How To Hit Reset And Design The Life You Want
Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your business and life is to shut the door and escape to the unknown. The last two summers I went on vacation I brought my laptop and cellphone. Sure, I was up north taking in views that flood your senses with peace and tranquillity, but my head was still back in Hamilton thinking about my business. I continued to work on my website, send emails and do busywork that I deemed too important to neglect. The ability to work remotely is a double-edged sword. I can work from anywhere in the world and I can work from anywhere in the world.
The ability to tap into hyper-connected devices has led to many of us feeling like we've lost the ability to step away from work. A dangerous belief to adopt as a recent Fast Company article alluded that, more young people are defining themselves by what they do–and who they work for. Work has become the millennial religion of choice. If you're not working, who the hell are you?
Have you found yourself wrestling with periods of life that you're so wrapped up in what you're doing, you forget why you're even doing it? Life blurs together like a Bob Ross landscape, you gaze at your canvas and feel lost in what you're staring at. Are you working to support the life you want, or has your life become your work?
I've had countless moments where I believe that the way I'm living is the only way there is. I'm trapped. I'm stuck with whatever shitty situation I'm in. You can't help but be absorbed in your own life. But life is like a sponge, you can only soak up so much before you become a big sopping mess.
In a lot of ways, we treat our lives like movies that have already been written. We take life at face value and assume there's a hidden power controlling what will happen in the future. As Henry David Thoreau observed, they go on to lead lives of quiet desperation. They die with their song still inside them, never truly living the life they desire.
There's an ancient Chinese proverb that speaks to new beginnings: Teachers open the door, but you must enter yourself. As life unfolds, every choice you're faced with becomes a vote towards being the person you want to become.
Each decision provides a new perspective for reflection. They act like a railroad switch branching off to a new way of thinking and destination. As C.S. Lewis, famed author of The Chronicles of Narnia helped me see, “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.”
If you're feeling the pressures of life, commitments and an uncertain future, disconnecting is a chance to wring out your sponge. You can wash off any harmful beliefs and re-connect with your core values that provide simplicity. They often get lost in the debris of crumbs led by a chaotic life.
Sponges contain millions of bacteria. And, it only takes a few to get you sick. Just like it only takes a few crappy beliefs to have you feeling like you have no control over your life.
If you never intentionally step out of your movie script and look at life with the eyes of a director, you're lost to wherever the wind blows. You get stuck thinking that right now, is all there ever is and ever will be.
Much, if not all our unhappiness stems from our thinking. The very thought of this can be like swallowing a pill the size of the statue of liberty without a glass of water. It's a hell of a lot easier to blame the circumstance (I'm unhappy because my job sucks!), rather than our thinking (How can I take this situation and learn from it?).
Margaret Thatcher, the first female prime minister of Britain, faced paralyzing opposition. It challenged her very being. But she had an unconventional philosophy that guided her thinking. It's an example of the switching between tracks towards the destination you desire. You can close your eyes and hear the subtle click between each sentence as the shift takes place. "Watch your thoughts, for they will become actions. Watch your actions, for they’ll become habits. Watch your habits for they will forge your character. Watch your character, for it will make your destiny."
This brought me back to a question business consultant Jenny Shih posed to her readers.
"What's the point of your business?"
"Really, why did you start it?"
As she points out, we have to ask ourselves what are we striving for and more importantly, why is that important to you?
We'll so often put our priorities on the back burner to chase what everyone else is doing. But that's like deciding to follow a car on the highway because you forgot where you're going. It's a dream shattering assumption that they're headed to the same place you want to go. Try explaining to your kids why you're at Martin's Fantasy Island in New York and not hanging with Mickey and Minnie at Disney in Florida.
Jenny Shih rings the bells of a destination for those of us seeking a simpler life. She shared three guiding principles that will give your business a sustainable purpose.
To meet my household’s basic financial needs plus a little bit more for enjoyment, security, and fun.
To have freedom and flexibility to manage my own schedule, time, and energy.
To serve others and make a difference in the world.
I had an idea of why I was in business, but I struggled to put into words why I didn't want to follow the path of so many others. Now I see where so much of my own mental unrest comes from. It came from thinking that life needed to be different than it is.
Shih lovingly guides one last switch of the tracks by sharing, "The struggle is part of what’s making me into the person and the business owner I’m meant to be." Words worth striving for.
As Chinese Philosopher, Lao Tzu came to realize 2,600 years ago, “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
It's been a long time since I've felt at peace. I forgot all I needed to do was be present and re-connect with what's most important.