Where do you want to go?
I once heard a story about a convict who tried to escape from prison. As part of his daring escape he managed to get hold of a ladder and quickly scaled the prison wall, almost tasting the freedom he would gain on the other side. Unfortunately for the prisoner, he’d made a fundamental mistake. At the top of the wall, rather than finding the freedom he was looking for, he found himself looking straight into the prison staff’s office headquarters instead.
If you want to climb a ladder, first you need to make sure it’s leaning against the right wall. Taking an action which takes you in a direction you don’t want to go is a waste of time and energy that could be spent on something worthwhile instead.
Our lives can be so incredibly busy, and it’s good to consider whether the actions we are taking actually lead us in a direction which makes us really happy or feels worthwhile. Often people take actions based not on what they love, but on someone else’s hopes or expectations. Or they do things not because it’s what they want now, but because it’s something they thought they wanted long ago. Every so often it’s great to stop, take a step back and have a look at what we’re doing with our lives. We can use that time to evaluate, and consider whether what we’re doing is fulfilling, or simply taking time away from things that would be.
I’ve heard of people who’ve spent years of their lives and tens of thousands of dollars studying only to find out that they hate their new vocation, and I’ve heard of others who’ve packed up and moved their families to the other side of the world, only to decide it wasn’t for them and move all the way back again a couple of months later. Like an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, this is not a good way to live life. Instead, it’s far better to get clear on what it is you really want out of your life, and take actions from there, rather than taking actions blindly, or against your instinct or what you love, only to regret it later.
So how you do know which wall to lean your ladder against? The most important thing here is to really listen to yourself. If it makes your heart sink or your gut twist in knots, it’s not a good idea. If it feels like a drag or you have to make yourself do it, think again. On the other hand, if it’s a real joy and you’re motivated to do it, that’s a really good sign. If it makes your heart sing and puts a smile on your face, that’s a great recipe for fulfillment, now and in the long term.
It’s good to keep evaluating too, doing a life audit every so often that helps you make sure you get on track and stay on track. And when we find that what we’re doing is taking us in a direction we’re not happy with, we need to find the courage to make a change, to take out the things that bring us down and to replace them with the things that give us pleasure.