Question: How do you figure out exactly everything that you want to accomplish with the rest of your life all in one afternoon (in 1,000 words, give or take) – when, for YEARS, you’ve had absolutely no idea what you want to do beyond just reading this one silly post that will only take you like, 5 minutes to read, and then you’ll be stuck right back at, “What the heck do I wanna do NOW?”
Answer: You don’t.
You just… Don’t.
[Scene change… cross-fade to flashback]
The Day I Tried to Set Goals
A couple months ago I was feeling DRIVEN to perform, to achieve, to chart a course that would secure my destiny…
I remember the moment like it was July 17th.
I was messaging a good friend (who will remain nameless because I’d rather not have him discover that I never actually did the thing I told him I was absolutely going to do – tomorrow. And anyway if you just keep putting it off for tomorrow, tomorrow never actually comes so technically I’m ahead of schedule lol…)
I told him I was ready to figure out what I wanted, and I was going to sit myself down in a day or two and write out lists…
One list for everything I wanted.
One list for everything I currently had to offer.
One list for things (or skills or lessons or attributes or what have you) that I still need to acquire, in order to obtain the things I wanted.
I was going to use those lists to propel me forward, to structure each day and each week, to create the life and the lifestyle that will lead me to the things I wanted. And I was going to CRUSH IT and be the most awesomest freelance success story in the galaxy! (And live the remainder of my days on Easy Street… oopsie somehow I missed that one… I knew I shoulda taken that left turn in Albuquerque.)
I could not identify a single thing that I really really really really really really REALLY (Hey I gotta meet my word count…) really “wanted.”
So I put the whole thing off and decided to just keep doing what I’m already doing (which is kind of like, running around in every direction like a chicken who just cut his own head off hoping that maybe by destroying all of his own preconceptions and challenging everything he’s ever told himself… maybe somewhere in that process he would discover some little bit of insight that might help to put together this new puzzle he’d introduced into his awareness called, “What do I actually want?”)
And the one thing I can say I’m actually discovering from this process is:
You don’t figure out what you want by thinking about what you want.
It sounds ridiculous but it’s absolutely true.
How Do You Know What You Want?
Now maybe, you’re one of the few who comes into freelancing knowing exactly 100% with absolute clarity precisely what you want… what you’re already good at… what you have to bring to the market… who you want to work with… how much to charge… where to look to find the right clients for you…
And maybe you’re right, and you fly through this whole process and at the end of your journey you end up with EXACTLY what you said you wanted when you first passed through the door.
If so, my hat’s off to you, good sir or madam. You are light years ahead of where I came from. And (like all of us) you deserve every success that comes your way.
I am not one of those who knew, or has obtained, or is yet to be certain… that I know what I want or that I know how and where to find it.
And that’s okay too.
Sometimes you have to test drive a few hundred different makes and models before you can finally identify the exact sports car of your dreams.
Like the restaurant owner says in ‘Muppets Take Manhattan,’ “Peoples is peoples.”
If At First You Don’t Succeed
One of the greatest lessons my freelance journey has taught me is that even though we all have similar goals and interests and desires…
We are all unique.
We all walk the same road…
But we all choose the individual path that we follow.
Some know right out the gate exactly which mountain top they’re aiming for.
Some have to stop and examine every flower, every critter, every leaf on every tree…
And experience every setback, every pitfall, every “bridge out” and “falling rocks” and stop at every “deer crossing…”
And pitch their tent in the strangest places and reflect on everything they’ve encountered and sort out the good from the bad… the desirable from the “I don’t think I ever want to do that again…”
The hard part is identifying which type of traveler you really are.
I “thought” I was in the first group.
I thought I would jump right in and follow a few videos and be SET FOR LIFE in like, two minutes flat.
(I have seldom been more wrong about something so important to my long term success and happiness… and it took a lot of having it all thrown in my face for me to realize… that “easy” is NOT my forte.)
You Don’t Have to Know the End From the Beginning
The point is…
This journey takes as long as it takes. And it’s not always up to us to determine how quickly we progress. Life is gonna happen. Things are gonna come up. People are gonna distract you. Sometimes you’re going to doubt, and wonder.
(And sometimes, you’re going to question… and *wander*… and that is where the real magic occurs…)
But when you’ve learned all that you can from the experience you’ve just had…
It’s time to pull up the stakes and to resume your walkabout.
To choose the next summit that you will strive for, and to once again…
Just put one foot in front of the other.
And forget about the big picture…
Until you’ve collected enough individual pieces…
That your puzzle actually starts to resemble something you can recognize…
The answers will come. You *will* ultimately know what you want and what you don’t.
But not until you start your journey.
(But the good news is there are guides along the way, and signals you will learn to identify and to follow, and rest stops conveniently placed just where you’re most likely to need them.)
So, don’t worry if you don’t know what you want. You can totes figure it out as you go along.
Together, we can all succeed. (Or my name isn’t John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt. Oh, wait…)