Too many people are looking for answers to the wrong questions. Say you’ve just been sacked out of the blue. You’re in a state of shock. Your mind is a whirlpool of conflicting emotions. These color your perspective and make you ask questions like:
What did I do to deserve this?
Why wasn’t Smith fired instead?
How will I provide for my family now?
You feel outraged. You feel petrified. You’re entering a tunnel that stops you from seeing what’s around you.
We all know that we can tap an inner well of power by being conscious of our reaction. It can’t hurt us if we don’t let it. Sometimes, you just need to stand your ground, brace yourself and let the negative emotions crash into you. We know that we truly can’t appreciate the sunshine without weathering the storm.
But what if it’s not just an event that makes you feel this way? What if you don’t know what you want to do with your life? What do you do then?
You do the same thing: let yourself be aware of the bad feelings and explore their source. For example, if you feel desperate that time’s running out, ask yourself why you feel this way. If you want to have a child, ask yourself:
“What is it about having a child that I must give birth to her? Have I considered adoption? Would I get the same sense of satisfaction in raising someone else’s child?”
When you ask questions from a place of deep introspection, your answers will bring you peace.
We are all wanderers. We yearn for purpose, something concrete that we can lean against and call our own.
You would think that something as definitive as personal purpose would easy to find. It’s not the case.
We’re going through the motions, living lives of quiet desperation, searching for a way to break out.
“What’s the meaning of life? Why am I here?”
We keep dividing by 0 and gnashing our teeth.
Every year, we have less energy to ponder these questions. They’re the wrong questions because they come from a place of frustration. When you step out of the tunnel and into the light, it all becomes clear. You finally know what question you need to ask to find the answer you’ve been looking for.
That question is:
What pain am I willing to bear indefinitely?
Life is about pain and growth. Without pain, there is no growth. The reason we are unable to find ask this question initially is because we let our pain blind us.
When we divorce ourselves from the pain, we learn to hone it and use it as a tool to achieve our life’s purpose.
If we don’t know what our purpose is, this question will light the way. Since pain will come anyway, we just have to be crystal clear with ourselves what kind of pain we can come to call our friend.
Some people want to become famous, but can’t stand the pain of rejection.
Some people want to become rich, but can’t stand the pain of hard work.
Some people want to become loved, but they find it too painful to love themselves.
There’s not many different things people want. 80% of people in the world pursue the ones I just mentioned. Or so they think.
They think they want that, but they haven’t considered the pain cost that comes with acquiring them.
In other words, they’re unwilling to grow from the experience.
They find comfort in their excuses and tomorrows. They feel like if they fail, they will literally die.
And that’s fine. As long as you’re conscious of the decision you’re making. The greatest crime you can commit against yourself is self-denial. Just like for theft and violence, you do time for this crime.
The difference is that you lock yourself in the jail, not the police. The sentence is self-imposed.
The scariest thing is that some people stay locked up for life.
They throw away the key and resign themselves to a world of “this is it.” I think that’s the saddest thing.
There are countless stories of people who served time in their own, comfortable cells before breaking out.
Many of these people aren’t young. But they took a chance. Youth is a mindset, anyway.
I want to leave you with two things: one is a quote from Gary Vaynerchuk.
“I want to sit with 80- and 90-year-old people more than anyone. They have played this game before. Not one of them has told me, ‘I wish I had more money.’”
The other is a response by an older reader of mine — JD — who responded to my piece, “Must I _____?”
Would I have done things differently? Possibly. But we’re never given the chance to find out. Might there have been something that I had to do, from within myself? That wasn’t a question I could ever have posed, given the worlds that gripped me.
It’s not that I envy you, as such. I could not be in my 20s again, facing what you face. It’s bad enough facing what I do face. But I do admire your ability to ask the questions that I never asked, besotted as I was with having survived my youth. It’s the questioning that matters, not the answering. I know that now, now that there isn’t enough time left for the answers to make any difference.
Are you going to ask yourself the most important question of your life? Or are you going to stay locked up? The choice is yours.
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