Advice to my 30-year-old self.
After looking in the mirror, I wrote a series of articles focused on giving advice to myself as a 30-year-old, knowing what I know now. The first was “2 Words of Advice that can help us at Every Stage of Life and focused on this advice: “know thyself.”
The second was “How to Practice Living in Truth.”
The third article, How to (really) Listen to our Hearts: an Exercise, built upon the previous two and was designed to help us become more attuned to our bodies over our minds.
After reading the first three articles and completing the exercises, here’s what we should know by now.
First, we should have a pretty clear idea as to “why” we’re doing anything that we do, and clarity as to what we want to actually be doing.
Second, we should be clearer about how we feel about the things we do and whether or not they make us feel expanded, neutral, or contracted. The goal was to begin ditching anything in our lives that leads us to feel contracted.
Third, we should now know how to use our emotive landscape—what we feel versus what we think—to make both simple and complex decisions in our lives.
Now, we’re going to turn toward more practical matters, starting with: what the f*ck should we do with our lives?
Given that most of our lives are spent working, sleeping, eating, and fueling our addiction to social media and television, we can change a lot in our lives by making wiser decisions about how we use our time.
I’m going to begin with work since we spend one-third of our lives doing it.
According to Gallup, as of 2017, 85 percent of people hate their jobs and feel “emotionally disconnected from their workplaces.” In 2013, Forbes reported that “work is more often a source of frustration than fulfillment for nearly 90 percent of the world’s workers.”
Why is this?
My hypothesis is that most of us do not know ourselves well enough to make decisions from an internal place of knowing—the why behind everything that we do, hence the first exercise. Instead, we spend time trying to get by after making a series of poor decisions or attempting to do what other people value, or perceive as success, over what we truly value when we’re honest with ourselves.
Consequently, most of us are unhappy in our jobs, which likely started with conditioned choices at an early age, leading us to please others to ensure our survival, especially the adults in our lives, instead of grounding in our internal truth.
The tension between our deep need for security, while attempting to live in truth is the Gordian Knot of our lives.
To begin breaking free, we have to know what we truly want: security or fulfillment, a balance between both, or something entirely different.
Here’s an example of how the paradox plays out in our lives. Often, when we choose to complete a four-year college degree (like 33.4 percent of Americans) we envision ourselves being financially and professionally successful. The most common major in universities is business because a business degree is perceived as the path to job security—apparently, in a job that we are likely to hate.
When we make this type of security-driven choice, we often sacrifice our truth and ignore our unique gifts for the sake (and illusion) of security. Yet focusing on our gifts is often the most lucrative choice we can make—mentally, physically, and spiritually.
Seeking job security is a fear-based decision and it is the path of least resistance.
Living our truth and developing a professional life around that truth is a much harder, bold, and unique choice.
The cards are stacked against truth and in favor of the illusion of security. The global economic system relentlessly seduces us with icons and images that communicate that we can be both rich and famous, which sometimes equals security in our minds.
One only need look to Trump, a malignant narcissist, to see that wealth and fame does not equal becoming a more secure human being.
Trump is arguably the most visibly insecure man on the planet. Although he’s famous, and he has a fortune, he’s also clearly angry and unhappy. He exudes misery. Who wants that, even if rich and famous?
What makes it even more difficult to take the path less traveled toward truth are the social norms and constraints that discourage us from going against the grain; doing what others aren’t doing is much harder than going along with the crowd, hence we choose a business degree.
All of us want to be a part of an in-group; being in an out-group often meant death throughout the history of human evolution, so it’s scary as hell to go against the grain.
The advice I’d give to myself is this: go against the grain.
Begin making choices that help us get to know ourselves as honestly as possible. So, if we truly love doing something, like acting, painting, or writing, pursue it! Our true security follows from a deep alignment with our truth.
There will be obstacles along the path and the tension between securing our survival and pursuing our deepest truth will always remain. At first, it might feel uncomfortable rather than joyous, but at least we’re less likely to hate our job and live an unhappy life. Ultimately, we have to accept that the tension isn’t going to go away—and that it’s for the sake of our greater good.
So, why does this tension remain?
The evolutionary imperative to secure our survival, to meet our basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter, supersedes the aspirations that are connected to our truth.
This imperative can be so strong that it leads us to make security-based choices, like pursuing a business degree. However, these choices only provide a temporary, or a false sense of security, and over the long term often results in anxiety (worrying about an uncertain future) or depression (lamenting a path that is no longer possible).
The tension between security and truth is relentless, but living in truth is actually the only way to ensure our security at the deepest level. When we take the time to stay focused on the things we truly enjoy, the things that make us feel expansive, we’re ultimately creating the conditions that will provide us with security where it matters most: inside of us.
So, what do we do to set out on the path?
We have to know what we want.
Fortunately, after doing the first three exercises, we have the information we need to get clearer about what we want. Take our list from the first exercise and revisit it. Now, pull out the things that made us feel expansive versus neutral or contracted.
We’re going to focus on what made us feel expansive, or joyous, and ignore those where we felt neutral or contracted. We should also think about any other joyous moments in our lives (personally or professionally) that were not included on the list since we may no longer be doing them.
Next, note what we were doing at those times, how it felt, and what the experiences say about our needs and interests. The next step is to write two to three sentences stating why these moments were particularly joyous. Write it out in a narrative format.
The aim is to simply begin identifying everything we’ve done, past or present, that truly brought us joy. We want to identify these experiences so that we can begin focusing on opportunities that are aligned with the joyous aspects of our lives.
In the next article, I will show us how to begin crafting a vision for our lives, one that is aligned with our deepest truth and most joyous experiences. We’ll then begin working backward from that vision to create the life we want, while also answering the question: what the f^ck should we do with our lives?