Changing course

Every human being is on a quest to be the best version of themselves. Some of us are fortunate to have discovered the profession or calling that will get them there, while many of us are still clueless in this regard.

This dilemma rests at the base of what turns into a crisis as we approach the middle of our lives. As younger people, we can change direction rapidly, deciding to pursue one career one month and decided to try something completely new the next month. As we age, it becomes harder and harder to change the status-quo. We start off as nimble sailboats that can turn in whichever direction the wind blows. With age, we become large ships and changing course involves abandoning a huge amount of momentum.

And yet, even with time, the questions around what we are doing with our lives do not die down. If anything, they only get louder. It is this conflict, between louder questions and heavier ships that is the cause for much suffering.

What would help us resolve this situation? How do we decide what to pursue, and how can we be sure that after having invested time and effort, our new endeavour would be fulfilling?

One means to do this is by harnessing the power of habit. The idea is to set aside some time (daily or weekly) to test our new pursuit with relentless regularity. The joy we derive from it should fuel its continuity. The activity we pursue could be open ended – from how to cook better, to what to pursue after getting my PhD. The idea is to dedicate some time to explore this and see if it sticks. The only requirement is for it to give us enough enjoyment to come back and keep at it consistently.

On doing this for a few weeks, we are able to see if our pursuit is self-sustaining. If it is a business, this could be increasing cash-flows or sales. If it is cooking, the measure could be how we have gotten better at cooking a few dishes, or how many more tasty dishes we have in our repertoire. Once a habit is established, patterns emerge with time. These patterns are more revealing than passing whims and fancies.

The advantages:

  1. Discernment: We learn to differentiate between pursuits that are a passing fad and ones that we really care about, based on how well we can keep at them
  2. Building skill: We steadily build skill in the chosen pursuit, along the way
  3. Lowering risk: By dedicating a small amount of time regularly, we do not risk drastic actions like throwing away a good job
  4. Steering power: Once we have invested sufficiently in pursuing something, it can be easier to change the status-quo

A regular habit helps us to make decisions about our future by using the present moment to test them out. The consequences of doing so are beneficial either way – finding something more fulfilling than our current pursuit or to rediscovering the real value of what we currently do.

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