As the end of 2023 approaches, we’re going to hear a lot of talk about how the year went. There will be reflections on the people who died and the impact they had on the world. We will relive the highlights of sports and world events. At a personal level, a lot of us will look back and determine if we succeeded at what we set out to do. For some, that will be a positive experience. For others…not so much. But no matter how the year went, one thing is clear: we all had a choice.
Have a Vision
Undertaking my second read-through of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Be Useful: Seven Tools for Life, something stood out for me: we need to have a vision for our life. Over the years, I have only written out a vision two or three times. Because I didn’t know how to do it or even what I really wanted my life to look like, it was vague and lacked specificity. I wanted to be a writer, but what did that mean? What did it look like?
If you ask Schwarzenegger, he’ll tell you that a vision is the most important thing because it is “purpose and meaning. To have a clear vision is to have a picture of what you want your life to look like and a plan for how to get there.” 1 So, I’m trying again to outline a vision for my life. At the moment, it’s a bit of a jumbled mess. But it’ll give me something to work with, something on which to base any choice I make.
Get Out of the Swamp
As the world began to open up after the pandemic, I decided that I would not return to the aviation industry. Having been a quasi-germophobe most of my life, the idea of spending hours confined in a plane with other people was beyond unappealing. But I also needed a job, and there wasn’t a lot that interested me as I scanned the various online job sites. I took a job where I provided front line customer service, where—on a daily basis—my staff and I were verbally assaulted, threatened with physical violence, and even spat at.
And on the day that that person spat at me, I understood that I had a choice. I could continue to ‘tolerate’ a job that barely offered a living wage, or I could leave. The incident gave me a clear vision of what I wanted my work environment to look like, and this wasn’t it. So, I made a choice. I resigned. I did not have anything else lined up. Nor did I know what I wanted to do next. But I knew this was not the place where I belonged.
There is Always a Choice
It is up to us to decide how we want to live our lives and who we, ultimately, want to be. The best way to do that is to have a vision. It does not have to be perfect; you can perfect it along the way. But it can be a guidepost, and lead you to where you want to be. Because life is too short not to be doing what matters most to us. And as Schwarzenegger reminds us about the happiest and most successful people, they “do everything in their power to avoid bad decisions that confuse matters and drag them away from their goals.” 2
Remember, there is always a choice. And as the year winds down, is your vision for your life clear? Blurry? In need of a bit of refining? If you are like me, and you are again trying to clarify your vision, that’s okay. Together, we can hammer them out and join the ‘happiest and most successful people’ club.
- Schwarzenegger, A. (2023). Be Useful: Seven Tools for Life, Penguin Press, New York, p. 4.
- Schwarzenegger, p. 5.