I’ve got this suspicion. I think you want to be more. I think what you are right now is not the fullness of what you want to be. What you always wanted to be.
I think, deep down, that you think you’re more. You believe you were meant to be more.
Now I don’t mean a superhero or rockstar.
What I mean is that you thought there was more to this whole thing that where you’re at.
Think about when you were a kid. Not just a little kid, but even a bigger kid. Even a kid in college. Did you think you were going to be where you’re at now: a dental hygienist, a computer salesperson, an accountant.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with any of those careers. They’re critical and important work. Stuff like that makes the world go around.
BUT, I’ve got a suspicion that you thought there was more than that. That you’d have stories. That your kids would find pictures of you and think, “why’s Dad holding a bass guitar?” or “What’s mom painting?” and you joke that you did this and that when you were younger. Who knows, maybe even something wilder.
Where did those stories go? Where did the want to MAKE those stories go!
Here’s the good news. They didn’t go anywhere. That dreamer, that person. That’s still you.
Being Exactly Who You Want to Be
Now, this isn’t about returning to the past. It’s not about awakening your inner child. It’s not about throwing out all that hard work you put in to become a responsible, contributing human being.
Anyone who reads this blog on the reg knows I’m far too practical for that silliness.
This is simple.
It’s about being exactly who you want to be in this world.
But that raises other questions. The biggest one: what is it you want to be?
Do you even know? My hope is you don’t. Not so I can help you figure that out. I just think people do better when they can’t quite nail something down. When it flutters just out of reach. It’s a sign of a creative and passionate mind.
For our purposes now, it’s fine to start with what you DON’T want to be. And for me, and for you, that’s probably stagnation. How to not be only what you are today.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with who you are today. There’s just more. We want to be more.
That’s what we want, isn’t it? We want to be more than our 9 to 5s. We want to be more than soccer moms in minivans or dudes in the grocery store. We want to be something else. Something greater.
But what is that?
First, You Can Be More Than One Thing
I can see you turning on me. You think this is going to be hippy some shit about following your bliss.
You’re not 100% wrong. It is kinda that. You should follow your bliss. There’s nothing more important in this world than living the life that you want!
But it doesn’t end there. That’s not the whole story. God, it would be easy if it was.
Life is more than just that, and answers are typically much more complex than we would like them to be. Too much of that hippy shit leads to selfishness and personal glorification. The sole pursuit of self.
What we need is balance.
Unless you want to live like the Unibomber in some 9 x 4-foot cabin in Montana, life will be complex. You MUST find a balance between the life you have and the life you want: your responsibilities and your desires.
It’s for that reason that most people fail. They fall into the trap of thinking they can only be 1 thing.
They wanted to be a writer when they’re a kid, but now they’re an accountant. I guess that writing ship has sailed!
Or they wanted to be in a band, but now they’re a dad, so they don’t have time for that foolishness?
It sounds kind of silly when you say it out loud, but how many people, including yourself, have fallen into this trap?
Denying yourself from yourself prevents you from actualizing into the person you could be. The person you want to be. It also has a nasty way of developing into resentment. And that’s the kind of toxin that can spill into all areas of your life.
I believe we all want to, and should be, more than our job, more than our family, more than we even think we can be. It’s not to say that other stuff is unimportant. It isn’t. It’s super important and valuable and enriches your life. It’s just not enough.
You need space to explore yourself as well.
It’s in this space that we start living meaningful lives. And, in my opinion, that’s only achievable when we explore ourselves in as many facets as possible.
Time is a whole fucking thing
But time, right. That’s a whole thing.
And I get it. Time is a problem. You’re at work all day doing things that can help you and yours, and you come home tired. There’s the weekends, but they’re eaten up by this and that. And at the end of it, all you want to do is veg out and watch the Voice or some other terrible network tv show.
And hell, this lifestyle might even be working for you. You got a house, maybe a boat. You’re living a life that seems normal and appropriate. Might even seem successful to some.
But if that’s not enough, if you want more, the first thing you have to do is wrestle the time monster.
Recently, I’ve been writing a lot about time. I do that because time is both our most valuable resource and our most universal equalizer.
Time demands sacrifice.
We achieve nothing without time, and the bad news, you’ve only got so much of it in this life.
We wrap up so much in time: our life, and more importantly death, our ability to achieve, our ability to learn.
If we are to actualize the life and the person that we hope to be, we have to first get a handle on our time.
I won’t belabor that point here, as it’s only a point in this larger treatise we’re building. I’ve written about time in the past here, and how I manage it here and here. And there’s always my free goal setting email course, which is really about managing time in your life.
You can sign up here.
But suffice it to say, without getting a hold of your time, nothing below here will matter.
There is nothing more important.
The Mental Side
Before we can even talk about managing our time, we have to ask if we’re worthy of sacrificing it for ourselves. Do we deserve a different life? Can we expect the people we care about to endure our commitment to self-improvement? Should we expect this? Is it right to make our loved ones deal with the cost of our change?
Putting aside time for yourself feels selfish. This is especially true if you already have a busy life.
I can relate. I love to run long distances. But running long distances takes time. The training alone means I’ll be gone for hours on the weekend. And it’s something I’m doing for no one except myself.
And for this, I pay time. Time I could be hanging out with the family, doing chores, doing work, or just sleeping in.
And sometimes, it seems kind of a like a dick thing to do.
We’re conditioned to feel this way.
Our stories, movies, books, they’re all about self-sacrifice. Ever heard of Jesus? And we love to play that same story in our lives. We’re constantly sacrificing. (Some of us even like to make a big deal about it).
We sacrifice for our families, for our companies, for all sorts of things.
This might seem counterintuitive. We paint our culture as materialistic and self-interested. But if you think about it, being selfless, not selfish, is the past of least resistance. It’s the easy thing to do.
No one questions the mom that drops everything to take care of her kids. No one wonders why Dave puts in late nights at the office.
But guess what! You miss an important meeting or a school assembly, and now you’re that dick that doesn’t care about his or her family.
Being selfless can often be the path of least resistance because it feels normal.
For most middle-class people, getting a job and buying shit at the mall is the easiest thing to do. It’s the expected thing to do. When you do what’s expected, life is easy. You feel less stress at work, you feel less financial stress at home, and you feel less stress with your family. Unfortunately, this ease comes at a cost. And the price, in my opinion, is what makes life worth living: experimentation, adventure, testing your boundaries.
But again, you can’t go whole hog. You still DO have responsibilities.
This is the challenge. How can we be vulnerable enough to break out of the norms, while keeping the part of your life that’s meaningful?
This is almost always a psychological shift as opposed to a material one.
But you know what you are, don’t you?
We all have desires, beliefs, and dreams. You surely didn’t sit in your bedroom at night when you were a kid and dream about being a tax accountant? Maybe you did. And if that’s the case, more power to you. Feel free to keep reading, but this probably isn’t for you.
But for real. You know what you are. It’s that seed, that bit of dream you have. Or maybe all of those dreams. Maybe a lifetime of seeds germinating in the back of your mind. It might be opening up a bicycle shop, becoming a world-class chef, or a professional surfer.
I don’t know what it is you want to be. But imagine for a second, just a second, if you were these things? Image if you had at least cultivated these little ideas? Most might have died on the vine, but some could be tall trees by now? And why?
Because you’re afraid? Courage takes vulnerability. The willingness to put yourself out there. And that’s hard. It takes suffering and ridicule. It takes being a strong person. A disciplined person.
You are what you do
And it’s all fine and dandy to believe in your soul you are something. That deep down under the layers of whatever the hell you are that you’re something different.
But at the end of the day, you are exactly what you do. No more, no less. If you write words in a google doc, then you’re a writer. If you sing in the car, you’re a singer. And if you come home every night and drone out to hours of TV, well, that’s who you are.
What I’m saying is that if your actions are incongruent with who you “think” you are, then who you think you are isn’t who you are.
What you do is who you are!
There’s good news though. The quickest way to overcome this is to just start doing something different.
Sure, it might get more complicated as you go. But for right now, the answer is that simple.
You’re more than who you currently are. I don’t tell you this to inspire you, I tell you it to you because of all the wasted potential and resentful people I run into.
Potential is real. There’s so much of it in this world that we could run the global energy board off it if we could find a way.
But most of us slink away, get fat and die.
Why? Because it’s hard. Because we’re afraid. Because we live a life of excuses.
Maybe the answer isn’t to throw away everything and move to Hawaii and live on a hut on the beach. But maybe the answer is to start making a space for ourselves to being a pursuit.