While I love the idea of having a life guided by knowing what we want to be when we grow up, I find that, in practice, it keeps us from getting busy living the life that’s right in front of us. A reader wrote in on this theme, and I thought I’d share what I wrote to her about it.
Here’s what she wrote:
I really hope that I can get out of this funk of 10 plus years.
As I said I have everything in life a woman could want. Bright, independent children, a loving and supportive husband, and I live in a country with a reasonable cost of living without snow all year round.
My problem is that I have nothing that makes me jump out of bed with excitement for. To distract myself I watch tv and play Solitaire.
I can sing, write songs, bake upholster, sew, and much more. I can also do administrative duties and management. But I want to do none of it. Right now I am teaching English in Ecuador but after almost four months of a five month contract I want to quit. I feel that I am not putting in enough personal effort. I don’t want to cook or clean. I survive by cooking in bulk on those rare days when I pull myself together and with eating out. I have tried wellbutrin and Zoloft, but they haven’t done much and interfere with numbness and tingling that I feel in my feet and hands. I have also tried CBT.
I think that if I could just figure out what I want to do with my life, then I will have a reason to exist
And a creative giant I am.
Here’s my response:
Thanks so much for sharing this with me!
I’m really hit or miss when it comes to helping people find something that helps them get lit up, as most people come to me with something they want to start finishing. But something that occurs to me is that you’re not really learning anything new, and Creative Giants die (quickly or slowly) when we’re not learning and growing.
Your lead-in also suggests that you’ve reached some upper limit problem and/or probably aren’t giving yourself permission to claim … something … because “life is good.” One of the things mammas don’t teach us is that getting over “Level 8” — rating your life from 0-10, with 10 being mind-blowingly awesome — is really, really hard. A place to scratch around is something you’ve told yourself you can’t do/be AND be an excellent mom or wife.
You might also try Andrea Owen’s 52 Ways to Live a KickAss Life.
| I think that if I could just figure out what I want to do with my life, then I will have a reason to exist
Oh man, can this be a tar pit for Creative Giants! Better to figure out what matters to you for the next 3-5 years. See Worrying About What You Want to Be When You Grow Up Is Pointless, my convo with Jeff Goins, and my convo with Jen Louden.
One last thing: subtract your age from 85, then divide that number by 5. That’s the number of significant, full-power projects you have remaining in your life to do. What goes on that list? (Hat tip to Stewart Brand via Kevin Kelly via Tim Ferriss’ Tools of Titans.)
Hope this helps!
What can you do today if your calling isn’t calling you?
Nina Heyen says
About a year ago I was in a very similar place. And then suddenly my calling called – totally unexpected and very loudly. It was calling me into a field that I never could have imagined, yet when I looked closer, I was dumbstruck that I didn’t see it before… Everything fit perfectly, it was the keystone that upholds and ties together all the previously scattered pieces of my life.
If I now could give advice to my younger self, it would be this: Everything you do and did is part of the bigger picture we call a “calling”. It is the thing that ties our unique interests, talents & and quirky little loves together. As part of finding that keystone it is necessary to go through a (often very long) time of collecting the pieces before you find the “unifier”. When you build an arch, the keystone comes last, locking all the other stones into position. So keep looking, but enjoy the journey, after all the fun of a treasure hunt is in the hunting – it would be very boring having the treasure just lying around in the open, wouldn’t it… But be prepared for a chuckle when you finally find it in your backyard 🙂
Amy Collins says
Nina, your response fits with my experience. For many years I felt I was “picking up puzzle pieces” without having any idea yet of what the end picture might look like, only that this experience or training or book or job was important- both in the right now and in giving me yet another tool for my toolbox whose meaning and importance would be clearer later on.
Nina Heyen says
Amy, sorry, I didn’t see your reply before now…
Unlike a puzzle we do for fun, the real life experience can be somewhat frustrating if we don’t know we’re doing a puzzle… 🙂 I’m glad you felt a sense of importance picking up the pieces, and I hope you’re now enjoying the big picture…
What! I only have eight projects left in my whole life!??! That only makes it harder to pick! For me, there is more pressure than excitement in that kind of scarcity thinking.
I appreciate the comments with the image of a puzzle, where my projects of the month or year are just small pieces of a puzzle, something done for fun. I suppose many people never articulate their keystone (or finish their puzzle) but could still be satisfied with acquiring interesting pieces.