It was a few years ago when realized I wasn’t driving my own life in the direction I wanted. It felt like it was happening to me, sometimes for me and sometimes against, but I didn’t feel like I was in the driver’s seat. Looking back, I realize I made decisions, but didn’t own my responsibility in them. I chose to take a job where I’d be stuck in the padded gray walls of a cubicle (see earlier post here for my thoughts on life in cubicles). I needed a job, yes, but I chose that one. I chose to run up a $60,000 student loan balance. Sure, I didn’t know enough about debt when I went into it, but I didn’t ask either. I chose how I spent my time, careers, relationships, locations and interests. I made those decisions.
From where I sit now, I realize I’ve always been in the driver’s seat, but have been asleep at the wheel. Even when I was awake I was a pretty bad driver. Those times are changing. My driving skills are improving. I’ve made several course corrections. My wife and I drove our way out of debt. We made decisions that have allowed us freedom to pursue our dreams. I brought on a few drivers’ ed instructors and invited a few backseat drivers to help me along the way. Those include my wife, some key mentors, family, friends and a host of authors. For a very long time, change was hard for me. I was waiting for it to happen to me, and it wasn’t. I had to wake to the reality that I owned responsibility for my decisions. I had to own how I responded to circumstances and people that were beyond my control. I had to own that a future that my wife and I dream of will not just happen for us, but will come as a result of decisions we make along the way.
I figure, I’ve got one life. It’s probably a good idea that I wake up to it (additional thoughts here).
A few things that helped me create the space to make some course corrections:
- Engage a mentor to offer perspective on things you may not be able to see on your own. Mine’s a wild and wise 72yr old man who asks great questions, pushes me to think about how I see and approach the world and encourage me to take great risks.
- Read books by these guys: Seth Godin, Brene Brown, Warren Berger, Daniel Pink, Malcolm Gladwell, Hugh McLeod. They’ve challenged me, maybe they’ll challenge you as well.
- Get your finances in order. Being strapped by debt limits your freedom to dream or make certain changes.
- Engage others for support and encouragement. You can’t do it alone. Whether it’s your spouse, best friends or family members having another on board supporting you will be a great help.
- Eliminate the noise to create space for change. Admittedly, this one’s hard. For me that meant unplugging the TV and taking all but the weather app off my phone. By eliminating those options I was forced to face blocks of time where I could pick up a book, engage in good conversation, workout or connect with people who are important to me. I had to have the mental space available to be freed up for more beneficial options.
Everyone’s different. What are some things that have helped you?