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Why Discover What’s True to You

When we are young, hard work and hustle is second nature. We have an almost endless supply of ideas and energy. And yet, when we compare ourselves to those with experience, it can often feel as though we are making very little progress.

In most cases, this is because when we are young, we live by wim, rather than design. We are led by short-term vision rather than long-term goals. We rush from one project to the next with no understanding of what we are actually trying to build.

On the flip side, when we pinpoint what is true to us we have a framework by which to gauge opportunities that come our way. This allows us to make decisions that take us closer to our goals.

If we don’t discover what’s true to us there are two problems. The first is that we get very little done. We spend as much energy moving sideways as we do moving forward. Eventually we find ourselves middle-aged working a job we hate in a life that seems to have escaped us. We look back on our life with regret.

The second is that we lose sight of who we are. We take the bigger paycheck without considering that a smaller paycheck in a role more aligned with where we are heading is the better option. We lose sight of who our true friends are. And we lose sight of the personal qualities we’re most proud of. And while we often find ourselves financially well-off, deep down we resent ourselves for not pursuing something more exciting.

How to Discover What’s True to You

If you could be remembered for four qualities, what would they be?

These are qualities you would need to display every day in order to be true to yourself. As an example, mine are creative, explorative, inspiring and honest. I want to create a body of work I can be proud of. I want to explore new places and ideas to broaden my perspective. I want to inspire others to live out their full potential. And I want to be honest with people.

I encourage you to stop reading and write yours down.

These are the pillars of what’s true to you. If all else fails these are the four characteristics that are non-negotiable. Return to them everyday and ask yourself, did I exhibit these qualities today? If we don’t live up to them, that’s okay, but we must recognise that we are only shortchanging ourself.

Being true to ourself means turning down all opportunities that don’t allow us to exercise these qualities. 

How to Uncover What You’re Actually Trying To Build

Once we have defined what’s true to us, we can get to work uncovering what we are actually trying to build. The easiest way to discover this is to have a whack at the piñata and use what we learn to have another crack.

Grab a blank sheet of paper and answer these questions:

What does your perfect life look like?

What does your daily routine look like?

How much money are you earning annually?

How many hours are you working each week?

Are you working for yourself or someone else?

Where are you working from?

How big is your team and what field are you working in?

How often do you holiday/travel?

What type of places do you travel to?

How does your partner look at you? (eg. with love, awe, as an equal)

What do your friends look like and how do you spend your time together?

What do you do in your spare time?

Do you have kids?

What are they like?

Where are you living and what does your home look like?

I know most of you are resenting the idea of a 5 or 10 year plan. This is not a plan. It’s a piñata. After you’ve written everything down, it’s time to bust it open. Beneath what you’ve written, answer these questions:

What elements are at odds with one another? (eg. few millionaires have time to be a big part of their children’s lives)

What elements have a significant amount of unseen negatives? (eg. being paid to be a speaker and author is probably going to require a lot of time on the road. Is this ideal happiness?)

What appears less attractive on paper than it did in your head?

Take this feedback and rebuild the piñata using the same initial questions.

For me, I had to redo the process three times before I got anywhere near knowing what I was actually trying to build. The truth eventually came to the surface. It’s usually found hidden in the elements that remain regardless of how many times you rebuild the piñata. For me those elements were writing, travel, friends, family, and autonomy.

Recording Your Manifesto

Record the answers as audio on your phone or computer. Remember to be super specific. Don’t say, I’ll have money. Say, exactly how much. Don’t read the questions. Just provide the answers. Then use Audacity, Windows Movie Maker or a mobile app to add background music to your recording. I chose Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, but any music that inspires you will work.

What to Do With Your Manifesto

What you are left with is an audio version of your manifesto. This is what you are building. You also have four words that define what’s true to you. These will help you choose whether to accept or decline opportunities that come your way.

Upload the recording to your phone or iPod and listen to the recording daily. When something no longer resonates with you, update the recording. This sounds like a lot of work, but it’ll save you a lot of time and confusion in the long run. Think of all those hours you spent questioning yourself. Or, more to the point, all those hours you spent doing things that took you further from your goals.

Good luck.

Jack London, Call of the Wild

There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive. This ecstasy, this forgetfulness of living, comes to the artist, caught up and out of himself in a sheet of flame. It comes to the soldier, war-mad in a stricken field and refusing quarter. And it came to Buck, leading the pack, sounding the old wolf-cry, straining after the food that was alive and that fled swiftly before him through the moonlight.