Do you know what you want out of life?
If the answer is yes, do you know what you need to do to achieve it?
I know I want to be a writer. Wait a minute … I am a writer. I want to be a successful writer, the kind who makes a living from it. Maybe that means trying to become a New York Times or Globe and Mail bestselling author. Maybe that means going on a book tour. Maybe that means giving up my day job so I can throw all my energy into realizing my dream.
Maybe it means none of that.
Because I’m in crisis. I’ve been in crisis mode since the beginning of the year. I’m stuck in a ‘funk’ that, despite what I thought, I haven’t been able to pull myself out of completely. I keep asking myself: “What am I doing?” and “What’s wrong?” and “What is it that doesn’t feel right?”
Earlier this week I was in London, a city that has been like my home away from home since January. During my stay, I made a stop a Daunt Books on Marylebone High Street. While I was there, I picked up a book that had been recently recommended to me: Ray Dalio’s Principles. Afterwards, I stopped for a latte and scone at a café a few blocks away. It was a beautiful day, about 29°C, and the sun was shining. People were milling about the streets, weaving in and out of the shops. As I sipped my latte, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was off.
I had a little time before meeting friends for dinner so, soaking up the bright afternoon sun, I opened the book and started reading. By the third page of the “Introduction,” my heart was in my throat. Reading Dalio’s first principle, I finally understood what was wrong … why I haven’t been able to lift myself out of that funk. Dalio’s first principle is this: “Think for yourself to decide 1) what you want, 2) what is true, and 3) what you should do to achieve #1 in light of #2 … and do that with humility and open-mindedness so that you can consider the best thinking available to you.” [note]Ray Dalio, Principles, Simon & Schuster, 2017, p. X.[/note]
Like I mentioned above, I know what I want: to be a successful writer. But what I need to do is have a frank conversation with myself — acknowledging my weaknesses and my strengths — about what that success looks like. Or maybe the better question for me to ask is what level of success am I looking for and can I live with it?
What is true… I know why I write (to make an impact in the world, no matter how small) and that writing is the only thing in life that gives me purpose and a sense of fulfillment. It is a way for me to be of service.
Where I struggle is in what I should be doing to achieve what I want in light of what is, for me, true. That is why this year has felt like I’m just spinning and going nowhere fast. When I’m honest with myself, I’m still letting fear — of failure and what others may think of me — hold me back. To achieve what I want, I need to do things in ways that I believe are best for me and not worry about what other people think. No doubt, that’s easier said than done.
2018 started out with some big changes in my life. I stopped drinking. I started paying closer attention to what I was eating, aiming to reduce my sugar and sodium intake. While I’ve been running for ten years, I’ve been pushing myself to run longer distances and started working out. These were the changes I implemented to primarily increase my energy level and improve the quality of my sleep. And the best part of all was that I also managed to drop close to twenty pounds. It wasn’t easy, but the results have made it all worthwhile.
Now, to achieve what I want to do I know I need to make other changes. I have my “5 Rules to Live By” to guide me through this transition period, but I know they’re not enough on their own. They’re a starting point. What exactly do I need to change? Honestly, I’m not sure. But I’m going to take some time to dig deep and think about the principles that will help me to get out of life exactly what I want. One thing is certain: I’m terrified. I don’t know where it’s all going to lead, how uncomfortable it’s going to get, or if I’ll even succeed.
But to succeed, I must change my habits and stay focused on what’s really important to me. As my journey moves forward, I expect to make mistakes along the way. At this point in my life, I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
I’ve been standing on the edge too long. It’s time to step off the edge and look fear in the face.
Are you doing what you should to achieve what you want? Do you have any principles that help you navigate through life? Let me know in the comments section below.