Building the Life You Want: Pt.1 The Whys
I’m in the circles of people wanting to do the big things. I am one of those people. I, at the very core of my being, know I can change the world. I’m drawn to others who I know feel the same. I’m not arrogant, I don’t think. I’ve just been given absolutely everything in life. I’m incredibly lucky beyond any measure past or present. There is nothing stopping me. Who am I not to try?
This realisation came to me maybe 2 years ago when I lost all sense of what I was doing. Sitting in an audit room, hours on end, working on what felt like meaningless accounts, I lost all connection to what I was capable of and what the point of my existence truly was. 2 years on I feel like I am some way along my journey and I want to take stock, look back, connect the dots, have something that I can look at in another 2 years time and think ‘how little you knew!’. The journey never ends of course, thats sort of the point, but capturing it, sharing it, processing it, is fundamental to the process.
So, I’m going to write a few posts in reverse chronological order. Starting where I am right now. How I feel, what I think, what I understand to be true about trying to create a life on your own terms. These words are true as I sit here today, fully acknowledging that I probably understand very little and there is still an awful long way to go. Then, I’m going to work backwards and get more granular to unpick how I got here. Mr Jobs says the dots only connect in reverse and he was right. Although I’ve posted them in this order, I actually started blindly with The Hows, then to the Whats, then the Whys, which is where I am now but I think the story makes more sense in the rear view mirror.
At the foundation of building the life you want are the whys. Why are you doing what you’re doing? Why did you pick this over that? Why did you say yes? Why did you make that decision? If you’re connected, through your whole being, to your whys you’ll be able to sustain yourself through just about anything. I’ve come to understand what whys actually are in a number of different ways. They could be your values, your priorities, The Chimp Paradox’s ‘Stone of Life’ or Simon Sinek’s Start with Why, or any other framing you choose to help you make decisions.
Once you have your whys in place it becomes clearer in most situations the decision you need to make on how to allocate your resources. Your key resources being your energy, your time and to some extent your money/wealth.
You can also reverse this thinking to figure out what your current resource allocation says about your current whys. How do you currently spend your energy, time, money? What does that say about what you value, what you prioritise, why you behave the way you do?
Up until very recently I spent most of my energy and time working at a big corporate, despairing at how awful I felt like I was being treated, feeling disempowered and trapped. Sometimes I’d have a burst of energy from spending time with some of the incredible people I work with and also some of the inspiring people I’ve met over the last 12 months outside of work and be shaken from that feeling of being trapped. I wanted more of that energy, that momentum, that excitement.
I spent my money unconsciously. I’ve always been lucky to have enough. More than enough. I would never think twice about paying for fancy dinners, the clothes I wanted, lunch out everyday, gadgets, holidays. But there were no whys attached to the way I spent my money, consequently I was detached to what I purchased. I didn’t know why I’d spent money, so I couldn’t appreciate the value my purchases bought me.
So I’ve spent a whole lot of time consciously and unconsciously beginning to define my whys. At the very heart of this, I’ve discovered are the founding principles:
- I want to be happy
- I want to be good to myself, the people in my life and world around me
- I want to reach my full potential
I’ve distilled these, admittedly nebulous ideals, down from my emerging deeper motivations that I discover more about as I explore them every day.
This is where I’ve got to so far:
I want to have complete freedom and choice over how I spend my time. I’m a rebel. Deep down I hate being told what to do. Even by myself. (I will come on to this in The Whats) I want to feel like I can get up each day and choose what I do, and there is so much to do!! It will make me happy. (ideal no.1 check!) I have so many neglected desires and passions that are pounding on the door of my consciousness, that the guilt and regret of not spending each and every day honouring those callings is crushing. If this is one of my fundamental whys what does it mean? Well, on 5th February, I handed in my notice at PwC, I need the time and mental space to explore. Sure, it was terrifying, but there was no other option, trust me I looked. The decision was crystal clear, I just had to make it. Now made, I don’t know what took me so long.
This is perhaps an extension of freedom, but I want to feel like I can provide everything I need for myself. I have never needed support in my adult life and I never want to. Please don’t mistake this for me not wanting or appreciating support or kindness. See number 3! All I mean is that I want to build everything within me to create my own joy, to grow and sustain myself and hopefully those around me. So that no matter what comes my way I have the strength and know how to find happiness and fulfil my potential. How does this manifest itself? Well when this one clicked finally, I started saving my money! I also redefined and minimised what it is that I truly need. If I need a big house, and a career, fancy clothes that means I might have to compromise some of my freedom to have a job to meet all these needs. Not an option. (why it also makes sense to have a think about the priority of your priorities/how they work together!) So what do I really need? Really, really? My keystone habits/needs, which I’ll unpick in my next post are water, sleep, mediation and food. So anywhere I have access to those things, I’m confident I can figure stuff out from there. In an ideal world I’d also love a few decent books and endless supply of pen and paper and maybe a friend. I have a tendency to get lonely sometimes. I have so so so much more that those basics right now. So the depth of gratitude I feel for my flat, choice of food, so many incredible friends and family, the internet(!) is bottomless. Hopefully I’ll never have to pair down to that level of simplicity, but I really want to believe that I could if I needed to. Its why I’ve booked myself on to my 2nd Vipassana 10 day silent meditation retreat in May, to remind myself that I can. This one, linked with ‘Being an creator’ below also manifests itself in a burning desire to build my own tiny house!
Deep and connected relationships
The purest joy I have ever felt is connecting completely with another person or people. In that moment, when 2 people are in flow with each other or the rarest occasions when a group of people are, that joy transcends all other. I would sacrifice pretty much everything else (except my freedom and independence) in my life for those rare and perfect moments, I often have and I will with ever increasing frequency. How does this manifest in my life? Well, if I’m with you I will endeavour with all of my being to be fully present, to truly listen and see you, hear you with no distractions. You are my priority in that moment. I can’t promise I’ll always succeed, its hard sometimes, but I practice everyday, and will always. I seek out opportunities to connect, with old friends and family and new. If I reach out to you, I want you in my life, it makes me happy, its good for me, hopefully it will be good for you too and each person is a teacher and helps me grow a little bit more, so reach back.
I love the Mark Twain quote ‘If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything’. If I’m honest, I’m being true to the very core of who I am. I’m lighter because I just am, unashamedly, I’m not trying to construct a version of myself that I think people want to see. Doing this frees up so much brain space and time to focus on more important things! On the days when I just am, I say what I think and feel how I feel, accepting the waves and letting them wash over me, I have all the space to be happy, to be fully present, to have the capacity to learn. This one is the one I struggle with the most I think. Having difficult conversations, being who you are, being completely honest and therefore vulnerable can be exhausting in the wrong spaces, but so too is the guilt and disempowerment of not. In my world I do my best to surround myself with kind people who I trust, who are accepting of my honesty, but also aren’t afraid to be honest and true to themselves too and challenge me with my best interest at heart. I also try and do little things that scare me as practice to strengthen this muscle for when I need it.
Be a creator
I want to make things. All sorts of things, all the time. Big things, little things, things of value, silly things, for myself and for others. There is this underlying guilt I feel when I have gone days, weeks without making something, when I have just been a consumer of the world. I need to feel as often as I possibly can that I am making something of real value with my mind and/or my body, that I’m giving as well as taking. This could be a blog post, dinner, crafty things, writing letters, colouring, music, even tidying sometimes hits the spot. There are also the big things I want to create. The huge, this could change the world things, that I’m starting to work a little on now. Those are the ones that really light my fire and I know once I get going and I’m in the zone, there will be no stopping me. This includes building my own tiny house. Someone please help me do this! ;)
Learn and Teach
Tiny Rima wanted to teach. Aside from the wonders of space and wanting to be an astronaut, education has always been one of the core parts of my being. I’m insatiably curious and want to learn about everything. I want to know how our strange and beautiful world works. How the pieces fit together, what we’re capable of. The magic then comes from taking all this wonder and sharing it with others. Igniting that curiosity and excitement about the world in someone else is just magic, as is being ignited by someone else! I love it. So I read, as much and as often as possible. I go to lectures, museums, listen to audiobooks, podcasts, talk to and listen to awesome, inspiring people all the time. When I’m out of the 9–5 this will only escalate to ridiculous extremes. I have a reading list that is already a lifetimes worth. Then I write. Clumsily and somewhat awkwardly, mostly. Here on my blog, in my journal, in facebook groups, in letters, in messages to friends, again as often as possible to articulate my ideas and get feedback. To learn what is useful, what helps and to connect. I’m in awe of great writers, I want to be one. I will also teach in time.
Fun and excitement
If at all possible all of the above needs to be infused with as much fun and giddy excitement as possible. Sometimes I see people with big, incredible plans, building things, in relationships, with all the things they seemingly wanted and hoped for and for some reason they are miserable and not able to enjoy these things in the moment. I’ve been there too. Where I have everything I thought I wanted, feeling this immense sense that I should be grateful, but instead filled with a deep sense of dissatisfaction or disappointment. This is not a good place to be. Don’t ignore that feeling and try and force the happy. Its ok to be sad sometimes. Most amazing things come with compromises or sacrifices you didn’t envisage. You can be both immensely grateful and sad too, they aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact I think your capacity for one is directly proportional to your capacity for the other.
For now these are my whys. Writing them made me reflect on some of the quite drastic life choices I’ve been making recently! They all make a lot more sense reading back over my list. I imagine this list will evolve over time. I have a feeling that my need to be a creator of something bigger than myself will become a growing priority over the next 3–4 months as I begin work on some of the projects closest to my heart. I know I want to become physically stronger this year but its not a clear and immediate priority right now, later this year, its coming. I also know I need to see the world, but that too doesn’t feel like a priority right now, 2017 has always been intuitively a year of adventure and travel for me. I might also meet a handsome stranger to share my life with (intuition is on late 2016, watch this space :) ), or choose to have a family, in which case new priorities may emerge and rise up the ranks.
I’ve also not really articulated yet any way that my priorities will make me money. Its not an immediate concern due to the afore mentioned saving and questioning what I really need so I could afford to be independent. I’m also not yet particularly worried about this question, perhaps naively. If I’m acting from a place that honours all of the above I truly believe it will come. Perhaps ask me in 6 months time how that went :).
What are your whys? How do you define them and how do they become real in your life? Spending time thinking about these questions might well have been the most important thing I’ve done so far this year, so I urge you to reflect on them too.
So now you know the whys, this still doesn’t explain the whats and hows. What do I do each day that keeps me true to the above? How do I do it?
Look out for the whats & hows coming soon!