What’s Your Answer to the Question?

Posted by Judy Anne Cavey on Mar 12, 2012 in , , | No Comments

“What Should I Do With My Life?”

In the bestselling book by Po Bronson, What Should I Do With My Life?, the author takes his readers on an interesting journey to answer the book title’s question. He does this by imbedding himself in the lives of several people across the U.S. who, in one form or another, answered the elusive question posed. Some planned for a shift, while others stumbled into a new way of being and seem happier than those who planned. No matter how they got there, the point is, they eventually got there.

College student? Unemployed grad? Underemployed and miserable? This book might awaken possibilities for you.

Change in Hard Times

Mr. Bronson points out what he learned in hard times, “people usually changed the course of their life.” However, in good times, “they frequently only talked about change.” Considering those out of work not only in the U.S., but around the world, there are literally tens of millions of people trying to figure out what to do next. So, don’t feel alone.

Why is it that we postpone making changes? Psychologists point out humans hate change, yet change is a major part of life. Forced into making changes, people often discover themselves in better situations. But the operative word here is forced. Through lay-offs, recessions, post-recessions and possible double-dip recessions, people bounce back through the changes they make.

Give Yourself Permission

“I found that the biggest obstacle to answering the question this book poses is that people don’t give themselves permission to take it seriously”, states Mr. Bronson. Why? The bottom line is the big “F” word…fear. And fear can be so intimidating that people would rather stay stuck in that miserable place than initiate a change.

When we stand face to face with our fears, it’s only then we can see how unreasonable they really are–but it takes courage. For example, let’s say you have an opportunity to relocate for a great job, you’ve done research (see my posts here on relocation), spent enough time exploring the possibilities, but it feels “safer” to stay put. In the back of your mind, you know passing up this opportunity will be a bone of contention from now on–the “what if?” scenario. Yet you refuse to give yourself permission to take a leap of faith beyond your fears. As one of the book’s first interviewees states, “Fear is like a wound within our emotions.” He suggests that we first acknowledge it exists and then find out what kind of fear it is: “Is it fear of poverty, of loneliness, of rejection?”

Do you have fears you haven’t yet faced? Right now, take a moment to ask yourself what your greatest fears are and if they are unreasonable.

Purpose Revealed or Discovered

The book touches on the idea of revealed or discovered destiny. A percentage may think the easy answer would be a revealed path for the future by a “Higher Power” (or God), others prefer the idea of discovering on their own a new route in life. I know people who have done both. No matter your perspective, what’s important is something somewhat tangible has been laid at your feet.

The $65,000 question today is: “What will you do with it?” Pretend it doesn’t exist, pronounce it too difficult to execute, or hold your breath and jump off the high dive into a new life? I’ve taken a my share of high dives, most often for a long while I was paddling as fast as I could to keep my head above water. But then, I got out of the deep end and pulled myself up. You can’t buy a feeling like that!

Day Job Philosophy

There are many people living the “Day Job Philosophy”. They find a field, stick with it come Hell or high water–often both, they endure an existence they hate day after day. I’m sure if you asked them, they’d say they were “fine” and can’t understand why anyone would want to examine their life, or follow a dream. But, as Mr. Bronson puts it, “The goal is to bring what you do in alignment with who you are, so you don’t end up being someone you don’t want to be.”

One particular interviewee in the book was constantly trying to prove his worth by pleasing others, measuring his worth through their expectations. He wasn’t pursuing his purpose, he was a “people-pleaser”. That’s no way to live. We have to recognize people-pleasing behavior before it chokes the life out of our true purpose. You can’t be someone else, you have to be you. And if that means walking away from a six-figure income with major perks, so be it, money isn’t everything. But satisfaction from having pursued a genuine purpose is everything.

Call it Whatever

Whether you call it your purpose, path in life, new direction, God-given role, or career direction, isn’t important. It’s what you initiate that is. Taking the first step by putting one foot in front of the other until you get there, wherever there is, is the formula.

Here’s the good news: being smart, rich, thin, young or blond doesn’t make the journey any easier! And with that I’ll leave you with two words from Mr. Bronson’s chapter at the end of the book–patience and resilience–the life jackets you’ll need when you jump off the high dive.


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