Embracing space for new choices

One area in my life that I try to work on is making sure that I am happy with what I am doing. Not that every moment needs to be fun and entertaining, but seeking to spend my time in a way that is aligned with who I want to be as a person. This of course assumes that I know what I stand for as a person, which is also something I find myself contemplating as well. But, generally there are a few things I aim for: I know that I want to be a good father and husband, provide for my family, cultivate meaningful relationships, be healthy both spiritually and physically, and use my skills in a way that contributes to society.

If you find yourself spending your time in a way that does not support who you want to be as a person, there is a fundamental tension in your existence since your actions don't support your authentic goals. They can either be completely unaligned, or only partially aligned. It is, of course, somewhat of a balancing act to accomplish. However, to whatever degree it exists, this tension can be a source of great unhappiness and really impact your state of mind. This in turn, cascades to many other parts of your life as well.

I am no stranger to this pattern: I have certain fear- and insecurity-based compulsions that drive me to relentlessly pursue things for reasons that have nothing to do with my authentic goals. For example, concerns over status, wealth, and prestige are things that can grip me from time to time, and when that happens, I often find myself doing things that make me pretty miserable. And once ensnared, it is especially hard to let go, especially if I seem to be succeeding at it. Sometimes I've heard this situation called the "golden handcuffs", which kind of makes sense. You have chosen a kind of trap.

Letting go in these or other situations can be difficult, if not downright terrifying, and you can find yourself stagnant in this state for a long time. You may one day choose to make a change, or life may simply force the situation for you, but either way, it can be scary. But it's really the only way things can get better on a fundamental level, and you can start looking for and engaging with life in a way that supports who you want to be. Not that you have to be reckless or irresponsible about it, but certainly, try to be open, seek and evaluate new opportunities that fit your authentic goals as a human being.

Not so many years ago, I was working solely as an independent, earning money mostly doing freelance projects. Things were fine, but the work wasn't terribly rewarding, and the hours were long. But I did have some flexibility and freedom in how and where I worked, which I did value, so things were ok. But after a while, I decided that what I really needed to do was to grow my operation into something bigger; that way the company could make more money and generate bigger, more serious work. So I found partners, and we grew the team to 8 people, and found a lot more work. Some measure of succes, to be sure. However, I still wasn't terribly happy, the work still wasn't very fulfilling, and the hours were still quite long. The only difference was I had just invested a lot more into the effort and increased responsibility to the team I had created to support it. After a while, a combination of circumstances forced us to disband the business after a couple of years.

It was emotionally quite a draining time; I had felt like I had failed and everything I had spent building for quite a few years totally unraveled, which was discouraging. However, now several years later, I have realized a few things: first, while I thought my efforts were in line with my goals, they were not. I was working more towards financial success, and it was suffocating my true concerns, and I was suffering and unhappy as a result. Second, since that venture ended, I have felt a new found freedom that I hadn't felt in a truly long time, and it created space in my life to do more things that I had been really missing: I've found a new martial art to practice and a whole bunch of great people in that community (BJJ!), I've helped (and joined) several startups with great missions, and I've found freelance work with new bunch of folks working with an amazing non-profit that has been incredibly rewarding on many fronts.

Life is undeniably much better as a result of that previous project failing. That failure created room for new opportunities to arise that really were much better aligned with who I wanted to be as a person. So, if you find yourself in that position, take a breath. In that chasm of the unknown lies the endless possibility of new opportunities.


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