"Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don't really matter." - Francis Chan
Navigating life is hard.
Particularly challenging is figuring out your purpose. What should I be doing? What should I be focusing on? What career should I choose? Am I getting closer to what I want? What do I want?
These are all questions I've wrestled with. And it appears that I'm not alone. Just check out the number of books that turn up on Amazon in the following search results:
Recently, I changed careers and left a company that I liked and bosses that I adored. Below, I share some of the principles and exercises that I have learned from my mentors that provide me with clarity:
1. Write out your obituary
Recently, I told one of the young men that I coach that his homework next week was going to be writing out his obituary. His eyes got big and he said "WHAT? Coach, are you serious??" Yes, it can seem like this would be a bleak exercise to do, as dying is not something many of us want to think about. However, writing out my obituary has been one of the most beneficial things I've ever done. This is a great way to help you determine what actually matters in your life and will assist you in figuring out your purpose. As my friend Joshua says, it is unlikely that on your deathbed you will wish you made more money or acquired more stuff. This exercise is foundational in discovering what those "first things" in your life really look like. From there, you can reverse engineer what steps you should be taking now and what you should be focusing on.
2. Do a time audit
Studies show that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. Through books, social media, and YouTube videos, I am intentional about surrounding myself with people who I aspire to emulate. One of the things I try to do on a regular basis is audit how I am spending my day. All of the folks I look up to all wake up really early, exercise religiously, read every day, and don't watch television. I have adjusted my schedule accordingly.
3. What would your 90 year old self say?
I stole this question from my friend Jamie and it's one that I try to continually ask myself and really provides clarity when I'm wrestling with a tough decision. A lot of people have asked me recently how I was able to quit my job and take a 20% pay cut. In-line with what my obituary says, as well as asking myself this question, I was able to clearly see that having a nice retirement fund was not something that really mattered to me. On my deathbed, what will matter to me is the impact I had on others and if I lived the life that I was supposed to live.
4. Would the kid inside of you recognize you?
This question was probably the one that finally forced me to turn in my resignation. As a kid I grew up watching my father work extremely hard as a tree-cutter. He's done it for over 40 years and has built a very successful business for himself. Yet I know that as a kid that's not what he aspired to be. And deep down, I don't think that line of work is very fulfilling for him, not to mention the physical toll that it has taken on his body. As a kid I promised myself that I would rather make less money in a job that was rewarding than to be stuck somewhere that I knew I wasn't meant to be. As I recently audited the decision to change careers, I knew that if the "kid me" saw the guy going to work in a shirt and tie everyday, he probably wouldn't recognize me and would most likely be disappointed and disgusted.
5. Talk to yourself instead of listening to yourself
Jamie also says that it's important to live life according to principles, rather than circumstances. When circumstances are good, we are usually good. But when circumstances change, and they always do, what do you fall back on?
"I'm too tired," "I'll start next week," "when I have more time..." These are all things that I "hear" from myself all the time. But I know that greatness isn't for the chosen few, it's for the few who choose. And as Joshua says: there is greatness inside of all of us, trapped underneath all of our excuses and rationalizations. I would encourage you to write out 5 principles that you want to live by, regardless of circumstance.
I know what I want, and I believe that I'm getting closer. I am doing what I should be doing.