Are you stuck in a major life decision right now?
Maybe you’re not where you thought you’d be and you’re thinking about making a significant shift. Maybe in your career, your relationship, or moving to a new city. But you’re worried about wasting the time, money, and energy you’ve invested to get to this point. Or you’re anxious about having to now put in more time, money, and energy to learn something completely different.
How do we decide which way to go?
Everyone’s situation is different, but here’s a perspective that might help, you can live more than one life.
So many of us think that what we decide at these impactful moments define us. We put so much pressure on these decisions that it freezes us. It keeps us from choosing a new path. The fear of unfamiliarity immobilizes us.
But think about it, how many people are flourishing in something totally unrelated to their undergraduate degree? And how many people hate their job because they thought that was their only option?
We think that we only have one life. We think that once we’ve chosen that school, that major, that job, that career, that expertise that that’s what we have to stick with. It’s what we know, it’s what we’re good at.
Let’s challenge that. What if we don’t only live once? What if we can live multiple lives? #youdontonlyliveonce #ydolo #howdohashtagswork?
You ever hear the phrase, “in a prior life?” The people who use it are usually either creative, confident, interesting, adventurous, intelligent, wise, or successful. They have come out of an eye-opening experience that broadened their perspectives because they embraced their fear of the unknown. They are a rare breed.
Society did well in teaching us to stay on track. It taught us the formula for happiness and external success through higher education, a lucrative career, and a retirement plan.
In order to retire well and build security for our family, we have to build on our previous experiences. We have to specialize a specific skill, so everything you do has to be related.
Look at job interviews and resumes. What do most people do when applying for a company? They show the chronological progression of related experiences and skills learned to show employers what they want to see – consistency. They hide the gap years and the odd jobs because that would be confusing. They would wonder what you’re really doing with your life.
You might even be telling yourself things like, “I’ve invested so much time, money, and energy into this already,” “I don’t want to waste all that I’ve learned,” “It’s too late for me to do something completely new and unrelated,” “I’ve come so far, might as well stick it through,” “I’m not a quitter.” That is the sunk costs fallacy.
We spawn these voices out of fear. They’re phrases that want to keep you happy by avoiding stress and danger. They’re phrases that maximize security over risk. They’re phrases that sound like they value commitment and persistence over quitting.
But do you truly believe all of that? What is happiness anyway? Is absolute security even possible to achieve? And why is quitting is bad, especially if what you’re doing isn’t inspiring you, or if you just want to try something that excites you more?
Not thinking too far into those questions, we then stick to what we know. We stay in our lane, with what is familiar, with what we’re good at. But before we know it, we’re many years deep into an unfulfilling job that isn’t teaching us anything, and it really is too late to back out. All because we thought we had to stick to that one life.
That fear of what others will think of us, that fear of the unknown, that fear of incompetence in a new field is what develops complacency. It’s safe, it’s easy, it’s what everyone else is doing.
Life is good, I’m happy, I’m comfortable, I can’t complain.
You feel stuck right now because you can’t let go of your old self. You’ve come to love and appreciate yourself. You’re grateful for what you have in your life and you don’t want to risk losing it.
Break-ups with someone else are hard enough. Whoever thought you’d have to do it with yourself? But if you’re able to realize that what got you here isn’t what’s going to get you where you want to be, then it means something has to change.
The saying goes, “If you truly love someone, you have to let them go.” That applies here more than ever. If you want to grow, you have to let go of anything and everything holding you back, even your old self.
If you have that passion and desire to learn everything about that crazy thing that’s completely unrelated to what you’ve been doing up to this point, you have to do it. If you have a feeling that this is going to fit you and your personality way more, then you already know you’re going to regret not at least trying it.
Everything you’re feeling at the moment is very normal as the emotional beings we are. It only becomes more of a severe issue when we allow those emotions to spiral, duplicate and mix themselves into other emotions or traumas. It becomes confusing to discern what you’re actually feeling, which gets in the way of making proper decisions.
It could very well be that that’s why we’re stuck at this point of our lives right now. Because we never learned how to sort through our emotions when making choices. In the past, we tried to reason through our decisions while clouded with too many feelings (or maybe none at all, having no guidance, no antenna). Maybe we’re worried about picking a direction today because we never had to deal with so much ever before. We never learned to be smart with our emotions.
It’s not too late. We can still work on becoming self-aware. Learn about emotional intelligence and use it to create another life that you would love in all aspects. Use it to build the confidence to let go of everything behind you and dive into unfamiliarity and discomfort.
Become self-aware so that you can prioritize what you truly value. Identify what you’re good at as well as what you should accept as your weakness. Separate your identity from behavior so that you are empowered to do what you care about, regardless of who you or anyone else perceives you to be.
Sure, on the outside, it might seem like you’re ruining your life by leaving your friends, family, that cushy job, perks, benefits, and the identity that you are right now, but that’s all OK, because you have more than one life.
Previously published here and reprinted with the author’s permission.