The very first time I found myself determined to achieve a goal was during my teenage years when I wanted to go to Japan and study Computer Science there.
It was the biggest dream for me at the time and I was able to achieve it.
I encountered several bumps along the way, from a failed scholarship qualifying exam to a nerve wracking interview, but I was able to overcome all that through a second opportunity, courage, and determination.
I achieved my dream.
But after a year, I suddenly realized I wasn’t feeling as elated as I imagined I would be. I felt lost and empty. I had reached the finish line, crossed it, and now that I was supposed to be in happy land, I no longer knew what to do. I had a mid-life crisis.
After about two years, I got out of that dark path, found my purpose, and regained my vigor for living.
During that span of time, I realized several things about life and I’ll share three of those in this article. These realizations are important to me and I always keep them in mind. I hope you’ll learn something from this article and take my experience with you as things to remember or to think about.
1. You control your life.
“I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” – William Ernest Henley, Invictus
When I realized I was lost, I went into a sort of downward spiral and spent about two years in a depressed and self-destructive state. Suddenly realizing I’d lost excitement for my dream shook me and my days were spent aimless. Things were done out of routine and need. I only had little bursts of passion for what I was doing.
However, when I realized that my time in Japan was nearing its end, I suddenly found the will to fix my life. I went high and low for help, until I ran into personal development and the teachings of Tony Robbins. I finally found a way to put the pieces of my life back together. I found myself a goal and the most important of all, a purpose.
This first major conflict in my story and how I managed to put my life back together taught me that we control our life. We may not always have control over the storms that come our way, but we decide whether we get out in one piece or not. If, after realizing my time was running out, I’d just used that excuse to give up even more, I wouldn’t have been able to turn my life around. I’d probably still be stuck in a downward spiral.
Regaining control over my life all came down to that split second decision.
I asked myself, “Do you really want to keep living this way?”
The thought of going through the motions of my day without reason and not being able to do everything to the best of my potential was horrifying.
I yelled “No!” then everything else moved forward.
If you’re in a similar situation, my advice is: give yourself an ultimatum.
In my experience, I just let loose and allowed myself to be lost. It’s okay to do that because you could just find yourself again through an epiphany, but it might take too long if you just wait and see. Hence, set a time span of how long you want to let things be and when you want to take some action.
2. We never truly know what will happen tomorrow, except that the unexpected will happen at the least expected moment.
“But life inevitably throws us curve balls, unexpected circumstances that remind us to expect the unexpected.” – Carre Otis
We may plan ahead and know exactly what we’ll do the following day, but we can’t truly know everything that will unfold on that day. Something will not go according to plan. Good or bad, you have to be prepared for it. You have to be open to these events, accept that life can suddenly twist and turn without warning. If you cannot accept the reality that anything can (and will) happen and that you cannot control these things, you will find it hard to cope with what life will throw your way.
From my experience, I planned and gave my all to achieve that one goal. I put all my energy on making sure that I study Computer Science in Japan, but I didn’t think about what will happen after that. That’s where I went wrong. I should’ve thought ahead and planned my next actions little by little. It would’ve provided a path for me right after the finish line of my first major goal.
It’s nice to go all out for a goal, but it’s much safer if you plan a little after that as well.
Additionally, give room for some changes that might occur to your plan. As mentioned, unexpected things can happen and it’ll be easier on you if you accept that your plans aren’t foolproof. These unexpected happenings may not be according to plan, but some open opportunities for greater success.
If I hadn’t unexpectedly become lost, I wouldn’t have found my real purpose in life and I wouldn’t have looked at life in such a positive outlook.
3. Be careful about what you say to others, be more careful about what you say to yourself.
Words are powerful.
Positive remarks, especially when given at the right time, can empower a person and make him walk the right path.
This reminds me of a scene between Yoda and Luke in the movie, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Luke is a rash young man; eager to prove himself, and skeptic about Yoda, who was touted to be the greatest master to have ever lived. Yoda is a wise, humorous, and kind alien that is very strong, agile, and considered to be the most powerful Jedi of his time. Luke has just arrived to Yoda’s place, seeking his guidance to become a Jedi. Yoda is unsure about teaching Luke but does so upon Obi-wan’s request. During their training by the swamp, Luke’s ship sinks deeper into the water. Luke loses his concentration (in training to move rocks) and expresses his frustration with the matter. Yoda reprimands him and tells him to use the Force to lift the ship out of the water.
Luke: Oh no. We’ll never get it out now!
Yoda: So certain are you. *Sigh* Always with you, what cannot be done. Do you nothing that I say?
Luke: Master, moving stones is one thing. This is totally different!
Yoda: No! No different! Only different in your mind. You must unlearn what you have learned.
Luke: Alright, I’ll give it a try.
Yoda: No! Try not. Do! Or do not. There is no try.
Luke, still skeptical, approaches, and gives it a try, but try as he might, the ship barely moves. Defeated, he gives up, saying it’s impossible. Then, Yoda, as Luke is leaving, uses his power to pull out the ship, which is several times bigger than him.
Luke: I don’t believe this…
Yoda: That is why you fail.
In this scene, we see the effect of words you say to yourself. If you say you’ll try, you’ll only try and your effort will only be as much. From my personal experience, my Yoda was Tony Robbins and his teachings on how we should take control of our lives and do something that will allow us to do the best of our potential.
Similarly, negative remarks can have a big effect.
Aside from what others say, what you say to yourself has a big impact in your life as well. As mentioned, I was in a depressed and self-destructive state after a year of basking in the glory of achieving my dream. It was a rough ride and it didn’t help that I constantly put myself down. I was feeding my insecurities and I went deeper into a downward spiral.
If you find yourself in a self-destructive state, expose yourself to positive stimuli such as things that make you happy or lift your mood. Watch funny videos or read encouraging articles and books.
Additionally, say something nice about yourself each day. It can be a task you did or a personal trait. If you can, I suggest doing this at the start of your day and at the end, that way you allow yourself to feel a positive emotion right before you go about your day and right before you rest for the night. Little by little, these positive remarks will help increase your confidence in life as well as in your ability to live it to the best of your ability.
Becoming lost and unlost was both a rough and invigorating experience. I gained so much from this part of my life and I hope you take note of the lessons I learned to help you with your own unexpected experiences.
What did you learn from your experiences recently?
Look through the past week, month or year and share with us what you’ve come to learn.
Jorge Blanco is a personal development junkie, expert on goal setting, time, project, and life management, a master strategist and planner, and a passionate entrepreneur. He is the editor of the monthly magazine Productivity Boost and the author of Design Your Life: 5 Steps To Create The Life You Want, a complete guide to making a positive change in your life, and living a life by design, and the Goal Setting Workshop, a blog about goal setting, productivity, and personal development.