It’s so strange. You can spend long stretches of your life living a certain way without changing at all. You can be deeply stuck, but, then, one day you start changing your life for real this time.
Something happens. There are signs pointing to the fact that you’re on the verge of finally being ready. Then, you go on your journey, look up one day, and sit back in awe at how much you’ve been able to accomplish.
I’d struggled to find my way for so long and maybe so many terrible decisions. I found myself stuck. But then I started to notice some of these signs I’m going to share with you. Some of the signs came from my own behavior and some of the signs came from the world around me.
I didn’t know exactly what it would lead to back then, but I could tell that there was something different about this stretch in my life. I was going to stop BSing myself. In the back of my mind, I knew I was about to start making things happen. And I made them happen.
That’s the best part of the process. Once you make things happen, all the time you wasted not making things happen becomes irrelevant. I don’t even identify with the old version of me whatsoever. You can reinvent yourself and transform your life. Pay attention to the signs.
“Following your genuine intellectual curiosity is a better foundation for a career than following whatever is making money right now.” – Naval Ravikant
I’ve always hated school. I barely ever did my homework. Fun fact, I literally, not even once, did homework in my actual home. Either I did it at school or it never got done. During class, I’d love to participate in discussions. I loved to learn, but only if it was on my terms.
My life changed the moment I started learning on my terms. I discovered self-improvement and it fascinated me. It turned me on to reading and other forms of self-education.
I’ve read more books after the end of my formal education than I did during it, times ten. I’ve built a life I love because I became a learning machine. I became I learning machine simply because I started to do the things that fascinated me.
When I discovered writing, I took to it and stuck with it because it stimulated my curiosity. Not because I felt like it was something I had to do or because I thought that would make me a lot of money.
If you find yourself doing things for the sake of doing them, you’re on the right path. Don’t question how “practical” the process is. Don’t worry too much about what you can turn it into right away. Follow what fascinates you and see where it takes you.
You are now at a crossroads. Forget your past. Who are you now? Who have you decided you really are now? Don’t think about who you have been. Who are you now? Who have you decided to become? Make this decision consciously. Make it carefully. Make it powerfully. Then act upon it. – Tony Robbins
On the one hand, there’s a level of playfulness and joy that comes from following your curiosity. But you can also combine that with the seriousness of understanding when you’re at a crossroads in life. Some people never look at their life that way. Time just passes by without them ever considering that some of their next few moves will have a major impact on the rest of their life.
I found my crossroads at 25. I realized that, even though I was still young, I wasn’t a kid anymore. When I was younger, I could coast by on my intelligence and I had safety nets for the many times I fell. By 25, I was on my own and the consequences of my decisions started to weigh heavily on me. I realized there was a real possibility that I could end up living a life I didn’t want to live at all. I saw many people get stuck in that sort of life — good people, kind people, well-intentioned people, people who didn’t have to end up the way they did but ended up the way they did.
That crossroads moment drove me to start looking for answers, which lead to self-improvement, which ultimately lead to that joyful pursuit of the things that fascinated me. But, it started with a bit of negative visualization. You have to stand there mentally and look at both sides of the fork. What are the two sides of the fork in your career? What about your relationships? Ultimately, what does the trajectory of your entire future look like? You can’t know everything upfront, but you can always stand at the fork.
“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” – Jim Rohn
There’s no such thing as a perfect recipe or strategy for changing your life. The methods are different. So are the timeframes. The specific strategies and timeframes don’t matter. But the moment you find some frameworks that make sense to you, it’s a sign you’ll actually follow through with your goals.
The five-year framework made a ton of sense to me. I figured that was enough time to overhaul my life. Early on when I was learning about self-improvement I kept hearing the number five come up over and over again. I made up my mind that I was going to make a trade — five years of my life for the rest of my life. I had a loose idea of what I was going to do. I’d become a top blogger, learn marketing, make a business out of it somehow, etc. I followed a handful of experts that had similar recommendations that made sense to me.
I could’ve accomplished many of my goals much faster. That’s a lesson I use now for future frameworks. But, in the end, the framework I chose worked pretty much in the exact time frame I set for myself. This is known as Parkinson’s Law. Once you truly set intentions and expectations, you tend to meet them.
I can’t tell you exactly which framework to choose or which length of time to set for you to make that overhaul, but if you find one that makes sense for you, and you believe in it, your behavior will start to adapt to it.
“You must engrave deeply in your mind and never forget: your emotional commitment to what you are doing will be translated into your work.” – Robert Greene
There’s a difference between feeling like you have to force yourself to do something versus feeling compelled to do something. Don’t get me wrong, you have to push yourself to get certain aspects of your path done. For example, I didn’t enjoy and still don’t enjoy, a lot of the minutiae that comes with building a writing career. But I felt compelled, pulled toward, writing, so doing the little tasks was worth it.
When you feel compelled to do something, you’re operating from intrinsic motivation. All the external rewards in the world don’t matter if you have no inner drive. This is why even though there’s a ton of money out there that comes from something like business, money isn’t enough of a motivator to push people to start and follow through with businesses.
You need a reason that’s solid enough for you to persist. My reasons? I could tell pretty early on that I had a knack for writing. If you found something or suspect you have a knack for something, follow that feeling. My curiosity compelled me. I felt like a better life was calling me instead of simply wanting out of my current life. I’ve worked hard over the years, but I didn’t have to force myself to do all that much. When certain factors align, you can work from a place of power instead of force.
“What is the point of being on this Earth if you are going to be like everyone else?” – Arnold Schwarzenegger
This is going to sound so basic and simple, but this realization hit me like a ton of bricks and motivated me to keep going. Logically, I understood that most people don’t “achieve their dreams” — whatever that means to them. Most don’t start businesses. Most writers don’t make a living from it. Few people check off the major boxes on their personal checklist.
But, some people do. That was enough for me. I realized that the people who were doing many of the things I wanted to do weren’t any different than me. I knew what they were doing wasn’t easy, but I also knew they weren’t doing anything magical either. And that’s how getting what you want works. You decide that you want it. And, you decide that even though most people don’t get it, you can be the exception to the rule.
Again, super simple and basic. But a lot of people just don’t consider the fact that they don’t have to live the same way as everyone else. There’s no law or universal order that forces you into living a life you don’t want. I know it sure feels that way. And there are definitely societal forces working against you, don’t get me wrong. But, you can escape the machine.
Some people do. You can be one of them.
“It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.” – Thomas Sowell
A huge sign you’re finally ready to change your life? You humble yourself and admit you don’t have all the answers. You admit that you need some level of guidance and direction. You’re willing to question the beliefs and mental models that got you in the position you find yourself in right now.
I reached a lot of breakthroughs by seeking out wisdom. At first, I sought wisdom through books. When I wanted to make a serious run at online writing, I bought a blogging course. When I wanted to publish my first book, I took a course on that as well. I’ve continued to use mentors and coaches — both free and paid — to fill the gaps in my knowledge.
Many of us suffer because of our egos. Your ego tells you that you shouldn’t seek out answers. It tells you that you should already know how to manage your life. It tells you that you’re less than for wanting to seek out answers in the first place. That’s a huge part of where the disdain for self-help comes from — the underlying assumption that you should have everything figured out.
Well, what if you don’t? What if you need answers? What if you need help? Don’t be afraid to feel a little bit lost for a while, let go of your ego, and focus on trying to learn how to live life.
“What I know for sure is this: The big secret in life is that there is no big secret. Whatever your goal for this year is, you can get there – as long as you’re willing to be honest with yourself about the preparation and work involved. There are no back doors, no free rides. There’s just you, this moment, and a choice.” ~ Oprah Winfrey
In general, you start to change your life when you’re objective about it. You can never be fully objective about your life, of course, but the closer you get to objectivity the better off you are.
I like to offer suggestions instead of telling you exactly what to do because I don’t know you. I like to pose questions instead of being over so that you can think about your life.
Here’s a question: how objective are you about your life? How objective are you about your role in the outcomes you’re getting? Is your worldview objective in terms of the way you see fairness and unfairness? How objective are you about what you really want? Where are your blindspots? Where do you lie to yourself? Are you living up to your potential or not? Who’s fault is all of this, really?
Being objective with yourself can be painful at first because it’s quite the blow to your ego to admit where you’ve been mismanaging your own life. There’s a growing culture that says there’s no such thing as mismanaging your life. Again, you can choose to follow that culture if you want, but I’m not optimistic about how that’ll turn out for you. Not optimistic at all.
It’s your life. That’s the refrain I always go back to. I can’t tell you what to do, but I can tell you that there are consequences, both positive and negative, to the way you choose to view reality.
“Believe this: Everything you need to be great is already inside you. All your ambitions and secrets, your darkest dreams . . . they’re waiting for you to just let go.” – Tim Grover
You can’t really quantify this one, but sometimes you just reach a point in your life where you’re serious. You’ve decided. Once you’ve decided, for real, then it’s just a matter of time until you get what you want. The universe will respect your seriousness. It may take some time to catch up to your thinking, but it’ll happen.
About two years into my writing career, I was certain that I’d become a full-time writer and spend the rest of my life working for myself in some shape or fashion. Quitting stopped being an option altogether. Mind you, I still didn’t have all the puzzle pieces put together, but everything I’ve mentioned so far in this piece just started to coalesce.
Following my curiosity helped me build up such a large foundation of effort and results that quitting just didn’t make sense. I faced another crossroads. I was in the thick of working at a corporate-like job around this time and I could just tell there was no way I’d be happy doing it forever. With more practice, I felt myself closing in on some of the more popular writers who seemed distant from me at the start. The process and framework were working. At two years in, three to go didn’t seem like much. It wasn’t.
And I just…made it all happen. After years of failure, I developed a level of seriousness and certainty that dwarfed all of my previous attempts. It can happen for you, too. How? everyone is so worried about these exact strategies and methods for improving your life. The how reveals itself over time, that’s how.
You start with following the signs, the inklings, the whispers in your mind you try to bury. Listen to the whispers and do something with them. Then, one day, you look up, and it’s done. It’s really that simple.