It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for — and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing. It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool — for love — for your dreams — for the adventure of being alive.
I am a dreamer. My personality naturally pushes me to follow my heart more often than not. Sometimes I fear that a dose of realism will kill my dreams. As a result, I avoid overthinking opportunities before I jump in. This attitude generates a tremendous willingness to try new things and take on initiatives with intangible benefits. However, it can also become dangerous and easily lead to a lack of consistency and perseverance in what I do.
I find it easier to start something than finish it. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this trait — in fact, it’s what makes people like me such creative visionaries in the first place. However, if I don’t push past the internal resistance that arises whenever projects become difficult, I can flit from one area of learning to another, embracing a succession of expensive, short-lived hobbies.
The prospect of learning something new excites me tremendously. I embody the Zen attitude of the “beginner’s mind,” tackling pursuits with a sense of openness and wonder. Like anyone, I enjoy being good at what I do, but I am relatively comfortable with venturing into the unknown, whether that means planting my first organic garden or becoming a volunteer in Ecuador. My idealism can lead me to underestimate the difficulty of my ideas, and I can be discouraged to find that my new endeavour requires significantly more effort and time than I had expected. As Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hahn said, “No mud, no lotus.”
My multitude of interests might seem to some rational people like “wastes of time”, but for me, learning experiences enrich my life and provide opportunities for personal development. Plus, they’re just fun!
This enthusiasm is among my greatest strengths, but if not matched by consistency, healthy self-discipline, and the willingness to stick with difficult pursuits, it won’t get me anywhere. Even worse, a series of “failed” experiences can cause a sensitive type like me to lose my enthusiasm for learning.
All that is gold does not glitter; not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither; deep roots are not reached by the frost. — J. R. R. TOLKIEN
My personality allows me to enjoy quite diverse passions and something inside constantly reminds me that the world is even bigger and more fascinating than I realise. I am hardly able to keep track of the things I find interesting — art, music, writing, social justice, travel, world cuisine, sustainability, nutrition…
As a result, it is difficult to choose one path. Should I go to college again to study theatre, or live and work on an organic farm? Or, maybe I’d be better off using my business degree and getting a 9–5 consulting job? Will I have enough flexibility to pursue my passions while running a small marketing agency? These competing ideas ping-pong back and forth in my mind, leading to confusion rather than clarity.
Sometimes I become scattered rather than empowered by my many dreams and desires. Here are some things I find helpful before I usually just jump into a whim of my thoughts and make a decision in an instant:
- Ask for an opinion — To some extent, everyone cares about the opinions of parents, friends, loved ones, or other admired mentors. Social energy and human connection soothe our souls, although we should not be afraid to pursue our own path. I find it helpful to talk to many kinds of people about my plans and dreams. Sometimes only the saying it out loud part makes some things clear to myself.
- Find people who pursue different paths — Traveling and visiting different places is what allows me to realise, over and over again, that there is no ‘one golden recipe’ for life, success, nor for anything that really matters. People find happiness pursuing the most strange paths and talking to them opens your eyes and heart.
- Balance decision-making with due diligence — Naturally I tend to make decisions in a very impulsive way, especially when it comes to big things. I might spend an hour choosing a yoghurt but if it comes to where I should live or what should I do, I usually decide within 5 minutes. By doing real due diligence, research, writing down pros and cons, just rationalising the choices, you can get a realistic sense of your options, forge new connections, and set yourself up for a more balanced decision-making process.
- Go your own way — Nowadays it is especially hard to escape the pernicious influence of people-pleasing. That is why it is essential to take enough alone time to distinguish between what you want and what others want. Making the decisions that suit you best is the highest form of authenticity in this matter which is why you should try to break past others’ expectations and make your own choices. When you learn to distinguish your own hopes and dreams from the expectations of society or friends, the decision between college and full-time employment — or some alternative — can become much clearer.
Beyond those strategies to make rational decision-making easier, there is one important thing for creative idealists: self-discipline is overrated. I mean it. Pursuing your goals doesn’t have to be all about ticking off boxes or rigidly adhering to plans — and thank goodness. To steer yourself toward the life you were meant for, you really only need three things:
- clarity about what you want,
- insight on how to get there, and
- accountability to keep you on track.
That isn’t to say it’s effortless. Chances are you’re already dealing with school or work deadlines, family pressures, relationship issues, and an ever-pinging phone. That’s more than enough to keep you busy, if not stressed out and sleep-deprived. Add in a few stacks of clutter or a lost USB stick (no seriously, where is it?) and it’s easy to forget how much more to life there can be.
The question remains: Why are you here?
What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?