So, how many sleepless nights have you spent staring at the ceiling? You met Roger, that old chum of yours, who slapped your back to exclaim:
“Hey! Still at the same company/residence/driving the same car……?” Whatever took his fancy.
He has moved up the corporate ladder after switching jobs six times, and now drives a fancy car. His children are studying abroad, and he owns a villa in a plush location. Great for him!
Does that really matter? Is that what you wanted in life? Is that what he really wanted, or did he get carried by a wave?
If you feel like you might be falling behind in life, read the following advice very carefully. Hopefully it will convince you that you’re doing just fine as you are.
1. Where Is Your Zero Set?
Do you remember the question you were most frequently asked in childhood: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Your answers varied with time. You were in awe of the power that your teacher wielded over the class, and wanted to be like her. You were envious of your neighbor, who got to ride in his father’s BMW, and you wanted to be rich enough to buy that car. You were willing to take up any business/profession to achieve that goal.
You saw the pics on the Wall of Fame, outside the College Principal’s office, and wanted to be on it. You knew this could help in gaining admission to the crème-de-la-crème of educational institutions. You needed that branding to achieve success in life. Then the business and corporate world changed your perspective, and shifted all paradigms once again.
Your Zero has shifted at all these points in your life. Zero is the point from which you start measuring growth in life, on a linear scale. You spend your life terrified of falling on the negative side, but who created this point, and allowed it to control your life? Chances are that this Zero is an inherited or imposed monstrosity. You have given it sanctity, with your unquestioning acceptance of the same.
Such a basepoint will always exist, but it could also be at the center of a circle. Growth can be non-linear:
2. What Is Your Score On The Circle Of Life?
image credit: livingrealwithgigi.com
Rate yourself on each of these arcs, and allow yourself to grow from the center to the periphery. Your Zero becomes a centripetal force, creating pressure on the diameter, and accelerating growth. As one area of your life improves, it creates momentum in every other segment of the circle.
Now ask yourself how Roger has fared on each of these arcs.
3. Choose Your Role Models Wisely
Social media has stories splashed around of college drop-outs becoming billionaires, or running the hottest startups in the country. It is the media’s job to showcase such successes. Yet, has anybody checked the statistics about the proportion of such people who made it? And what other attributes did they have, other than being a ‘drop-out with a brilliant idea’?
A lot of time, effort and money goes into gaining admissions to the premier educational institutions. Why waste that investment for a pipe-dream? Why assume that the drop-outs always do better than the pass-outs? Think carefully before you make rash decisions; make sure they are the right ones for you and don’t choose a path based purely on what other people have done. What’s worked for Roger might not work for you.
4. Ambition-Achievement Balance
Living beings are defined by a very unique DNA structure, which is difficult to replicate. You have probably seen this image splashed around social media:
Sure, I cannot be a monkey to climb that tree, nor can the monkey attempt to be me, a fish or a penguin.
There is a plethora of personality tests available to give you a profile of your strengths and weaknesses. All may not be accurate, but an average of three to five will give you a fair idea. And this is not only for students and beginners. If you are dissatisfied with life, in general, this will tell you why and what is going wrong. Changing tracks has never been easy, but it is not impossible, either.
Look for changes within your organization, your industry, or even somewhere else entirely. Take up additional courses to strengthen your base and cover the qualifications gap. A new path may emerge, slowly but surely. The metamorphosis will not be devoid of pain, but the caterpillar will eventually emerge into a butterfly.
The biggest hindrance on your path is the investment that you have already made in reaching this point. You have built an identity, which your ecosystem expects you to continue.
Your parents have invested in your education. Your spouse has married a person with a certain professional and social standing. Your children are known as the sons and daughters of that person. In short, your identity is being defined by their expectations of you. Your bosses and mentors have determined a certain career path for you, which may or may not be to your liking.
If you change and grow as an individual, one can understand their discomfort in dealing with this new persona. They may feel that they do not know this person, and have to reframe the terms and conditions of dealing with you. But they are also the ones who made you feel inadequate where you were. Give them time and they will recreate the context in which to deal with you. Some will fall by the wayside, and some will learn to relate to the real you, not the garb that you wear.
Finances cannot be ignored. Take stock of where you are, and figure out how to best allocate your resources in order to accommodate your needs. You’ve probably come across cases where people earn money from a particular line of activity, save enough, and then invest it in something that they really love doing. Maybe your crossover happens a few years down the line, and not immediately. If so, this gives you sufficient time to prepare yourself, and the ecosystem, for the changes ahead.
6. Change Your Notion Of Sacrifice
The word ‘sacrifice’ is thrown around in so many different contexts. You sacrifice a holiday for your child’s exam, or for an office emergency. You sacrifice a career abroad, to take care of your parents here. There are ‘expected sacrifices,’ which all parents make for their children. Then there are ‘imposed sacrifices,’ such as those you make for the organization you work for.
How do you define this term? Exchanging a valuable piece of life, for something of lesser value? Exchanging what you like, for someone else’s likes and dislikes? Exchanging your individuality, for a socially comfortable slot? Exchanging your call in life, for money?
I have rarely come across a case where a so-called sacrifice has been a one-way street of giving. The giver has gained something in return: tangible, intangible, or partly tangible. It could just be the happiness you get from seeing your children grow in life.
It is only a question of how you define less or more. Understand the parameters, and build a scale for measuring the impact of your actions. You will see a value somewhere, in all your actions. Nothing has been in vain. You may have a thankless job, but you have gained experience, if not recognition.
7. Redefine Success
The only way to accept failure is to redefine success. Success is independent of others’ expectations.
Be careful of the words that you use to define success. Words frame our thoughts, and a borrowed terminology can muddle your thinking process. If this is the case, words become a tool for manipulating your thoughts, rather than a mode of honest expression. Stay as authentic as possible, and look at events and persons as they are, at this moment, without applying filters. Make a vision board, talk openly to people you trust, explore new opportunities to help you discover what you truly want from life. And stay clear of expectations and role-plays.
This awareness will clearly show you where you stand in the Circle of Life. You will feel ‘centered’ in your unique individual persona. You need to press the Reset button, to start life at the desired point.