When is your breakthrough going to come? When is it all finally going to click?
For some of us, it happens at 18. For others, it happens in middle age. There’s no age limit to success, but it’s best to get going as soon as possible. There are signs and stages you go through that will bring you closer and closer to the life you actually want.
It requires a bit of action on your part, but once you get the ball rolling, the signs and opportunities will start to pop up everywhere. Keep an eye out for some of these classic tells you’ll spot on your way from stuck to making a major breakthrough in your life.
There are two different ways to be stuck. You can be stuck yet pretend like everything is ok. Or you can be stuck and have a high level of awareness about it. In the former state, you tell yourself a rationalizing story about how things might get better on their own, somehow, eventually. In the latter, you’re aware of just how dire the situation is.
This is a good place to be in even if you’re not doing anything about it yet. You can let your dissatisfaction build to the point where you’re ready to change. This happened to me. I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I needed to do something. I was 25 years old. College life was in the rearview and I had to start judging my results in the real world in an honest way.
I looked at the way my life was going — low-level job, no degree, stagnant, no purpose. And I just thought to myself “Yeah, I’m kind of screwed right now.” I accepted my present reality fully, which gave me the resolve to change it. Many people experience a quarter-life crisis or a mid-life crisis. The reality of their life hits them hard. What they decide to do after this varies, but having no illusions about your current predicament is a great start.
The more specific you get about who you are and what you want, the likelier you are to start taking action. You’re on the verge of change when you start to get a clearer picture of what a better life might look like, even if you don’t know exactly what that life might look like. You start to follow your interests. You start becoming an active learner. When you do this, paths and opportunities start to reveal themselves to you.
So how do you get a clearer picture of what you want? You start with a vague idea, test things out, and narrow them down over time. This doesn’t mean you have to have your one magical life path chosen. But you have your eye on a direction instead of keeping your possibilities completely open-ended.
At the beginning of my ‘transformation’, I did a lot of what you’re doing right now. I started reading a lot. I picked up little doses of inspiration here and there. Then, I started investigating potential paths. I figured I wanted to be in some sort of business for myself. I took personality tests and started to gauge my strengths and weaknesses. These tests, particularly Strengths Finder, had recommendations for actions I could take.
By the time a friend reached out to me to start writing for him, I had momentum. I’d been reading, taking notes, and gathering information about what it took to become a writer. Could be a coincidence, but I like to think I emitted some energy in the universe that came back to me in the form of an opportunity. Start trying to articulate what you might want, what your inclinations might be, what paths may be available to you. Give the universe some time to respond and it will.
Another sign that goes along with articulating what you want. Usually, when you’ve properly gauged your strengths and start working on a path, you’ll take to your new path pretty quickly. I spent a decent amount of time sitting around waiting to start writing, but once I started, it felt natural and it didn’t require insane motivation to keep going.
I’ve noticed that trait in pretty much all the full-time writers I know. They had an intuitive sense of what it took to write a solid article, even if their writing wasn’t great. You can try any path you want. You can change your personality and develop pretty much any skillset. But it will be easier if you pick something you’re already decent at.
All of these points overlap a bit. There’s just something powerful about lanes. Most people don’t want to stay in their lane. They look everywhere else but the path that’s staring them right in the face. You can reinvent yourself. I’ve done it. I wrote a book about it.
But I didn’t do it by trying to change too much about myself at the core. Instead, I changed by getting closer to it. I accentuated my strengths and mitigated my weaknesses. I leaned into who I already kinda-sorta knew I was and I started doing the things I kinda sorta knew I should’ve been doing the whole time.
You can become something you’re not. But is it worth your time? Going from good to great is a lot easier than going from bad or mediocre to great.
When you’re on the come-up, you’ll have a different energy about you. I call it the “going places” energy. Other people will notice it, too. I can’t tell you how many times older people would sense it when I’d check them out at the counter of the video store I worked in.
They’d say something along the lines of “You’re going places in life, I can just tell.” They can sense your demeanor. You’re more upbeat. It seems like you’re ready to seize an opportunity, even if it hasn’t presented itself yet. Regardless of the position you find yourself in, you’re doing the best you can in your role right now.
Here’s the magic of having this ‘going places’ energy. People will go out of their way to help you. Especially people who are already successful. They want to help you because they remember what it was like to be on the come up themselves and they want to pay it forward. The easiest way to get a mentor is to already be active in trying to change your own life.
I’m always willing to help aspiring writers, but I tend to help the ones who need my help the least. The ones who’ve already been working at their craft instead of the ones who’ve put in zero work but want to pick my brain. If you have that hungry energy already, just give it time because an opportunity is right around the corner.
I notice that most writers tend to hit a stride and see exponential growth in their audience after about a year. It takes about that long just to no longer suck at writing. You have a sense of your voice and you’ve given readers enough time to recognize and become familiar with your name.
If you spend a year doing anything, your odds of quitting shrink dramatically. You’ve invested enough time into your project, skill, business, etc, that it feels like a waste to stop. It’s easy to quit something you’ve only worked on for a few weeks or few months. This is where most people quit. Actually, most people quit in the first few days.
But a year in, you’ve had some re-inforcing feedback — money, fans, some other growth metric. You’ve given yourself time to turn motivation into discipline and habits. A year into my writing career I hadn’t made much money at all. But, I knew the chessboard. I had readers. I had a catalog of several dozen articles. The dream no longer felt distant.
If you’re just getting started, make it your goal to make it a year, and don’t look past that benchmark. Reverse engineer what you need to do today, this week, and this month to ensure you make it to the end of the year. It won’t take as long as you think. Think of how quickly this year has gone by already. Exactly. The time will pass anyway. One year to put yourself in a position to catapult your life. There’s your target.
Every single day someone hits their stride. The beauty of it all? You have the ability to hit your stride and build the path to a breakthrough no matter what has happened in your life already.
You’ll just grow tired of wishing and hoping. You’ll feel ready. And that feeling of readiness will come from you taking an honest look at your life over and over again until it becomes obvious that you need to change.
There will be a day one where it feels like you’re not making a ton of progress. But you’d be surprised how quickly things can change once you get the tiniest bit of momentum. Momentum is the name of the game. Do everything in your power to build it and something amazing will happen eventually. Trust me.