Part of the problem with telling your life like a story is that you have to choose what you want your story to be. Rather than drifting along, you have to live with purpose and intention.
That’s not easy, in fact it can be downright exhausting.
In the beginning you may find yourself asking virtually unanswerable questions such as: What if I don’t know what it is I want to do? What if everything and nothing sounds good? I’ve found often that questions like these never lead to anything more profitable than eating more ice cream while watching another TV show.
The reason being, at least in our brains, is if you can’t answer simple questions, then you can’t move on with your life. Apathy sets in, and another episode of the latest hit TV show is waiting.
I’ve been there more than I’d like to say.
I’m not exceptionally good at getting past the starting line, mainly because I keep asking myself stupid, useless questions like the ones above. I say they’re useless because you can’t exactly answer them without acting, but they give you a seemingly credible reason to not act in the first place.
So you sit, live your life the same way.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of this cycle.
Here are three ways I’ve found to get out of the apathy loop of terror and sloth, and start living a more exciting and fulfilling life.
Don’t Try To Find Your One Great Purpose
Too many people focus on finding their “one thing”, that singular piece of the puzzle that completes them and makes life worth living.
I’m sorry to say it’s not that simple.
If you live your life with an Unboxed philosophy, you know that it’s a thousand little things that make life worthwhile. The more you wait to find or discover that one big idea, the longer you will sit, do nothing, and stagnate. It’s a tempting ideal though, because it sounds so right. “Yes,” you think, “I was meant for something great. So I’m going to find that one thing… someday.” And you never do. It’s a common story, told thousands, if not millions of times a day.
You probably are destined for greatness, but not just one great thing. Don’t fall into that trap, don’t look for your one thing. But you can do this…
Choose A Big, Scary, Nearly Unreachable Goal That Helps People
Does that sound like I’m contradicting myself? I’m saying find something huge you can do with your life that will also help people in need. It doesn’t have to be “needy” folks as we often think of them, although that would be an excellent idea — just coming to aid of your fellow human beings is enough.
This is not your life defining idea, the one thing you will do with the rest of your life. Chances are you will go through many different stages, volumes, and chapters. This will simply be the next big one. The bigger the better really.
If you aim too small, in the long run it won’t feel worthwhile when you achieve your goal. Plus, humans are wired for stories, so the principles inherent in a good story also motivate us.
A good story has the protagonist up against impossible odds, which he or she then has to find a way to overcome. You, being the protagonist in your life, must choose a big goal, your impossible odds, and then figure out a way to do it. Maybe you want to cure world hunger. Great. Want to start a dance studio? Why not start a dance revolution? Or maybe change the world through song, bring hope to the hopeless? Sound cheesy? Maybe, but they are sufficiently big goals, they inspire, if only a small spark in the depths of your soul.
The point is to find a big idea that makes you feel lighter, more engaged, like you are worth something because you plan to make a difference. Of course it all means nothing if you don’t actually do something…
Fulfill Your Goal Step By Step, The First Step Making The Rest Inevitable
Going back to stories, the protagonist is often just like us in the sense that he or she doesn’t want things to change. The change comes through some outside force making the protagonist break free from the mundane, ordinary world, and venture out to solve a big problem.
You need the same motivation.
Once you decide on your big goal, find a first step you can take that makes it impossible to go back. If you want to end world hunger, don’t read about it, start in your neighborhood. Pledge to help at a food bank once a week for a year, and don’t just promise to yourself but make a commitment to the food bank staff and tell everyone on Facebook, your family, everyone you know.
Make it socially impossible for you not to follow through.
From there, deal with each step as it comes. Every week sit down and figure out what you need to do next, and commit to doing that. The more you make achieving your big goal part of your life, the easier it will become to accomplish.
How About An Example
I’m going through this process right now. I want to travel the world, help people out of poverty, and inspire a network of private philanthropists to do the same. My dream is create a society of men and women who go around the world helping people who need them, directly. Not through a charity, or a faceless organization. I want the world to be radically changed by the personal experience of giving.
How do I do that?
Not sure, but it’s a huge, ambitious, seemingly impossible goal. And that’s a start. The next step is announcing such a thing in public (like on a public blog…) so that others will inherently hold you accountable.
Then I need to get out of debt, write more books so I can increase my income, then creating the rules for the society itself. I have no idea what it will look like right now, but that’s okay, I will figure it out as I begin to do it.
That’s the point really, to do things. To move and shake, and have a major effect on others with your actions, not through your lack thereof. Ignore your “One Thing That Will Complete You Forever”, make up a big, impossible goal that will help people, and then start realizing that immediately in a very public way.
So what’s your big impossible dream?