This article by Babson professors of entrepreneurship chronicling the differences between how entrepreneurs think and how everyone else does and how to apply this thinking to live a more effective life, personally and professionally. To sum it up for you, basically take a tiny action step towards something you think you want, evaluate the results, and repeat. It’s not about sticking diligently to a structured plan, it’s about taking action but changing course to reflect what you’ve learned. [Well, that explains the ineffectiveness of most governments of the world. ] Reading that article, thinking about how many times I’ve changed my plans and how “flaky” I am, I felt a little better about myself. Nope, I tend not to stick to my plans come what may, I do tend to revise and reevaluate. But that’s just normal for someone who graduated during the peak of the Great Recession (woe is me) and who lives in an era of constant, rapid, breakthrough change, I hope.
The authors talked about the constrast with how humans are taught to use prediction thinking and just draw a straight line from A to B, making figuring out the right B all important, and then execute. I think by now you can tell I think that’s ineffective. How all powerful and mighty we feel when we think we can predict the future. Then Hurricane Sandy strikes, we fall in love, or you just can’t do it anymore.
I also thought about how attached we get to our hypotheses of how the universe and especially how much we think our own lives should work. How many tears have been shed in making self-fulfilling prophecies come true? I can say in my own case, once I’ve had it in my head that something “should” work and things are “really” like this it’s just factor X that’s stopping them from the way I want them to be basically, I dig the same hole deeper and deeper. I’ve gotten so attached to my predictions that my whole self-esteem (and also face in front of friends when you’re a girl and want to make your own analysis of romantic situations come true) depends on making them come true, even in ways that steadily eat away my self-worth. Have you ever made excuses for someone that didn’t really show up for you? Have you ever explained away something that didn’t match the image you had in your head?
This is particularly relevant when it comes to stressing over wanting to get into a “relationship” because if only that label is there, and supposedly the feelings between us will be made known and clear, we can live in happily ever after in a world without emotional uncertainty. It’s a classic case of getting cause and effect wrong. You should get into a relationship because you trust and care for the person, and the main commitments that “should” go into a relationship are already there. Being in a relationship will not make you trust somebody, trust yourself for liking them, or convince you beyond doubt what the other person really feels about you. And the whole reason we want to get into relationships sometimes it because it can predict, not only the behavior while in the relationship, but give us an idea of where things are “going.” Empty labels are a poor source of security.
The same goes for wanting a discrete career goal. What bullshit is that? Just because I have a plan, or even have a goal, doesn’t mean I’m going to get what I want, or still want it once I have it. I’m sure we all know someone who found out their life’s dream was pretty hollow once it was achieved. If you don’t feel sure about what you want to do yet, having a plan to get there and executing it isn’t going to make you feel all better.
In fact, you’ll probably thwart yourself from getting there through defense mechanisms and self-sabotaging behaviors. Not like I’ve ever done the same thing pursuing a relationship…
I think a lot of the anxiousness to predict is confused with wanting to find a purpose. We say we want to find our purpose, but what we really want is to find the magic answer, the optimal solution, the trade-off less opportunity, and something with a 100% success, money back satisfaction guarantee. No, there is nothing in life like that. And if you find it, you are probably not going in the right direction for a meaningful life. Meaning involves risk and the potential for heartache because you actually care, and you stretch yourself beyond the knowably achievable.
But wait, don’t we need to know our purpose to live a meaningful life? Isn’t that the goal of so many backpacking trips through Europe, sojourns to volunteer in tropical poor places, and the billion dollar (just making that up) self-help and positive psychology industry? Isn’t that the big thing whose absence will that makes all else wither and die and turn ever paler shades of grey?
Purpose emerges from what you create of your own life, yet you can only choose so much about yourself. You are not a blank slate. No matter how open or global or zen you try to be, your ego identity is more than just socially constructed. It may be easier to say who you are not than who you are, or what you don’t want rather than what you do, especially as a young person. But we are rarely so open to the winds of fate as we seem- we are more than paper boats. Are we angels? Are we flying fish? Are we dolphins? Not sure- but probably a little bit of each.
In some ways, I think my greatest strength is not only to think but to realize why and how I do. I have the ability sometimes to see above the immediate situation, and in a way, this might have worked against me having a really deep understanding of any one thing. I am the consummate generalist, but that doesn’t doom me to being a dillettante.
Right now I’m afraid to put myself out there professionally and let my real thoughts, feelings, and values define me. I fear being judged, I fear being constrained by closing doors in the future, I fear I’m not good enough. But my manifesto needs to be written, when the right time comes.
Also I’ve wished so much, not only to fall in love with a specific thing to become the kind of specialist the world seems to demand in both professional and academic worlds, but also to be more of a doer. To tell the truth, just I don’t mind working with others. I like to see a finished product, but really I like to just think. Yet I want my thinking to have an impact, and I want it to arise from the perspective of doing, and not from a detached, disengaged, pseudo scientific perspective where I don’t have any skin in the game. That’s why I keep telling you all about my life after all. My thoughts and me are not separate things at all, and maybe this is the most powerful discovery. What’s more, it’s a chicken and egg problem, and just as external circumstances and not the strngth of my will alone will shape my life, so too will my life and the influences and environments I have chosen shape my thoughts. No , life isn’t an atomistic cause and effect reductionist enetrprise at all.
With all this philosophizing, I am almost looking forward to writing my (dumb) organizational psych paper, and just staying in and getting it off my chest. I also set the date for an informational interview and realized how much hot air the career planning process can seem, so I’m feeling like real progress is coming there, too. But I have no idea where it’s going to lead me. Well, that’s a lie, I sort of do, it’s emerging, but given the way things tend to roll for me, who knows? Not just how they roll for me, by the way, but for all of us. The one thing I know is I want to rewrite the Wealth of Nations or something to that effect. I’m afraid of not letting my genius out before I get old, and pass my creativity peak. All the great works tend to be written by young men, so why shouldn’t it be the same for women? And why shouldn’t I try to do something great?
This boy situation has taught me a lot too. It came totally out of the blue, and I have no idea where it’s going. I know what my impressions were from the start, but this dude is constantly changing, young in spirit as well as in body, too. I have also realized how much baggage the “rules” have left me with, how not exactly scarred I am, but how afraid of future hurt based off my previous experience, and how much I do, au fond, really want this to go well, whatever that means. I’ve spent a lot of time wishing for the dude I’d know I was going to marry and hitch my lucky star to, so I could arrange my life to accommodate love and not miss out on it in pursuit of other goals. That’s oneof my greatest fears, that I won’t find the right person or be available to them, that I achieve every other type of “success” but remain deeply lonely. Well at least now I can say I truly don’t feel so lonely any more, and it comes a lot more from genuine self acceptance that allowed me to foster positive relationships, starting with myself. I’m feeling a lot more faith that I’ll be happy.
It’s given me a lot of time to think about what I’m seeking and whether or not I should be in a rush to get there. Yes, I want to be married and have a family, that hasn’t changed. But I don’t want that right now. Maybe in several years, but not right now.
I thought about changing schools to stay in Paris, and that’s where a lot of this wave of introspection is coming from. Even if I could get the same amount of scholarship money and all my credits transferred, in the long view I want a dual degree with an American school, and I want to stay in the program I am in. Staying in Europe now would probably be good for finding a job in Europe upon graduation, but I’m not willing to sacrifice going to Asia, and giving living in the US on my own as an adult a shot.
So I’m quitting all this trying to nail down my passion in one giant leap stuff, speculating about where my relationship will go (is it a relationship?), and putting myself down for being the person I am. It’s not to say I’m not going to try to improve, get a job, and make sure my love life is headed in the right direction. What I am going to do is just start being me, and have the confidence to just see where it takes me. I’m going to accept that I’ve changed, things have changed, and who knows, the love of my life or the job of my dreams may be nothing like I predicted. I’m going to write my paper, let go and let God, and start to get more of my deepest thoughts down. I’m not going to hold it in anymore, I’m going to give up the shell. Give up my carapace so that my heart can come out, and trust in the power of the angels to keep it safe. Hmm, I’ve got a long journey and a busy weekend ahead of me. Most of all I’m going to gie myself the chance to just be alone, to listen, to do what I need to do, the freedom to eat when I’m hungry and sleep when I’m tired, the freedom to live in the present moment. That’s all we’ve got, isn’t it?
Love and bisous,