- Someday Lesson: When we say we don’t know what we want out of life, we’re lying to ourselves. We know – we’re just avoiding the truth.
A client recently forwarded me an article by Po Bronson in the magazine Fast Company. In 2003, Bronson released a book and accompanying Fast Company article entitled “What Should I Do With My Life?” I haven’t read either, but after reading the updated article in the January 2009 issue of Fast Company, I’m adding the book to my wishlist.
Bronson talks about Someday Syndrome – the idea that people don’t know what they want to do with their life. And instead of “selling smoke” (as the Spanish put it), he talks about practical actions and how meaning changes for each person.
In the article, he outlines the topics covered in the book, focusing on what we already know about our lives but tend to ignore.
1. Most people do not choose to change. For the most part, we like our ruts. We’re comfortable in them. Most people change because they are forced to, by job cuts, by a health or family crisis, by a sudden realization that their life has completely and utterly stalled. Change happens when something threatens our comfort and forces us to reevaluate.
2. Dreams and real life are not inseparable. In popular culture, fulfilling our dreams means cutting ourselves completely out of our lives and running off to the top of a mountain to meditate (or to Hollywood to become a star). However, real dreams integrate our current lives into what we want. We all have principles and responsibilities – if we drop them to pursue something else, then we are not following a dream, but a whim. We complete dreams when we live with integrity.
3. Thought is not action. Bronson takes a shot at what he calls “The Modern Dream Machine Industry” – the books, DVDs and courses that say riches and a fulfilled life can all be had if we just believe it hard enough. I’m with Bronson on this one: dreams are not fantasies. They are the results of concrete actions that take us from where we are to where we want to be – by doing, not just believing.
4. Dreams involve hard work. I suppose it all depends on the definition of work, but every dream has some task or set of tasks that we hate doing. At times, life is boring, loathsome, upsetting and uncomfortable, even when we are pursuing our passions – that’s okay. That’s what makes up a holistic life. Accept the drudgery when necessary and get on with your dreams.
5. There is no one right answer. Bronson tells a story about three men who work for different reasons: for money, for family, for being a part of something larger. One of these reasons is not better than the other. As long as we are clear with ourselves about why we are doing something, there can be no wrong answer. The only wrong answer is a lie (e.g., as if we say we’re doing something for our family when really we’re doing it for the money).
6. People don’t have a single passion to pursue. This is like saying that each person has only one-true-love. Whatever. I have so many passions, it’s hard to keep them under control. And they change over time. As Bronson says: throw a glass of water on anyone who spouts the one-true-calling crap to wake them from their fantasy.
7. We know what we want out of life. We might hide it, lie to ourselves or try to pretend otherwise, but every person knows what they want. For twenty-five years I knew what I wanted to be – a writer – and yet I hid it behind other things. You know it too. Stop lying to yourself.
And now for a prize – leave a comment here before May 12th and I will draw one name using a random number generator and that person will receive a copy of Bronson’s book What Should I Do With My Life.
And if you want to know more about Po Bronson, check out his website. I’m heading over there right now…