This is a letter for that person who feels stuck in life and feels hopeless. That person who doesn’t know if life will get better. That person who’s been trying to make a change for so long, but hasn’t been able to.
If that’s you, you’re not alone and I’m writing this to you.
To my friend,
I know things have been tough lately. Every day feels the same and you want to scream from the top of your lungs because it sucks. Every day you feel like you’re on a downward spiral. You just hope that your life starts to change real soon. Thoughts of suicide have crossed your mind because then you wouldn’t feel like this anymore, but just know there is much more to life than you have now.
It does get better if you want it to.
I was once you. I searched for what was the one thing I was supposed to do with my life. I was looking for a career not just a job. I thought by the time I graduated college I was supposed to know. When I turned 30 I still had no idea and wondered what was the heck wrong with me. I felt like if I knew what I wanted to do with my life everything would be better. Everything else would fall into place. I’d get married, have a nice house, have kids, and live happily ever after. Once I discovered what IT was, that’s what I’d be doing for the rest of my life. That’s how life goes, right?
I’ve learned that life doesn’t have to be about finding that one thing you’re meant to do and then do it forever. Some people do find that one thing and dedicate their whole lives because they love it. I’ve realized that isn’t for me at this moment. I am done searching for it too.
To me life is about exploring everything out there. It’s trying different things and putting more attention on certain ones. There’s so much out there that it’d be a shame to not have more than one interest. Is what I’m doing now what I’ll be doing forever? No, but I’ve found something that I enjoy at this moment. I know new opportunities will present itself and my need for a new challenge will come along. Who knows what I’ll be doing five years from now, but for now, I like what I do and have stopped searching for the meaning of life.
If you don’t know what you want to do with your life, it’s okay! The answer doesn’t come to you at a specific time. Some find it when they’re a child. Others discover it after they’ve had three children. Some go through ten different jobs before finding one that is right for them. It doesn’t matter if you’re 21, 41 or anywhere in between. It’s never too late to start going for what you want. Even if someone is 41, they’re still pretty young. The average life expectancy for an American is 78.5 years. At 41, you’ve only lived 52% of your life. That’s it. You still have 48% of your life left to do what makes you truly happy. That’s still a lot of time.
However a better life isn’t going to be found watching television, keeping up with Honey Boo-Boo or the Kardashians, mindlessly surfing the internet, or checking Facebook every five minutes. It’s not found sitting on the couch after work every night or drinking your sorrows away every weekend with your buddies. Your life won’t improve if you constantly feel sorry for yourself or rely on others to make it better for you.
Nor is a better life going to happen instantly. We’re used to wanting everything quicker. We want to reach our destination as fast as possible. We want our internet speeds to be lightening quick. We want our food fast. This obsession with speeds translates to the results we want. Marketers know that so they blast us with headlines like “Make money quick!” or “Lose weight fast and easy!”
Your life isn’t going to change by clicking your heels together. I had always hoped it would be that easy! I wanted it to be like the movies. My rise from the lowest point in my life to the top would be in under 2 hours and I’d get the girl at the end. There is no quick fix in the real world. I hate to break it to you, but you’re not going to lose all the weight you want in two weeks and keep it off forever. You’re not going to forever eliminate years of bad habits in a month. You’re not going to have $100,000 in a year if your bank account only has $100 now. You’re not going to build an online business making $1,000 a week working only four hours with no skills and no money to start.
So what will it take? I know you don’t want to hear it, but it’s going to take one day at a time. You need to start making deliberate choices and stop sleepwalking through life. What’s even worse is you will be doing things you should be doing on a consistent basis and you’re not going to see any results or feel any different. I know that’s frustrating. This is where most people quit. They feel the work they’re putting in is a waste of time. They quit the gym after a month. They stop selling after only a few sales. So they quit and go back to their average life and continue to blame and point fingers at others for their misery.
I don’t want that to be you. Okay? When you’re doing the right things, keep doing it. Small consistent actions over time will produce tremendous results. Anything you truly want in your life isn’t going to come easy. It’s how life works. Life is testing you to see how bad you want it. It’ll weed out the weak ones and only the determined will survive and be handsomely rewarded.
What if you don’t know how to do what you want to do? It’s very easy. Open up a new tab in your browser and go to Google.com. There will probably be 1,809,384,908 results, but start at the beginning. Whatever it is you want to achieve has very likely been done by someone else.
Another solution is to go to Amazon.com. I bet anything you want to learn has been written about. Buy a book, read it, and apply what you learn. Don’t just read it and put it away. Highlight the heck out of that book too. So when you need to go back , you’ll have the most important parts highlighted.
If you don’t want to spend money on a book, go to your local library. Haven’t been there since college? It looks the same, but instead of cute young co-eds, it’s mostly going to be older people reading the free magazines. That’s okay cause you will be looking for books. Find books on what you want to learn how to do. Don’t highlight in them though, but do take notes.
There are a bunch of free and paid resources online where you can learn. Check out free podcasts on iTunes. Take a course on Udemy.com.
However, I think you actually don’t need any more information. You know everything you should be doing, but you just haven’t done it.
Why not? Here is my guess.
You’re waiting for that magical moment, a burst of motivation, the right time, the right person, the right day, more money, or next year. You’re waiting for someone to tell you it’s okay to start. You’re waiting for more knowledge. You want to be perfect before you even begin.
Let me use a quote by Jim Carrey from the Cable Guy to sum up my point, “He who hesitates, masturbates.”
The guy eyeing the cute girl is definitely be going home alone if he practices the conversation in his head, waits for the right moment to go, waits for confidence, has another beer, rehearses what will say again, checks his breath, and waits for her friends to leave. By then he’ll hesitate for so long he’ll reject himself before even trying.
That’s like life too. The longer you wait the longer you go back to your regular life of the same old shit.
It’s okay if something you want to do is not a priority right now. Maybe you’ve got a lot going on already. Just adding more stuff to do spreads yourself thin. At least you’re doing something you truly want and not just sitting around twirling your thumbs. (Reorganizing your desk to avoid doing what you need to do doesn’t count as having a lot going on either.)
If you know you should be doing it, but you’re not then that’s a different story. I can’t come over there and knock on your door to make sure you start. Nor can I constantly be looking over your shoulder to make sure you’re not on Facebook again or looking at pictures of cute dogs. Your parents aren’t going to tell you either. I bet you’d rather NOT have your parents tell you what to do anymore. You’re an adult now and it’s time to grow up and make your own decisions. Your girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife/partner is there to support you (I hope), but they’re not going to be able to do it for you. If you want to get into shape, they can’t do your pushups for you.
The person that is going to be responsible for everything you want to create in your life is that face you see in the mirror every single day. It’s that good looking face you see. It’s the one who had big hopes and dreams, but got lost after years of self-doubt and trying to making others happy. The one with so much potential waiting to be unleashed. When you need to be reminded who’s gonna save your life, look at yourself in the mirror. Nobody else will so stop looking around.
No amount of reading, thinking, hoping, and praying is going to help you. It’s more about doing, failing, adjusting, believing, and doing again.
Who cares if you fail? It’s not the end of the world. If you fail at least you tried. However this is very important. Don’t begin with the attitude that you will fail because you’re just setting yourself up to fail. You won’t try that hard and when you do fail you’ll say to yourself, “I was right.”
There isn’t one person who’s had success in life who hasn’t failed at all. Successful people take risks. Sometimes they work out and sometimes they don’t. They don’t let their failures define them. If they move on and find success, no one’s going to remember the failures.
And don’t wait for luck either. Luck is an awesome thing, but if you’re waiting for luck to come you’re going to be waiting a long time. By that time, you’ll feel lucky to just wake up every morning.
Luck happens to people who do the work to create the opportunity, then take advantage of it when it finds them. Once you start taking massive action on your life, luck will come find you.
You’re not unlucky in life either despite what you believe. You’ve just made a series of poor choices which seemed so tiny at the time, but have compounded to crappy results. Then your belief is that you’re unlucky so that’s what you’ll keep brining into your life.
You can start to change that immediately by believing the world is doing great things for you and you can’t wait to see what they are. Seriously you should say that to yourself every day and believe it. It’s true! Why is the world out to do you harm? It’s not. It’s an equal opportunity employer. It doesn’t discriminate. It’s filled with everything you want, but you have to go look for it. With that positive attitude, you’re going to find a $10 bill on the ground while the unlucky person will walk right by it.
I know you told me you’re busy and you don’t have much time to do anything. I bet you do have some time during your day. Take a look at what unproductive activities you do. Are you checking email five times an hour? Do you have ten browsing tabs open? Do you take a quick peek at social media and end up spending thirty minutes? What do you do at nights? Can you wake up earlier? Think about outsourcing some tasks. I know you can find time during the day. We all have the same 24 hours yet there are people who can do more in one day than some in one month.
Again, go to Google or read a book about how you can increase your productivity. There are so many different systems out there. You just have to try it out until you find one that is the right fit for you. It’s like dating but much easier to break up with if you’re not pleased.
Don’t worry about what’s going to happen either when you start on your dreams. Fear stops so many from doing what they should be doing. Anything you do that’s new is going to have some level of fear because you don’t know how it will turn out. What usually happens is you imagine all these worst case scenarios in your mind.
Nothing you imagine in your mind is going to be as bad as what might actually happen. Our minds have some vivid imaginations and does a great job of creating wacky scenarios. Have you ever woke up from the weird dreams? Of course you have. Crazy mind at work. Don’t believe it.
Instead try and think best case scenarios. What would happen if you achieved your goals? How would your life look every day? How would you feel? How much money would you be earning? What type of people would you be surrounded be? Where would you go on vacation? How great would life finally be?
If you think about the unknown that way, you’ll feel more inspired and motivated to do it.
Isn’t that kind of life worth trying for? I know for me it’s worth the risk, hard work, and sacrficies. It hasn’t been all easy either. All those people you want to be like haven’t had it all easy. You see the success. That’s what you want. There’s a million things that went on behind the scenes. You don’t know that they thought about quitting many times. You don’t know how many rejections they had. Some may have even gone bankrupt but still found success later on.
You know what else? They were beginners at one point. They didn’t know everything. They’ve messed up along the way. They may have been unsure what the future held for them, but what they did have was belief. They felt so certain about what they wanted to do that no matter what got in their way they did it. Walt Disney, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs could have quit many times from all the people who told them they were crazy with their big ideas. They’ve had failures. They’ve had massive rejections. History doesn’t focus on that. We just remember their achievements.
Your goals may not be as big as creating a theme park or building a device that changes our lives and that’s okay. As long as it comes from you. Not just a goal that seems interesting, but one that keeps you up at night. A goal that consumes your soul and you’d be willing to do anything to achieve it. Don’t set a goal that someone else wants you to do either. You’re not going to be excited about it and if you do achieve it, you’re going to hate life more and more with every passing day.
Whatever you want to achieve in life isn’t meaningless. If you want to be an expert on butterflies that’s great. Everyone has a place in this world and it needs some experts in butterflies. That can be you! I just don’t want you to think your goals are silly. They are your goals so they are serious. Whatever your goal is, I know if you achieved it, it would be like winning the lottery. I know that’s how you’d feel. So there aren’t any silly goals.
If you told me your goals, I’d treat you like a little child who thinks anything is possible. I will say it sounds great and you can do it because that’s what I believe. Why else would I say otherwise? I’m not here to crush your dreams. Who am I to belittle them? They are your dreams. Not mine. I want to see people doing what they love. When more people are, it makes the world a better place.
Our lives aren’t pre-determined. People who only knew about poverty as a child have become billionaires. While other people, who were born in million dollar mansions, have grown up addicted to drugs and in and out of jail. So get rid of that belief. Whatever your life is like now isn’t what it will be like if you have any control over it and guess what? You do! You have so much power and you don’t even know it. Your lack of skill and natural ability can be made up with hard work and determination.
If I asked you how bad do you want it a better life, what will you say? You might say you really do, but do you really? Are you willing to make that commitment?
In the book The Element, author Ken Robinson recalls a story that put into perspective his level of commitment. After listening to his brother perform in a band one night, Ken complimented the extremely talented keyboard player named Charles.
Then I said that I’d love to be able to play keyboards that well. “No, you wouldn’t,” he responded. Taken aback, I insisted that I really would. “No,” he said. “You mean you like the idea of playing keyboards. If you’d love to play them, you’d be doing it.”
Charles practiced every day for three or four hours in addition to performing. He’d been doing that since he was seven. That’s why he played so well. Suddenly, Ken felt that playing the keyboards that well didn’t seem so appealing.
Liking the idea and being committed are two completely different things.
People who like the idea of making money online, just read about making money online. Committed ones put what they learn into action. The idea of a writing for a living sounds good to many. Committed ones live and breath writing. The idea of losing 20 sounds great. The committed ones actually do it.
What happens now after you read this letter is up to you. You can put it away, continue with what you were previously doing, and forget you read this. Or you can re-read it and let the words really sink in and take a deeper look at yourself and wonder if what you’re doing now is right for you. Is it leading you on the path where you want to go? Are you making the right daily choices? Will you have a life full of regret when you’re on your deathbed?
You can do something about it. You always have a choice. It doesn’t matter what happened before. What’s important is what happens from this moment on. It’s time to draw a line in the sand and separate the old you from the new you.
So quit your excuses, your pity party, your complaining, and finger pointing and start to do something. Life moves pretty fast. You’re not going to achieve everything at one time, but focus on just one area of your life and work on changing it to the way you want first.
You’re responsible for everything in your life and because of that power you can have the life you’ve always dreamed of.
P.S. If you enjoyed this, you will enjoy my other letters:
- A Letter to Those Who are Living in the Past and Haven’t Let Go
- A Letter to Those Who Don’t Believe in Themselves
Photo credit Manoj Kengudelu