Wait, free guac and self discovery!?
What if there were a way you could explore dozens of different career paths, degrees, and daily routines to figure out what you liked best? What if instead of spending an entire career doing something you were pretty good at but didn’t particularly enjoy, you could spend a week asking yourself the hard questions and then immediately start on your dream job? What if you could discover a way to immediately start doing something you were absolutely thrilled to work on every day? (and, of course, what if you could also get free guacamole whenever you wanted?)
Here’s what you’ll get from this post:
- The keys to living a happy, fulfilled life.
- Little tricks to quickly learn about yourself and what you want.
- Tools for handling negative emotions that come up as you grow.
- Common mistakes to avoid.
- Ways to love leaving your comfort zone.
- Five steps to start right now and work toward your dream job today.
- How-to-get free guacamole PDF.
- Downloadable/printable extra questions and tips to keep learning.
- Main Point: You’re an awesome adventurer who is learning and growing every day. You’ll do your best if you learn from your failures and share your journey with everyone around you. Let your friends help you figure out your goals and work toward them.
The blue outline section below has links to each topic so that if this page reloads while you read it on your phone you can click instead of scrolling forever.
This post takes 20-30 minutes to read straight through, 2 minutes to skim. If you’re in a huge hurry, scroll to the outline and click on the section you’re most interested in, or bookmark this page and come back tomorrow. Figuring out your purpose is usually a bit more than a half hour process, but I’m not into wasting time. This post covers it all. It’s carefully cut and edited so every phrase is helpful.
These are the tools that have helped me most on my journey to live a life of purpose, and I only stumbled on most of them by sheer luck. They are not mine, but they don’t belong to any one person or source. There are hundreds of thousands of techniques, frameworks, and guides for finding your purpose. These are the steps I still use regularly in my journey. This post is a practical summary of the ideas of much wiser people recycled and made simple and applicable as best I know how. This post is for absolutely anyone, at any age or stage of life. Please share it freely. If anyone comes to mind when you read this post, just text them a link to mora.co/FreeGuac
Again, if you’re in a hurry, take 2 minutes to read the parts in bold and the recap sections. If you like what you skim, set aside half an hour sometime this week to sit down and read it for real. If you don’t like it, that’s why I gave you a way to skim!
How did this blog come about? “Why Guac & Purpose!?” you ask, grasping for how those two concepts could possibly fit together. Well, I recently polled Facebook for blog ideas. “How to get free guac at Chipotle” won, and here we are. I’m gonna tell you how to do that, but we’ll get to that later.
Why am I also writing about how to find out what you want to do? In order to write something I’m interested in (no offense to guacamole), I weighed people’s answers to my Facebook poll with my own interests at the moment. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to determine what is worth doing professionally. I recently had the opportunity to watch several family members and close friends find jobs in industries which make them happy. Watching several people go through the process of self discovery, opportunity finding, and job acquisition shaped my thoughts and helped me prepare to write this post.
The difference between people who know what they want to do and people who don’t is surprisingly simple. It all comes down to a few ideas and one or two daily practices. I’m going to try to give you those in an easy-to-understand and immediately applicable way in the next 25ish minutes. You should let me know how I did in a comment at the end, especially if you’re not usually the type to leave a comment.
Before we jump in, I’ll say this: Don’t worry about anything in this article unless you’re going to choose to have fun doing it. You can worry about what to do with your life for your whole life, and even when you figure it out the problem will still be the same: You’re worrying. Worrying never changes anything. This post is about changing things, so worry won’t serve you here. Having fun will. I had fun writing this post, and I want you to have fun reading it. That’s why there are plenty of pretty pictures, recaps, clearly labeled sections, reviews, and a bunch of practical tools.
(If worrying is a thing you’d like to do less of, look up “How To Stop Worrying and Start Living.” by Dale Carnegie. I just finished it, it’s fantastic.)
Free Guac PDF
(life-changing and free)
If you want the free guac PDF but don’t want to be on the only once-a-month mailing list of new blog posts, you can unsubscribe right away when you get the email. I salute your craftiness. You’re an inspiration.
If you’re only here for the free guac, I’ve made a PDF you can keep on your phone or in your email account that details exactly what you can do today to get guacamole without parting with your hard-earned cash. In fact, I’ve found ways you can prioritize guacamole over almost anything else in life and get paid to eat guacamole, and they’re all included in the PDF. The PDF is free, just like your Guacamole will be soon. You can thank me after you get “Professional Guacamole Connoisseur” business cards printed. If you want the PDF and none of the reading below, just tell me where to send it and hit “Free Guac, Now!”
If you’re here to read (yay!), don’t worry, there’s another chance to get your free guac PDF at the end of the post.
For some context, here’s the outline for the whole post:
- There are simple ideas, tools, and daily practices which can help you figure out what you want to do.
- These tools should be available to everyone. If you agree, please share this post – mora.co/FreeGuac
- Outline (you are here)
- Selfishness is Awesome
Make self development your first priority. Start now. If you don’t do this, none of the other steps work. Looking out for yourself is the only way to sustainably help other people.
- What’s Better Than Learning From Your Own Mistakes?
Learning from mistakes someone else already made, of course. As you begin to figure out what you want, surround yourself with those you admire and ask questions. Avoid learning from your own mistakes if you can learn others’ experiences instead. If you can’t surround yourself with the actual people you admire, at least regularly read or watch their ideas.
- You Suck At Trying New Things
It’s okay, everyone does. Routine is easy, so here’s how to actively pursue as many new ideas and experiences as possible and have a blast doing it. Reading this post is a good first step.
- You Don’t Know Yourself, But I Know Who Does!
Find out what the overused “networking” buzzword actually means. Then use that network to get to know yourself better with a few surprising questions.
- Feeling Bad Is An Advantage
Once you’ve determined what you want, use this one simple practice to turn negative emotions into a tool or guide. We all naturally tend to ignore things that are uncomfortable, but now you can utilize bad feelings instead of neglecting them.
- Finding Out What You Want To Do Is A Lifestyle
Asking “What do I want to do?” is not something you figure out once. It’s a repeatable process, and you should repeat it every three to six months.
- The Importance Of Daily Practice: Five Steps To Start Now
Turn your goals into daily practices so you can easily tell whether or not you’re making progress every day. ¡¡¡PLUS FREE GUAC!!!
- Whole Post Review
- Bonus Steps
Selfishness is Awesome.
“When you stop doing things for fun, you’d might as well be dead.”
– Ernest Hemingway
Before we dive in to the practice of figuring out what you want to do, I want to clarify the importance of making your own personal fulfillment a priority. The first comment I get whenever I talk to people about doing what they love in life is something like “What’s the virtue in doing what you want all the time? People need to learn that sometimes you’ve got to keep your head down and work hard! Not everyone is lucky enough to do what they love.”
If you think that, I admire your dedication to doing hard work for its own sake. Unfortunately for employers, not everyone is so loyal and dedicated. You may have noticed in school that a surprising majority of people do as little as necessary to get a passing grade. “Passing” may be an A for some and a C for others, but everyone naturally optimizes for the least work to get an acceptable result. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just how we naturally handle things we don’t love. When I got my first (and second, and third) job, I was surprised that there are a number of people who take the same attitude to the work place: Do as little as you can get away with because you’re getting paid for your time anyway. Dedicated, loyal workers are the exception to the rule because employees and students are very rarely aligned with the purpose of their organization.
As an example, I was recently talking to a Sociology professor about game design in the classroom (a topic for another blog post). He had a very clear grasp of the attitude gap between students and professors. He said “Students come to class and have to figure out how to optimize the amount of effort they put in to pass because they are worried about five other classes. Professors come into class with this idealistic ‘We all love learning!’ attitude and forget that their students aren’t there for the joy of it. They are there to get a degree without dying of homework.” The same applies to people who don’t personally care about the work they are doing for their company. Either way, no number of rants about “keeping your head down and working hard” will inspire everyone to work hard for something they don’t love.
What does get results is this: Holding out for work that you love. You’re not going to slack if you care about the work you’re doing. If your work is so personally fulfilling that you lose track of time doing it, you’re not worried about a promotion or hours on the clock. You’re happy. That’s why I think it’s important for employees and companies to seek value alignment. It’s not about being “lucky enough to love your work.” Find work that makes you come alive. Your employer and your soul will both thank you later.
At one point I heard a story (I don’t remember where, probably in an M. Scott Peck book) about a nation-wide poll of military professionals. They were all asked to list their priorities in order of importance. What do you think the most successful people in our nation’s military listed as their first priority? Country? God? Family? Discipline? Nope. Themselves. Those who focused on their own needs and personal development were able to effectively serve more people.
Hopefully, as you read and implement the steps in rest of this post, you won’t feel guilty or bad for being focused on your own development. Selfishness is not inherently bad. Looking out for yourself is the best way to help other people. You can’t very well care for anyone else if you come home exhausted from work you hate, or if you’re broke and homeless because you can’t find a job. If you really want to do awesome stuff, you’ve got to unapologetically take care of yourself first so you can be better equipped to take care of everything else.
Now that you’re confident about selfish altruism, I need you to do me a small favor: Get out a note pad or text editor. You don’t have to write anything yet, you just have to get something to write on, that’s all. Make the choice right now that you’re going to purposefully grow as your read this post. You don’t have to take notes or anything, just get out a notepad. I’ll tell you what to write later on.
I know how easy it is to just keep reading and not make any changes. If you really want to figure out what to do with your life you’ve got to start taking yourself seriously instead of just pretending that you can read this post now and do the work later. It will only take 5 or 10 minutes more, but it might just change your life.
“Who is the happier man, he who braved the storm of life and lived, or he who stayed secure on shore and merely existed?”
– Hunter S. Thompson
- There’s no virtue in doing work you hate, even if you force yourself to do it well.
- You’ll do your best work if you love what you do. You’ll be a better, more loving person to your family and friends if you come home each day from work that fulfills your personal ambitions and brings you joy.
- Time passes whether or not you make an effort to get your life together, so you might as well figure out what is worth doing now as opposed to later. Take this post seriously the first time you read it and you’ll get incredible results.
- If you haven’t opened a notebook or word document yet, you might as well stop reading this post now. You won’t get anything from it if you’re not going to participate, and I don’t want to waste your time. Cool? Cool.
What’s Better Than Learning From Your Own Mistakes?
As you start getting some ideas for what you might want to do, the biggest mistake you can make is spending time trying those things out for yourself. You’ll end up in the wrong places doing the wrong things trying to learn your own lessons. Instead, learn from other people! Almost everything you could want to do has already been tried. Don’t just blindly jump in if you can ask people who’ve been there to avoid making the same mistakes.
The age-old advice is just “Try anything and see what works!” I’ve seen lots of peers declare majors just because of a vague passing interest in a certain field without realizing that they didn’t really want to become career experts in that field. Many people who want to speak a language fluently sign up for a language major in college. Two years later they get bowled over by literature homework in their Junior year. At that point it feels too late to switch lanes and they end up doing something that makes them miserable (and getting a degree in it! talk about a bummer).
Many decide to just “try out” a career they aren’t really that happy with “for a couple years” to see if it’s a good fit or to “get experience.” Don’t get me wrong, this is a totally valid and surprisingly effective way to learn what you do not want to do. The problem is that it takes a really long time. Okay, a few years isn’t really significant in the big picture, but several years (or even several months) is a really long time to figure out what you want to do with your life compared to a week of asking questions! First hand experience can only expose you to one or two paths at a time, but learning from the experiences of others can fast-track your progress.
Which would you rather do? Find out that junior or senior classes in your major are a total nightmare, or ask several upperclassmen/recent graduates what their experience is like?
Unfortunately, most people never get around to asking questions (or never think to). With the first-hand approach I described above, most people end up choosing a career when the momentum of the career they’re already in finally outweighs the inconvenience of switching tracks. It seems obvious that this is not the most efficient or effective way to end up doing something you really love. Unfortunately the alternatives aren’t so obvious, especially because everybody seems to do things this way.
I asked these questions at the beginning of the post, but let’s take a look at them again now: What if there were a way you could explore dozens of different career paths, degrees, and daily routines to figure out what you liked best? What if instead of spending an entire career doing something you were pretty good at but didn’t particularly enjoy, you could spend a week asking yourself the hard questions and then immediately start on your dream job? What if you could discover a way to immediately start doing something you were absolutely thrilled to work on every day?
Questions are the way. If you want to start a non-profit to help a certain endangered animal, talk to people who have already done something similar. If you dream of starting an education program for young children, interview kid’s art program directors, elementary school principals, and more! If you want to play soccer professionally, interview professional soccer players who started at your age or older! Ask them what they would do next if they were you. Hearing their stories will help you start making your own way.
If you do nothing else after reading this section, start reading biographies. Pick out one that looks partially interesting to you, and read the first chapter or even just the first page today. That’s an easy and very effective place to start.
- Spend 20% of your effort for 80% of the results by asking questions. That’s what I learned from The Four Hour Workweek (where “work” is defined as “anything you want to do less of” – so the book focuses on helping you spend the other 164 hours of your week doing stuff you love.)
- Choose to consciously examine your options every day and ask tons of questions from people who have already been where you want to go instead of learning slowly from personal experience.
- Do the things that will get you where you want to be as fast as possible and with as little wasted time as possible so that you can make the most of every day.
How To Try New Things.
“If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it.”
– Harvey Mackay
“Steve, I know how to try new things,” you say. To that I say: This isn’t about just trying new things once. This is about making exploring a habit, and becoming an adventurer. Being “open to new experiences” is an active, daily choice. This section will guide you through several reasons to start making that choice.
Some of you have a very strong idea of what you want to do already. (Hooray!) You might be a little taken aback when I tell you to go explore opportunities outside your area of expertise. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “suspend your disbelief” or “keep an open mind” you need to do that now. This means trying out an idea before criticizing it or deciding it won’t work for you. I think this quote sums it up best:
“If you do one thing, you can get really good at it. If you do two things you’re just very very busy. If you do 3-5 things, you’re never busy and each pursuit makes you better at all the rest.”
-Ryan Holiday (Author, Marketer, Philosopher, Blogger, and Speaker.)
When talking to people who have either been extraordinarily successful or had particularly long careers, there’s always one common theme in their advice: Be radically open to new experiences. What do they mean by radically open? They mean to make a goal of actively leaving your comfort zone. Make a habit of ditching what you should do in favor of pursuing your curiosity or going on adventures, even if you’re scared to break your routine. When your obligations start becoming things that fascinate you, you know you’re on the right track.
Why is exploration such a universal recommendation? Because breaking your routine the simplest way to find new ideas, and exposure to new ideas helps you think creatively. Unless an adventure might prevent you from having other opportunities in the future (breaking the law, potentially hurting yourself, getting fired, or failing class), you will find your passions faster if you actively seek out chances to break your routine, go where you don’t belong, and explore new pastimes.
In fact, I’ve never met anyone who is happy because they turned down unusual opportunities at some time in their life. Everyone regrets not exploring more. No one ever looks back thankful that they watched TV all evening, spent all their nights in doing homework, or got a good night’s sleep. Instead, people remember the opportunities that changed the way they thought about the world and got them out of their routine. Go on an adventure today.
What do I mean when I say go on adventures? Let me give you some examples. Not only are the memories from urban exploring and bike rides in college some of the best stories I have, but the skills I learned exploring hotels with my roommate in college actually directly contributed to the poise and confidence which recently helped me walk into a room of millionaires during a conference and make friends instead of just freaking out (which is how I felt). Similarly, I made a point to go out several weekends on my own when I lived in overseas and force myself to meet new people (something I suggest you do wherever you live). I never suspected that I would be more comfortable meeting people professionally because of some asinine exploring and clubbing I did for fun in college, but openness to new experiences gave me those skills.
My dad and I discussed all this over coffee one afternoon as I was first writing this post. He said he jumped at opportunities to be an AV geek in high school and take computer classes early in life (before computer engineering was ever a career field). No one thought those would be useful skills later on. They just sounded fun to him. They gave him something new and fascinating to explore. You can never predict what skills will be useful later on, but if you make learning odd things a priority in your life, you’ll have a wider base of knowledge than anyone else competing for the same jobs. Many people I know have careers they love now that they didn’t even know existed when they picked their college degree.
For example, any moment now someone will hire me because I can unicycle and play the didgeridoo. I just know it. Annnyyyy moment.
Be careful not to pass up anything because you’re “not good at it” or you’re “not really into it” – I’m the least-into-clubbing person you’ll ever meet, but that’s why dancing and being outgoing was such an awesome growing experience for me. The same applies for painting or learning how to code. What you learn about yourself as you practice drawing well will apply to every other area in your life in ways you can’t imagine.
As I’ve hinted at already, the best way to grow is to make adventuring a daily practice. I happen to know a very talented illustrator. More often than not when people see her art the first thing they say is “Wow, I wish I could do that!” If you’re a visual artist, you’re likely pretty familiar with this response. She handles this gracefully, but in private we like to rant at each other about how much more important daily practice is than “talent.” She knows that the only reason she’s fantastic at illustration is because she’s been drawing since she was an infant. I’m pretty vocal about the fact that the only reason I ever take any good pictures is because I literally take thousands a week. When you do something every day you might be surprised at how quickly you develop a sense for how to do it well.
If you want to be a great creative thinker who comes up with incredible professional paths for yourself, make a small daily habit of going on adventures and saying yes to opportunities.
“We can all agree that the unexamined life is not worth living, but if all you’re doing is examining, you’re not living!”
– Adam Leipzig
- Everyone wishes that they were more open to new experiences. Adventurousness is a lifestyle choice you can remind yourself to make every morning. We’ll turn it into a daily practice in the five steps below.
- You can learn anything. Practice matters more than talent. Be willing to turn your goals and dreams into small daily activities and you’ll make progress faster than anyone with “natural talent.”
Who You Are Depends On Who You Know
Many people try to think about what they want to do in order to figure it out. Unfortunately, your mind is a bit of a closed system. Over-thinking is nothing more than frustrating, and as you may already know it gets you nowhere. Instead, have conversations to get access to new thoughts and find clarity faster. Here are some ideas for how to engage the people around you to get fresh new ideas about who you are, what you want, what you’re good at, and what careers you might want to pursue.
About two years ago a friend suggested I read a book by David Brooks called The Social Animal. It’s a beautifully written story and at the same time a technically rich look at human relationship dynamics. From that book I learned that identity grows out of social interaction. This means who I am depends on the people from whom I learn and the people with whom I surround myself. I don’t necessarily have as much influence over the direction of my life as I’d like to think, but I do have control over who I hang out with. So in order to lead a life I love, I surround myself with people who do stuff I admire.
Who you are depends a great deal on your choices of friends. This is why the cliche warning about “falling in with wrong crowd” exists. Similarly, what you do depends on what you think is possible.
This idea can help you find out what you want to do in several ways.
- You can ask the people who know you best, “how do you see me?”
- You can surround yourself with people you admire and reap the benefits automatically.
- You can ask for small favors from people you know and their networks to accelerate your progress by leaps and bounds.
Each of these will save you a ton of time and confusion in your own life. Let’s look at each approach in detail now.
Learn About Yourself From People Who Know You
“If you know the why, you can live any how.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
It’s absolutely essential to have a firm grasp on why you do what you do. Knowing your purpose will help you differentiate between opportunities you might want to seriously pursue and those to which you can say no. Surprisingly, you can learn a lot about who you are and why you do what you do from your friends.
If you’ve never asked your best friends what they admire most about you or why they’re friends with you, you should try it. Does it sound a little vain? Totally. Will it blow your mind when you learn things you never knew but always suspected about yourself from those answers? Definitely. It’s worth it. If you try it, just tell your friends you’re doing a self-development course and you need the answers within the next 24 hours if possible.
I’ll give you some example questions and a simple way to transform the answers you get into a self-discovery process in the five steps at the end of this post. Finding your “why” and learning about your unique talents and the effect you have on people can be one of the most significant steps in figuring out what you want to do. Make sure to pay close attention to the five steps, and then download the “free guac” PDF if you really want to take this further. It will include instructions and links to other resources for helping you continue this process.
Clarify What You Want By Directly Asking People Who Already Have It
As you’re trying out different ideas of what you want to do with your life, it can help to email people who have already succeeded at those things and ask them directly how they got there and how they like it. Making sure to learn and take advice from five people you want to be most like will help you figure out what you really want to do.
For example, I never realized how much I didn’t actually fancy being a professional journalist or photographer until I interviewed several journalists and photographers my junior year of college. This is why I emphasize talking to people who have actually done what you think you might want to do. This goes hand in hand with the advice you already read in section two about learning from others’ mistakes.
Use mentorship (which is just a fancy word for asking questions of people you look up to) as a way to clear insurmountable obstacles and learn important life lessons without having to make common mistakes first hand.
Make Faster Progress By Asking For Help
As you’re interviewing successful people, make sure to also let your network of friends and family know what you think you might want to do. Many of the people you know have connections all over the world, and they will be happy to help if you put your goals out there. Letting people know you want to do things is often the most important step in actually getting things done.
Here are two stories about how easy it is to reach out and radically speed up your own personal development:
One of my close friends recently put off finding a job for about four months. What was the hold up? She wanted a job she loves and she didn’t have any ideas. In about 30 seconds of conversation after the simple question, “What do you think I’d be good at professionally, and how can I get started?” we had figured out three different career paths she loved and practical steps to get started pursuing each. She’s had four interviews since that conversation three days ago, and is now already building her own network of professionals with similar career goals.
Another friend of mine lives across the country but wants a change of scenery and a fresh start in her career. She asked me if I knew anyone who worked in creative agencies in my area. I know two recently employed creative professionals, and so I connected the four of us via Facebook chat. These two had their own networks and ideas, and within several minutes she had dozens of new ideas and a few different possible employers to call.
It really is that easy. Just ask.
- Your future is heavily influenced by your five best friends. In fact, studies show that your salary in five years is likely to be an average of the five people you’re closest to right now.
- If you want to make more money or do big things, get in touch with people who have already succeeded on the path ahead of you.
- If you’re not sure exactly what that path is yet, you can learn a lot about yourself by interviewing people who know you.
- The fastest way to get where you want to go (once you figure that out using the questions above) is to be vocal! Let your friends and family know what you want to do, and ask them for suggestions on how to get there.
- Nothing is likely change if you just send out resumes online. Even less will change if you just sit around and think about jobs or feel bad for not doing anything. If you want to know yourself better or you’re struggling to determine what to do next, ask questions and have conversations.
- One of my favorite sayings is “go where you don’t belong and ask questions.” This mantra is easily the fastest and best way to get outside your comfort zone and grow fast.
Feeling Bad Is An Advantage
“When you pursue your biggest dreams, your greatest fears come up.”
-Dane Maxwell or Andy Drish. Not really sure which one. Probably both have said it at some point, honestly. They run TheFoundation.com, which is a great program. Check it out.
One of the most magnificently freeing things I’ve learned in the last year (thanks in big part to Andy and Dane), is that there’s nothing “bad” about feeling awful. In fact, almost any form of discomfort is more often than not a sign. Most negative emotions come up when you’re doing 80% right, and sabotaging yourself with the other 20%.
If you want to set and achieve goals, learning how to get out of your own way is the most subtle key to success. In this case, our “big goal” is figuring out what you want to do. This can be a huge hurdle for just about anyone (because it’s a big question!) so the most common response is to avoid it altogether. Instead of really finding a process to figure out what they want, or asking questions, most people just apply to a variety of colleges. They end up eventually declaring a major and hoping for the best. When that doesn’t work, there’s always graduate school, right?
While this system of “just do something you find interesting and end up where you end up” has proved good enough for literally millions of people over the last century, anyone who has done it can testify that it’s more than a little scary, and it doesn’t work as consistently as we’d all like. This is why you probably know people who have ended up working jobs they don’t find satisfying after getting degrees that they’re not actually that interested in, right? What if there was a better way?
A Better Way
How do you really find out what you want to do? You take the uncomfortable path: take your own questions seriously. Answer them carefully, honestly, and in writing. Here are the steps to find your own weaknesses and turn them into assets.
Being honest about your failures, shortcomings, and fears can tell you exactly what’s keeping you from figuring things out. Something is keeping you from figuring out what you want to do, and until you know what it is you can’t get out of your own way.
Want to know how? I’m warning you now: This process may make you sad. It might honestly, literally ruin your day, but if you want to discover what’s keeping you from finding your purpose, you’ve gotta go through this process. Don’t worry, it ends in triumph!
A Simple Process For Turning Bad Feelings Into Battle Cries
The process is simple because all you’re doing is making three lists. I’ve included really thorough instructions below, so don’t worry about anything. Here’s the overview: The first list is a list of failures. The second list is a list of negative thoughts that come from those failures. The third is a list of positive ideas derived from the negative thoughts in list two. You’ll answer two questions about each item on the second list to make the third list. Like I said, three lists: Failures, negative thoughts, and positive ideas. The final result is a collection of positive ideas in the form of battle cries to effectively transform your greatest fears and doubts.
Be brutally honest, courageous, and real. You’re the only one who is going to see this, and you’re only going to get out what you put in.
- Write out your failures. Aim for 10-20.
- Write out the negative things you think about yourself because of those failures. Try to get 15 or so, then read them over and narrow them down/rewrite them into 8-12 overarching themes.
- Transform list two’s negative ideas into battle cries by asking “What is the opposite of this limiting thought?” and writing down the answer.
Make each phrase in lists two and three present tense. About who you are, not what you’re doing. Use “I am” instead of “I can” or “I will”
If you want more in-depth instructions on this process, read the next section “long version.”
It’s hard for me to visualize a process like this and just get it. It helps me to be walked through a process, step by step. If the previous section worked great for you, you can scroll on to the examples in the next section, “Your New Superpower.” Otherwise, let’s dive in!
To start, write out everything you’ve tried and failed at in recent memory. There are no wrong answers. If it makes you cringe, awesome. This process should make you bummed out and fairly uncomfortable. Be brutally honest. Don’t make excuses.
Aim for 10-20 failures. Be real with yourself. No one ever has to see this but you. Keep going until you have around 15.
After you’ve written 15 or so failures, start a new list. This time, write out any negative thoughts about yourself that came up while you were making the previous list. Anything at all. Last time I did this mine were along the lines of “I’m a terrible writer. I never finish anything. Nothing I do is worthwhile. I waste too much time.” Yeah, it sucks. You know how they say the truth hurts? Be honest and keep going. Aim for 5 or 10. 15 is even better.
Do this now. I’ll wait here.
Now look at that. Right there in front of you ar-(If you haven’t done it yet, try. It honestly only takes a little while and it can change your life. If you ever want to know your purpose, you’ve got to make a small effort at some point. Start now. You can do this. Do we have a deal?)
*Ahem* Now look at that. Right there in front of you are all the miserable thoughts that are keeping you from figuring out what you really want to do. How are you supposed to think clearly with all that bouncing around in your head? How are you supposed to do anything if you keep telling yourself you can’t? In self development literature these bummer thoughts are often referred to as “limiting beliefs.” They seem true, but they don’t have to be. In fact, there’s something you can do to make them false. You can prove these thoughts wrong! Interested?
Notice how even thinking or writing these thoughts made you feel them. Pretty awful right? So how do we fight this awful feeling? We turn it around on itself.
For each of these, answer two questions. First: “What would my life be like if this wasn’t true?” – that should inspire you.
Use that inspiration to answer the next question: “What is the exact opposite of this negative thought?”
For the second question where you write out an opposite of your limiting belief, make the opposite awesome. You’re not just coming up with opposites, you’re making a battle cry. Make these present tense. Pretend they are already true. If they feel ridiculous, idealistic, untrue, or just silly, you’re doing it right. These should be about the person you wish you were already, not about who you’re becoming. Present tense.
Your New Superpower
“The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human can alter his life by altering his attitude.” – William James
This section was going to be called “How to use your battle cries” but that’s boring, and I think calling this a superpower frames it very well. It’s hard to imagine how something so abstract can really change your life in a practical way, but what you have here is a list of cheat codes to overcome your biggest fears and doubts. Thinking positively is radically underrated because it’s hard to imagine how it can change anything until you try it. Now you have the perfect, personalized positive thinking tool to see how powerful your own mind is!
For me, “I never finish anything.” turned into “Success is inevitable because I learn from each failure and keep trying until I succeed!”
“I blame my boss for making work suck.” turns into “I love finding little ways to serve the people I work with, even if no one appreciates what I do. I serve because it makes me happy.”
“I suck at math” would turn into “Learning about math excites me more than anything else in the school day! I’m getting better with every single problem.” Like I said, silly, idealistic, and untrue. Wouldn’t it be cool if math was your favorite subject?
There might be a bit more that goes into making math your actual favorite subject, but I think you’ll be surprised by how much just insisting that it is can change your mind. Like we practiced earlier, “suspend your disbelief” and try it before you scoff and tell yourself it won’t work. Your skepticism only hurts you.
When you have all of those awful thoughts turned around into battle cries, you should collect them all into a list. Now you have an awesome document to start your day. If you read this every morning, as silly as this sounds, it sets your thoughts on the right track. This morning you woke up thinking, “Dang, I really should have done more yesterday.” or “I can’t believe how much work I have to do today. I’ll never get it all done.” Tomorrow, you’ll roll out of bed and you prep your mind with thoughts of what a badass you are.
I know it sounds hard to believe, so don’t just assume this won’t work for you. Try it for a day or three and watch how radically it changes your outlook and approach to life. If it feels silly that’s because it’s working. Laugh. Have fun with it.
I didn’t think a piece of paper could change my life much, but it blew my mind when I started trying it. Put your hand on your chest and visualize each of these battle cries being true as you say them. Bring yourself to tears of joy. Get silly. This is your moment every morning. Even if this is the only part of the day you spend thinking this positively, at least you’re thinking positively every day now!
Now, a story about why it’s important to practice feeling your negative emotions instead of running from them.
I recently went to a national park with several of my best friends. We all love the idea of adventure, but only a few of us were used to getting nasty, sweaty, out of breath, and covered in bug bites. This meant that after an hour or two half the group was grumpy and miserable, right as the other half of the group was really into the adventure. There’s nothing wrong about this situation, it’s just a matter of practice.
The fact is that you can get used to bug bites, sweat, and discomfort. Once you do going on adventures becomes SO much more fun. It just takes practice. If you never go outside for fear of getting sweaty, you never get the practice you need to stop letting sweat phase you.
The same applies to the emotions you’ll experience as you figure out what you want to do with your life. Facing the fact that you didn’t have the right tools until now isn’t fun. It’s not your fault, but it isn’t fun. Realizing that starting is easier than you thought can hurt a lot, and that’s okay. Even more uncomfortable is realizing when you’re actually totally wrong, or when you’ve messed up, or hurt someone. Eventually though, as you dedicate yourself to chasing your dreams and refining what you want, you’ll get used to feeling stupid or unqualified. You’ll get used to feeling out of your element, and you’ll just learn to work around that feeling. When you accept the fact that you’re often wrong and realize that it’s not bad to be wrong, you become much easier to be around. As you continue this process, you react less and less to negative feelings, and chasing the impossible becomes more and more fun. Eventually you learn to love and grow from failure instead of fear it, just like you used to as a small child. When this happens, the world becomes your playground again.
That’s why it’s important to start practicing now. Ask uncomfortable or difficult questions of yourself and the people around you. Be real. Don’t run from circumstances that expose your own failures and weaknesses. Try to understand them instead.
- Negative emotions provide some of your best feedback. Your body is telling you what to do, you just need to know how to respond. Hopefully this is a good starter tool-set.
- Turning negative thoughts into ridiculously optimistic battle cries lets you take an obstacle and make it an advantage.
- You can use almost any negative emotion or failure as an opportunity to grow and get better. You just have to give yourself permission to be ridiculous.
- Just like getting used to the discomfort of sweat and bug bites helps you enjoy travel and adventure, getting used to failure, wrongness, and feeling stupid helps you chase your dreams.
Finding Out What You Want To Do Is A Life Long Endeavor, Not A One-Time Event
Perhaps the most absurd part of asking “What do you want to do?” is that it makes it sound like you’d only ever want to do one thing your entire life. I don’t know about you, but I barely know what I want for dinner tomorrow, much less what I want to spend my entire life doing. That’s why it’s important to pick something that will make you happy today.
There’s no promise of tomorrow. Morbid though it may be, any of us could die in a car crash at any time. Despite popular wisdom, there are definitely ways you can enjoy every single day as if it were your last and still build a future for yourself. In fact, I insist on it. Every single day I ask myself “If this were the last day I ever got to live, would I not just be okay with but enthusiastic about what I’m planning to do?” and if the answer is no I ditch my plans and go on an adventure to get some perspective.
Making decisions that will compound over time doesn’t have to conflict with enjoying every single day you are fortunate enough to have on this earth. The most significant thing you can focus on when you ask yourself “What do I want to do for the rest of my life?” is what makes you most happy each and every day.
Often, the thing you love to do each day can play strongly into your eventual career choice. For example, I love talking about big ideas. I ask myself every day (in a thing I call my “daily review”) when I felt most alive during that day. Without fail, if I’ve had a passionate conversation about some big idea, that was the moment in which I felt most alive.
As it turns out, what I’m doing with my life (Authoring books on traveling, helping with education reform, taking awesome pictures, making a daily practice of meeting new people, and going on crazy adventures) aligns really closely with the fact that conversations about solving the world’s most interesting problems bring me the greatest joy.
The people who do what they love best go through this process of asking themselves “What do I want to do with my life?” regularly. Finding out what you really want to do is a lifestyle, not a process to go through just once. Deciding what you want to do is a journey, not a destination.
Even when you start doing what you love daily (or even if you already have!), “what you want to do with your life” will change.
I suggest finding your limiting beliefs and turning them into battle cries on a regular basis. Remember to poll your personal and professional networks for new opportunities at least annually, even better every three to six months. Always practice getting out of your own way, and letting everyone know where you’re headed.
Sometimes your goals will change dramatically. Sometimes you’ll just end up making small adjustments. It’s all okay because who you are changes as you grow, so what you want to do should change, too.
- Make sure that as you focus on doing what you love, you choose to do things that make each day an adventure.
- Find ways to incorporate your favorite activities into every day, and into your career as well.
- Repeat all parts of this process regularly. As you discover that you can learn anything and you begin to grow and change at a faster pace than usual, you will change, too. I’m a different person entirely every six months or so. You probably are too, even if you don’t realize it (Don’t believe me? Record a video of yourself today talking about your biggest worries and concerns and watch how irrelevant all that is in six months).
- Make sure to rinse and repeat this entire process of self discovery every three to six months.
How To Apply All This Immediately
- Write down “Opportunities are rare gifts. I will say yes to every opportunity today. If no opportunities come up, I will make my own adventure.” and put it somewhere you will see each morning. Use a whiteboard marker on your bathroom mirror if that’s what you’re into. Even if you’re a total curmudgeon and you do nothing else ever again, do this today. Heck, do it before you read step two if you need to.
- Ask five friends and two family members: “What do you like most about me?” “What is one thing about me you admire?” “What aspect about my personality makes you want to be my friend?” – collect the answers in one place, and copy and paste key phrases into a single list of phrases about you. Re-write them until they form a coherent idea about you. Try to narrow it down into one to three jam-packed sentences.For example, mine is: “I love to discover the unknown through research and master complexity through organization. I have a blast discussing and refining generous, loving, responsible, ways to solve the world’s most interesting problems. I come alive when I get to share in epic stories and create awesome experiences for others.” – This is why I do what I do, and now you’ll have your why. Please share your why in the comments, or email it to me if you’re shy. I’m excited to read what you come up with.
- Reverse your negative beliefs often. Just like we did earlier: Write down all your failures. At least 15, maybe 20. Write down any negative thoughts that came to mind as you listed your failures. 5-10, 15 if possible. I had 12. Reverse them as described above, make them into battle cries. Phrase each however you need to so that it gets your heart pumping as you read it. Get passionate and outrageous as you write about who you want to be. That’s how to get out of your own way.
- Read your list of positive ideas–your battle cries–every morning along with your new “why” statement. Maybe keep them next to your opportunities mantra from Step 1.
- Tell as many people as you’re comfortable with what you want to do. Even if you have no clue how it might translate into a career. See what careers line up with how you want to live your life and what makes you come alive.
That’s how you figure out what you want to do. Once you’ve interviewed your friends in step two and answered the difficult questions in step three, you’ll finally be able to ask yourself questions like “What do I really want to do?” and “What kind of work makes me come alive?” and know yourself well enough to answer them. With steps one and four you’ll be re-enforcing a positive and encouraging idea of yourself every single day. With step five you’ll start sharing your journey with the world and inviting your friends to help you achieve your goals. Awesome.
Now, with all that done, if you are still around and totally desperate for free guacamole, I have discovered several ways you can get free guac at Chipotle. I’ve put together a free document you can save to your phone and reference when you need to remind yourself how to save a few bucks on your next burrito.
In addition to that, I’ve included a compiled list of all the questions I could find on the entire internet to help you learn more about yourself if you’re interested in taking this process even further. To make it work, copy and paste it into a word document or text editor and answer whichever ones you want to answer. If you answer them all I will personally drive to your house and give you a high five (if that’s what you’re into).
You can download the PDF right now. Just tell me where to send it.
Free Guac PDF
(life-changing and free)
If you want free guac PDF but don’t want to be on a 12 emails-per-year mailing list, you can unsubscribe right away when you get the email. I salute your craftiness. You’re an inspiration. Also, if you read the grey-subtext under all the email capture boxes on this page I’m very impressed. I hereby give you permission to knight yourself by adding “Sir” or “Dame” before your first name and then pressing “Free Guac, now!”
Whole Post Review
- Nobody seems to be particularly hot at figuring out what they want to do (except in hindsight) – so these are tools based on questions I’ve asked successful people and people with ultra-long careers to help you determine who you are and what you want as effectively, efficiently, and as soon as possible.
- These tools should be available to every middle-schooler, but most adults don’t even know them. Want to change that? Let someone you love know about this post. Tell as many people as you want about mora.co/FreeGuac under the guise of free guacamole! 😀 haha.
- Looking out for yourself is the best way to help other people and live a happy, fulfilled life. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that being selfish is a bad thing.
- Surround yourself by people you want to emulate. Physically, or not. Read their blogs. Learn from them. (Hey, on that note, thank you for reading all this. It was really nice of you to loan me this many minutes of your life, and I hope you felt like this was useful. If there was anything I could have done better make sure to let me know in the comments.)
- There are few things more important and more universally agreed upon by people of all walks of life than this: Leave your comfort zone. Try new things. Be open to new experiences, and actively pursue opportunities because each opportunity is unique and rare.
- Ask your friends why they are your friends to find out who you really are. Let people you know in on your plans, and ask what opportunities are available that you might not know about. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask for favors, too. It seems counter-intuitive, but people love to help, especially if they like you. Sometimes even if they don’t! 😛
- Work smart and hard, instead of just hard, or just smart. Ask the tough questions instead of doing tough or unrewarding work. The fastest way to learn what you like is to take your own questions (like “what do I want to do?”) seriously and answer them carefully, bravely, and honestly by asking other people, reading, and writing. Don’t just work until you feel like you’re good enough at whatever you’re doing to keep doing it for a career. That’s not a sure way to find fulfillment.
- We all tend to ignore failures. Instead, focus on your failures, shortcomings, and negative thoughts. I don’t mean dwell on them, use them to your advantage. If you know how to purposefully bring your fears and doubts to light you can transform them into battle cries. This will give you a powerful advantage over anyone who is still afraid of failure. When you know how to learn and grow from failure without taking it personally, the world becomes your playground again.
- Asking “What do I want to do?” should be a habit, not a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage or discovery. The people who really love what they do re-examine what they want to do regularly.
- Remind yourself of who you really are on a daily basis. You’re an awesome adventurer who is learning and growing every day! Learn from your failures and share your journey with everyone around you. Let you friends help you make your dreams come true.
If you felt like this was a post was a gift to you, here are some gifts you can give in return.
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Thanks again for reading! Have an awesome day.