Every morning I woke up at 4:30 a.m., frustrated and exhausted. I was graduating in 8 weeks and I still hadn't had the epiphany I was expecting to have. I thought I made all of the right career moves, but I still didn't know what my life's calling was. For a long time, I thought this calling wasn't revealed to me because I didn't get an Ivy League education, or maybe I just wasn't smart enough. So I decided to aim for the big leagues; I worked at a big pharmaceutical firm and decided to pursue a master's degree at an exceptionally good school. Years later, I felt a little more clarity and I had all of these new skills I gained, but yet I still hadn't received the call telling me what to do when I grew up.
Most people that are considering grad school think that after the degree, all of the ambiguity will go away. Which is similar to waiting for those last ten pounds to go away before you go on your dream vacation. The most depressing commonality between the two being that the vacation and the clarity will never come with that mentality. That mentality keeps you waiting for the future. It means that you are living your life as if the future holds more truth than the present. It doesn't. If you want to lose those last ten pounds, you should just buy the plane ticket, let go of this vision of a different you in the future, and be the person who loves their life enough to book their dream vacation. Ironically, that is when the weight will slip off. I know the same is true for your life's calling but it is insanely hard to be present and appreciate what you have without obsessing about the future when the future is unknown.
After a few weeks of waking up at that ungodly hour, a miracle happened. I talked to a successful friend (let’s call her Ashley) who told me how she makes decisions and why so many people from our generation struggle with finding contentment in their life. She said it was because we were missing life’s confirmations. No clue what confirmations are? Don’t worry, neither did I. Here is the thing, many of us think that the future is better than the present. It is this idea that something better than what we're doing or what we have is outside of what currently exists in our world. This keeps us from making life decisions, which means we end up with a mixed bag that we aren't sure we hate, but we know we certainly don’t love. For example, I have another friend (let’s call her Jamie) who works as an assistant in a big law firm and she knows she doesn't want to do it for the rest of her life but she also doesn't know what else she should be doing. So Jamie stays. She isn't miserable but she isn't LIVING, if you know what I mean. People talk about playing big ALL the time, but how can you play big when you don’t know what sport you’re in?
How to Identify a Confirmation
So the first step in identifying confirmations is to make a decision. Decisions are terrifying because they seem so final. Like you would miss out on so many things by choosing one thing. But that’s kind of the point. You are choosing one thing you think could make you happy and rejecting other things that could potentially also make you happy because you are one individual and you can only be present at one place in any given moment. So you can’t have everything at once. You can however, have the things you want most and slowly incorporate other things over time. So you make a decision by looking at the very specific things you enjoy doing. In Jamie's case, she was super organized, she spoke french, she loved writing and teaching, and has done well in customer service roles (and enjoyed it). And even though she didn't know exactly what job she wanted, she knew what city she would love to live in (New York). And she knew how much she would need to make to not stress about life (around $70,000). So we walked through what kinds of jobs would let her earn that much money in New York. Narrowing it down by income and city allowed us to look at real possibilities within self-made boundaries.
Take a Step and Look for Confirmations
Once you've made a decision, you take one small step towards your goal. If you accomplish it, that's a confirmation to keep going. You do that again and again, small steps and confirmations. Confirmations can be big or small, but what matters is that you are living with your eyes wide open and willing to see them. And this doesn't always mean that you will accomplish each step easily, it just means you are now looking at life through a different lens, and it's helping you see things more clearly. You are no longer focused on what you are missing out on, and you are not obsessed with what the future holds. The idea here is that blessings do not flow from the heavens like we expect them to. Nobody will hand you a certificate of completion. Instead, you will slowly recognize that your actions have direct and indirect consequences, and your life is constantly being shaped by the different signals that encourage you to take certain actions over others.
Confirmations are essentially the opposite of red flags. If you are dating a guy that is running credit card scams on you, that's a red flag telling you to move away from this type of person. A green flag then would be a guy that treats you like a queen. Your ability to see the red flag but not the green one is exactly the reason you are frustrated. As Ashley put it, that feeling of, "ummm…this just isn’t it for me”, when you have beautiful things in your life, could be your destructive mental pattern. You are missing the blessing is in front of you! That's like someone giving you a pot of gold and you turning it down because there is a different pot of gold out there somewhere. Isn't that crazy? So if you've been feeling like “this just isn't it” at work, in your relationships or other parts of your life, make a genuine effort to see what is working so you can do more of what you love and less of what you hate. The inability to see green flags keeps you unhappy, boring and mediocre.
My 4:30 a.m. wake up calls stopped when I decided exactly what I wanted and took as a big of a step as I could towards making that happen. You might be wondering what I studied and what decision I made for my future. That is to come in future blog posts but I want you to know that this post is a declaration of my desire to live a crazy full life, and to always make an effort to see my green flags. I strongly encourage all of you to do the same.