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Can you make life decisions based on what you want or do you have to fit into the current system?

Posted by Dr. Phil Yaeger on Nov 2, 2016 2:01:00 AM

Everyone struggles with "the plan" when it comes to the next five, ten years, and twenty years. These plans eventually spell out a lifetime of results in the form of family, quality of life, vacations, college funds, and retirement. Some get overwhelmed with the decisions and discipline, feeling lost in a sea of long-term goals that would take a life overhaul to start pursuing. Many people struggle following the conventional models they've seen and find themselves disingenuously trying to jam their lives and bodies into someone else's mold.


This is particularly (but not exclusively) the case for young professionals pursuing a career. Regardless of how you feel about it, the world is changing just as it has in the past with younger professionals replacing their predecessors in the majority of the work force. With this change, workplace preferences as well as ideal career paths are shifting. This is still preference of the young though and not the norm, so it requires a lot of work to break the existing mold. People who choose to pursue their wants will find the saying about entrepreneurs who "work 80 hours a week so they don't have to work 40" to be true for them as well. If you want to do things your way it doesn't mean you are wrong, it just means you'll often find yourself paddling up river.


If this sounds like you, don't panic. For many, the extra effort is worth it even if it means lower salary and a little less stability. If most jobs are completely draining and you leave you dreaming of doing things a different way, you may want to consider a shift in your career goals to align yourself better within the field you are in or simply take your skills to another field. Figuring out what that career is can be challenging but it may help to consider these things.


What skills do you realistically bring to the table?

"What a man can be, he must be" was famously said by psychologist Abraham Maslow when referring to self-actualization. Self actualization is the realization or fulfillment of one's talents and potentialities, especially considered as a drive or need present in everyone. We currently have a generation entering the workforce who have grown up being multi-talented which is a great thing, but also leaves many with so varying options and skills. Most jobs leave these types of employees feeling underused and capable of more than what their job offers. The more diverse talent pool makes finding the right career or the right "plan" harder than it used to be when the world focused more on specialization than being well rounded. Now, what can you bring to an employer can be hard to answer, but it does need to be solidified and stated both personally and publicly. While your talents may be many, you need to define your hard skills and analyze what you are capable of. Don't oversell yourself, but definitely give yourself credit where it is due. Once you figure out what you can be, you can find what you must be a lot easier.


Are you willing to sacrifice luxuries and goals?

Once you've figured out a little bit of the self-actualization puzzle, you'll be able to see your direction a little easier. This is great but can be disheartening as well. If you want to start up your own business you can expect to pay yourself a small salary for a few years. If you want to travel more you're probably going to have to give up the expectation of a family coming as fast as you might like. Thinking about heading down a different path than most others? Expect to be a little lonely, misunderstood, and even looked down upon because others won't see the purpose of what you are doing and won't be able to relate to you (or you to them). Don't worry though! These things are temporary and you can count on finding some community and comradery among those interested in a similar life. Once you've found some success too, people will see the purpose of your sacrifice and you'll even be a model to those wanting the same things in life.


Is the "soul tax" worth it?

This is a tricky and touchy subject. Many invest their lives in a career or towards goals they didn't ever really want in the first place and when they achieve them, they feel let down. Others pursue a safe life so they can be secure and find they fail at what they don't want which makes pursuing what you do want to make a whole lot of sense. Learn from the success and failures of generations before, but don't be degrading towards them. They made mistakes and it's likely you'll make your own. While pursuing your own dreams have grace, understanding, and don't be too critical of those who came before you. Ask your older relatives and co-workers how they pursued their goals and ask yourself regularly if what you are doing is worth it and if it proving an effective approach. Then consider this; there are taxes on most everything, and if those taxes become too great, then the expense is deemed unjustifiable. Consider asking yourself what the "tax rate" on your soul would be if it were put into a number. No matter what you do in life there will be a soul tax, but if you find the number is too high to be acceptable it is a sure sign you need to find something else to be doing.


It might not be what you are doing in life as much as it is how you are doing life.

Take all that "what do you want to do? Where do you want to go? What job do you want? And set it aside for a time. You should think about all these things in their own time and place, a very crucial time and place, but not all of the time. Putting all those thoughts away for a bit and instead thinking about how you want to do whatever you do can yield great results. How do you want to do college? How do you want to make friends? How do you want to spend your money? Choose the qualities you want to have in the 'how's' and the 'what's' will develop from a healthier and level headed place.


You can live the life you want if you're willing to take the time, make hard decisions, give up certain comforts, and put in the work. This will likely take a lot of comprimise and you shouldn't throw caution to the wind, but the life of your dreams is out there.

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