Many of us search for purpose in our lives. We look for validation and affirmation. For some, religion and faith provide an avenue. Many people find themselves in a loop of doing “the daily” until something breaks or forces them to change. Some people go on great journeys taking them to faraway places. Regardless of what we do, most of us search for something. Making sense of why we are here is difficult. Many decisions we make in our lives are bound by our perception, sociological norms, unspoken rules, and constraints.
Much of what we learn growing up is bologna. I don’t think it’s a conspiracy or anything like that but I do believe it is easier to batch people into patterned constructs which allow for expectations to be set and met. One example is the relationship between success and college. The idea of going to college is taught to us at an early age. Go to college and become something. If you get into a really good college, you will be successful out of the gate. Go to Harvard, Yale, or any Ivy League school and you’re all set! When I was in school, they didn’t teach us about trade work. They didn’t teach us how to balance a checkbook and they certainly didn’t teach us to follow our dreams. They gave us limited choices and bound us to them. The dreams we had were only in the scope of what we were told they could or should be.
It was an illusion. We grow up and realize that we have so much more potential and we learn the road is not straight and narrow. For many of us, there is no road, we cut our own path. I wonder if a “cut your own path” class should start in grade school. So much of what we learned doesn’t make sense now.
And we go
We go through high school and shoot for college. If we made it into the school of our choice, we get in and work through our youth and energy into a place where we are ready to either go to another school or start our working lives. Many people who go to college look for work as opposed to starting a business. Going to a good school will cost a lot of money. Not only will we start our lives looking to work for someone else, but we also owe money to people.
I realize I am talking about one group of people but this is what we are encouraged to do. I don’t ever recall in grade school being told I should join the Navy. In high school, the recruiters come to find people they think they can rope into the service. The promise of ROTC is still in line with the college dream. The promise of education is now part of the normal enlisted voice track as well. Still aligns with the illusion.
You did it
Let’s say, you did it! You accomplished all the goals that were set for you. You passed all the tests and you made it! Now you have worked for a company or two for the past 25 something years and you’ve built a successful career. Now what? Many people find themselves lost. They find themselves receiving the AARP card in the mail with no idea of who they really are. The question of purpose and what life means starts to bubble up. They still have life left but they are starting to feel the impact of time on the body and the mind. They have lost their parents and other family and friends. The reason this is a big deal is that when people discover themselves and want to share it with loved ones, there is something special about sharing this with a parent. When the parent is gone there has to be some hope that somehow they can share in the event.
It brings us to the question at the top of this post. If money were no object, what would you do? It is a question you may consider for yourself now. There are many models used in coaching to help you think through and learn more about your own perspective here. One exercise you may consider is an imaginary life review. Here you take 5-10 minutes a day for the next few weeks, setting aside time for you to be alone with no distractions. Imagine your last moments and reflections. Think about your life as you imagine it will be, but from the perspective of a reflection. Do you have anything that you would do differently? Are there risks that you would take? Would you spend more time with someone? The exercise is not about regrets as much as it is about the opportunities you have today. If you could do whatever it is you wanted to do, what would it be? What is stopping you now? What can you do to overcome what you believe is in your way? Over the course of the time you are taking for yourself to think this through, you may discover that you are very happy with what you are doing now. That is a great affirmation! You may discover that you want to make changes! There are no wrong answers because it is your life and it is your choice. The freedom of clarity once the veil of illusion is empowering. Take that power and knowledge and be you.