laugh hard, but don’t belittle it. Protect it against derision all costs. There are some people who don’t have to guts to admit what they want. And those are exactly the people most likely to make fun of what you want. Repeat after me: it means nothing. They are just intimidated and jealous by your willingness to declare something. They are going to use it to justify why they are not protecting the thing they want. There are also many other reasons none of them actually have anything to do with you. But ultimately it is just a reflection of them and has nothing to do with you. There will be times when you are the only one who understands something or thinks it’s a good idea. It might be lonely; you might feel misunderstood. Be on your own team. Be all in anyway.
Also, maybe the thing that you want is not your dream. Maybe it’s not absolutely everything you’ve ever wanted. But maybe it’s something to get to the next place. Maybe it’s something you need to take yourself seriously. Maybe it’s a part of the path.
One of the myths that can accompany the idea of following your bliss is that bliss is synonymous with ease. If something does not magically fall out of the sky and into your lap, that it cannot be for you. And maybe some things fall into your lap, and that’s certainly happened to me, but looking back the things that fell into my lap were transitional things. They were the things put there to get me out of one scenario and into another. The other situations, the ones that I really wanted to be in required work. And awkwardness. And declaring my wants so they could be critiqued and rejected. Because it’s very easy to land in a situation, but it requires work to stay there. If we are lucky, time will continue to march on, so we will need to recharge, reinvent, and create new things for ourselves.
If you can be all in on your own life (no matter what it looks like in this very moment) and you can somewhat look forward to being bad at things, and you can try things, even without the assurance of an outcome or that you will be good at them, that’s a pretty good recipe for success.
SARA KRAVITZ helps people who aren’t sure what they want but know it’s not this figure out if they should quit their job, so they can stop dreading Sunday nights. As a life and career coach, she loves helping people understand (but, like, really understand) that this doesn’t have to be life. You can climb out of every hole. It might be awkward and uncomfortable at times (in fact, you can probably guarantee it will be), but there’s always a solution. (Even for you.)
She is also the author of the international, bestselling book Just Tell Me What I Want. You can download her book for free here. Or, if you’d like to talk more with her about your current situation, you can always schedule a time to talk.