I remember someone telling me a few years ago that the most important thing was to “live well”. I can’t say that I’ve figured out how to “live well”, but I think I’m making small cracks at how to “live”.
I was given a piece of paper the other day and told to write down five things that I wanted to achieve in life. It is possible that I was over-thinking the task, but I really struggled. All that I could come up with, was: “to do what feels right”.
People often say that goals should be quantifiable and measurable. The satisfaction of ticking off a completed goals is a great feeling. I think goals are really awesome and helpful… except when you change your mind.
When we say that we want to achieve something – to be a lawyer at a top tier firm, for example – we often take the goal and forget the reasons. Sometimes we carry on blindly pursuing these goals of ours when the reasons for chasing them in the first place have completely fallen apart and out of view.
I meet a lot of people who tell me that they want to be [x], and my instinct is to always ask them why? People tend to be over-confident in thinking that they know what they want, and so they never think too hard about the decisions that they make.
I once had a conversation with a partner who told me to apply the same intellectual rigour to my decision-making as I do with every other aspect of my life (not an entirely accurate description, but let’s pretend that I do). His view was that too many intelligent individuals fall through the cracks and end up in unhappy positions because although they dedicate so much of their focus to certain things – a project, activity, or maybe an exam – they never think twice about the important questions in life: what are you about, and who do you want to be?
Knowing that my brain has a tendency to be like a pendulum, it’s difficult to say what I want to achieve. I know that goals often trap us – the law graduate who had set a goal of wanting to make partner and so sticks to that path despite realising a few years into practice that she never enjoyed law in the first place – and they can, in certain circumstances, destroy us.
At the end of the day, for me at least, it boils down to thinking about the things that you want to be informing your decisions. I have tossed up many career choices – each as appealing as the other – and pulled my hair in frustration at not being able to decide between options. It’s a bit ironic that after my ‘intellectually rigourous’ analysis of what I want from life, it bottles down to a rather simple formula: do what feels right.
And if, at the moment, what feels right is to not make a choice… then so be it.