How to figure out your life
Advice in hindsight — almost one decade later
Figuring out life is one of those activities that we often get overwhelmed by when everyone else around us seems to have it all sorted. Some of us still feel like we still don’t have it all together, even after years of trying.
Personally, I’m still working things out for myself. With only a few weeks left until my 29th birthday, I’ve been reflecting on the flux and flows of my life and those around me.
Here are some of the things I wished someone told me right after I graduated.
Live your best high risk life
The point of higher education is to help open doors you want. Financial successes, emotional stability and happiness is not guaranteed. When you’re in your early twenties, you have the most time to work on anything you want to achieve.
Time is a commodity that a lot of people take for granted because it’s always there — until it’s not. Long term investments in the stock market often results in the higher returns. Short term speculation is more a gamble that can lead to higher losses.
In a way, life is like playing the stock market. The longer you have, the higher the chances of making a profit from it.
When you take risks in your early 20s, you are opening yourself up to opportunities that aren’t on your safe path. Fear of failure is often the thing that stops us but failing at 23 is better than at 55. At 23, you have time to learn, to fix and to create.
It doesn’t really matter how old you are — only that you’re taking the right risks rather than just sit back and dream about what could have been.
Pursue your own paths, even if it ends up being the wrong one
At some point, we lose the right to blame our parents, our teachers, our friends and the system we exist in. A lot of us go through life blaming others for the choices we personally made but refuse to accept accountability for.
It is unfair to assert the source of our personal misery onto others for the choices we ultimately made.
We often grow up ingrained with a fear of failure. It is the reason why we go to school, take on jobs we don’t like in industries that doesn’t match our true passions. We live the grind of a 9–5, Monday to Friday with permission to do as we like during the weekends.
The fear is only a distraction — a straw man fallacy that we accidentally believe because we think there is no alternative path. But there is always a path and making a series of mistakes may just be thing you need to uncover it.
Passion + Skills + Pursuit = The best possible outcome
We fear our own passions because it may be unvalidated by society. the advertised recipe for happiness is rooted in material things — a house, nice car, good food, fine dinning and an assortment of other things that features on billboards and Google Ads.
But you can’t buy real happiness for the sale price of $199 and it doesn’t truly come in the form of the latest and greatest gadgetry. The happiness produced is fleeting because it fulfills a false need.
Passion is intangible and a long term love affair between you and the thing.
You need to start thinking of the thing as your lover — that which you want to take care of and nurture. It is truly your other half and tattooed into your sense of self.
When you neglect your passions, you are neglecting yourself. Nurturing your passions will also nurture your skills by association. Pursuit of your passions and skills will result in a series of outcomes that puts you closer towards true happiness.
Play by the rules but take the path of least resistance
There are certain things in life you can’t avoid. Rules is what maintains the structure of a system and sometimes, you need to play by them to get to where you want.
To pass a course, you need to do the work. But sometimes, the course contains content and material that are irrelevant to what you want to achieve. However, you need to complete it for the first stepping stone. Figure out the compulsory rules and play by them. You only need to exert the minimum required in order to move on.
Spend the least amount of time possible playing other people’s ball games and work on your own. Be the one in control of the ball rather than the person that is the ball.
Make it about you
It is your life after all. We often get sidetracked by expectations of others that we forget to set our own expectations. As a result, we live life based on other people’s prescriptions. They think they are able to see the full picture but they don’t. Other people’s judgement and opinions are just noise.
In fact, no one is able to see the full picture of anything. Our sense of reality is stitched together based on a series of experiences and observations. We need to learn to create our own reality by bringing the pieces together ourselves in the way we want it to be.
Life needs to be about you — not someone else.
That someone will disappear at some point but you will always remain. So make every decision you make about you. Experience the world how you want to experience it.
Fear is often the thing that stops us from doing the things we want to do. So we take the a path that seems safe.
But living life that way is like slowly ripping off the wax that’s glued to your chest hairs. It may seem less painful but in the long run, it takes longer and ends up being much more painful and awkward than necessary.
If you feel like your life is prescribed, it probably is. Someone made the path for you and you want to get off. It’s alright. You can. No one is actually stopping you.
Taking risks — that is, to do the things that others think (or what you think others think) are not worthwhile or impossible for you — is the safest path towards figuring out what exactly you want and how you want it.
And it is with clarity can you truly begin to figure out how to proceed to live your best possible life.