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What would your life look like if you let go of some of your biggest distractions, the often meaningless worries and stresses that take your attention, and actually put more focus on the people and things that are most important to you? Here's an exercise you can do now and any time in the future to both take inventory of where you are in this process and also to get you more in alignment with what truly matters. Make a list of the most important aspects of your life. You can either write this list down on a piece of paper or in your journal ideal or simply make a mental list.

These "aspects" will vary depending on your life, interests, priorities, etc. While you don't need to rank them necessarily, thinking of these things with some priority can be helpful. Make a list of the things you spend most of your time doing and thinking about. Take inventory of your day today as well as the past few days, weeks and months and make a list in writing or in your head of where you spend your time and attention. Tell the truth, even if you aren't proud of some of the activities or thoughts that get a lot of your focus.

With this list it's important to rank them in some way so that you're clear about which activities, thoughts and relationships get your attention specifically, and how much you devote to each of them. Compare the two lists and see how you can get them even more aligned. As you compare these two lists, if you're anything like me -- you may notice that they're quite different. Often what we say is most important to us isn't the same as where we devote much of our time, energy and thought.

Without judging yourself, tell the truth about where there are differences in these two lists and spend some time inquiring into why this is the case. And, as you think about this, ask yourself how you can create more alignment with these two lists. In other words, be more conscious and do whatever you can to focus more on what truly matters to you! More info - www. He delivers keynotes and seminars that empower people and organizations to be more successful, appreciative, and authentic. Real Life.

Real News. Real Voices. Help us tell more of the stories that matter from voices that too often remain unheard. News Politics Entertainment Communities. HuffPost Personal Videos Horoscopes. Part of Wellness. All rights reserved. Skip to Article. Each tentacle is made up of a bunch of different individual yearnings and their accompanying fears—and these often massively conflict with each other too. The dreams of 7-year-old you and the idealized identity of year-old you and the secret hopes of year-old you and the evolving passions of your current self are all somewhere on the personal tentacle, each throwing their own little fit about getting what they want, and each fully ready to make you feel horrible about yourself with their disappointment and disgust if you fail them.

On top of that, your fear of death sometimes emerges on the personal tentacle, all needy about you leaving your mark and achieving greatness and all that. And yet, the personal tentacle is also one that often ends up somewhat neglected. This neglect can leave a person with major regrets later on once the dust settles.

An unfulfilled Personal Yearnings tentacle is often the explanation, for example, behind a very successful, very unhappy person—who may believe they got successful in the wrong field. The Social Yearnings tentacle is probably our most primitive, animal side, with its core drive stemming back to our tribal evolutionary past. On the tentacle are a number of odd creatures.

This means he craves acceptance and inclusion and being well-liked, while likewise being petrified of embarrassment, negative judgment, and disapproval.


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More upsetting to it than being disliked is being ignored. It wants to be relevant and important and widely known. There are other characters milling about as well. The judge is also big on holding grudges—which is the reason a lot of people are driven more than anything by a desire to show that person or those people who never believed in them. Finally, some of us may find a loving little dog on our social tentacle who wants more than anything in the world to please its owner, and who just cannot bear the thought of disappointing them.

The Lifestyle Yearnings tentacle mostly just wants Tuesday to be a good day. But like, a really pleasant, enjoyable day—with plenty of free time and self-care and relaxation and luxuries. Life should be full of fun times and rich experiences, but it should also roll by smoothly, without too much hard work and as few bumps in the road as possible. The part of the tentacle that just wants to sit around and relax will hold you back from sweating to build the kind of career that offers long-term flexibility and the kind of wealth that can make life luxurious and cushy and full of toys.

The part of the tentacle that only feels comfortable when the future feels predictable will reject the exact kinds of paths that may generate the long-term freedom another part of the tentacle longs for. The Moral Yearnings tentacle thinks the rest of the tentacles of your Yearning Octopus are a real pack of dicks—each one more self-involved and self-indulgent than the next.

The parts of you on the moral tentacle look around and see a big world that needs so much fixing; they see billions of people no less worthy than you of a good life who just happened to be born into inferior circumstances; they see an uncertain future ahead that hangs in the balance between utopia and dystopia for life on Earth—a future we can actually push in the right direction if we could only get our other tentacles out of our way.

While the other tentacles fantasize about what you would do with your life if you had a billion dollars in the bank, the moral tentacle fantasizes about the kind of impact you could make if you had a billion dollars to deploy. Needless to say, the other tentacles of your Yearning Octopus find the moral tentacle to be insufferable.

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Likewise, not doing anything for others can hurt you on multiple tentacles—the moral tentacle because it feels guilty and sad, the social tentacle because this may cause others to judge you as a selfish or greedy person, and the personal tentacle because it may lower your self-esteem. At its basic level, your practical tentacle wants to make sure you can eat food and wear clothes and buy the medicine you need and not live outside.

Then there are the distinct individual yearnings on each tentacle, often in conflict amongst themselves. Or when you want so badly to be respected, but then you remember that a career that wins the undying respect of one segment of society will always receive shrugs from other segments and even contemptuous eye rolls from other segments still. So yeah, your Yearning Octopus is complicated. Human yearning is a game of choices and sacrifices and compromise.

When we think about our career goals and fears and hopes and dreams, our consciousness is just accessing the net output of the Yearning Octopus—which is usually made up of its loudest voices. The stuff in your subconscious is like stuff in the basement of a house. We can go look at it anytime—we just have to A remember that the house has a basement, and B actually spend the time and energy to go down there, even though going down there might suck. The way to start turning the lights on is by identifying what your conscious mind currently knows about your yearnings and fears, and then unpacking it.

Which tentacles in particular are yearning for that career—and which specific parts of those tentacles? You want to find the specific source of the fear. Is it a social tentacle fear of embarrassment, or of being judged by others as not that smart, or of appearing to be not that successful to your romantic interests?

Is it a personal tentacle fear of damaging your own self-image—of confirming a suspicion about yourself that haunts you? Is it a lifestyle tentacle fear of having to downgrade your living situation, or of bringing stress and instability into a currently predictable life? Or are a few of these combining together to generate your fear of making the leap? Maybe you pine to be rich. All five tentacles can feel a desire for wealth under certain circumstances, each for their own reasons. Unpack it. As you unpack an inner drive to make money, maybe you discover that at its core, the drive is more for a sense of security than for vast wealth.

That can be unpacked too. A yearning for security at its simplest is just your practical tentacle doing what your practical tentacle does. Or perhaps what you really want is a level of security so over-the-top secure it can no longer be called a security yearning—instead, it may be an impulse by the emotional well-being section of your lifestyle tentacle to alleviate a compulsive financial stress you were raised to forever feel, almost regardless of your actual financial situation.

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The answers to all of these questions lie somewhere on the tentacles of your Yearning Octopus. And by asking questions like these and digging deep enough to identify the true roots of your various yearnings, you start to turn on the basement light and acquaint yourself with your octopus in all its complexity. Pretty quickly, a yearning hierarchy will begin to reveal itself.

Once you have a reasonably clear picture of your Yearning Octopus, you can start doing the real work—work that takes place another level down in your subconscious, in the basement of the basement. Here, you can set up a little interrogation room and one by one, bring each yearning down into it for a cross-examination. Why did that particular Because lead you to want what you now want?

And when did that particular Because gain so much gravity with you? You never stopped to ask yourself whether your own accumulated wisdom actually justifies the level of conviction you feel about that core belief. In a case like this, the yearning is revealed to be an imposter pretending to be an authentic yearning of yours.

In a 1 scenario, you can be proud that you developed that part of you like a chef. You might even find that some of your yearnings and fears were written by you…when you were seven years old. Humble people are by definition influence-able—influences are an important and inevitable part of who each of us is. The key distinction is this:. Or are your influences themselves actually in your brain, masquerading as inner you? Do you want the same thing someone else you know wants because you heard them talk about it, you thought about it alongside your own life experience, and you eventually decided that, for now, you agree?

The former is what chefs do. And a robot is what you become when at some point you get the idea in your head that someone else is more qualified to be you than you are. The good news is that all humans make this mistake—and you can fix it. Getting to know your real self is super hard and never complete. Even our conscious mind knows these yearnings well, because they frequently make their way upstairs into our thoughts.

These are the parts of us we have a healthy relationship with. Sometimes new parts of us are born only to be immediately locked up in prison as part of a denial of our own evolution—i. But there are other times when a part of us is in Denial Prison because someone else locked it up down there. In the case of your yearnings, some of them will have been put there by whatever masked intruder had been taking its place.

At some point during your childhood, he threw your passion for carpentry into a dark, dank Denial Prison cell. Leave them for another time—right now, search for locked-away career-related yearnings. Or a desire to be famous that your particular tribe has shamed you out of. Or a deep love of long blocks of free, open leisure time that your hornier, greedier teenage self kicked downstairs in favor of a raging ambition. The other part of our Yearning Octopus audit will address the hierarchy of your yearnings. The octopus contains anything that could make you want or not want to pursue a certain career, and the reverse side of each yearning is its accompanying fear of the opposite.

The reverse side of your yearning to be admired is a fear of embarrassment. The other half of your craving of self-esteem is a fear of feeling shame. What looks like a determined drive for success, for example, might actually be someone running away from a negative self-image or trying to escape feelings like envy or under-appreciation.

How to Pick a Career (That Actually Fits You) — Wait But Why

The person doing the ranking is you —the little center of consciousness reading this post who can observe your octopus and look at it objectively. This involves another kind of compromise. To get all of this in order, we want a good system. You can play around with what works for you—I like the idea of a shelf:. This divides things into five categories. The absolutely highest priority inner drives get to go in the extra special non-negotiable bowl.

The bowl is small because it should be used very sparingly—if at all. Like maybe only one thing gets it. Or maybe two or three. Too many things in the NN bowl cancels out its power, making that the same as having nothing in the bowl at all. Shelf placement is as much about de-prioritizing as it is about prioritizing. This is inevitable. The middle shelf is good for those not-so-noble qualities in you that you decide to accept.

They deserve some of your attention. Most of the rest will end up on the bottom shelf. Likewise, the fewer yearnings you put on the top shelf, the more likely those on the top shelf will be to thrive. Your time and energy are severely limited, so this is a zero-sum compromise. The amateur mistake is to be too liberal with the NN bowl and top shelf and too sparing with the large bottom shelf. But like the rest of your hierarchy decisions, your criteria for what qualifies as trash should be derived from your own deep thought, not from what others tell you is and is not trash.

Yearnings and fears are impatient and bad at seeing the big picture. Many of the people who have done wonders to make the world better got there on a path that started with selfish motives like wealth or personal fulfillment—motives their moral tentacle probably hated at first. The Want Box deals with what you find desirable. The Reality Box is the same deal.

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The goal of self-reflection is to bring both of these boxes as close to accuracy as possible. For our Want Box audit, we looked under the hood of the Want Box and found its settings—your yearnings and fears. When we open the hood of your Reality Box, we see a group of beliefs. For a career option to qualify for your Reality Box, your potential in that career area has to measure up to the objective difficulty of achieving success in that area. There are traditional careers—stuff like medicine or law or teaching or a corporate ladder, etc.

Then there are less traditional careers—the arts, entrepreneurship, non-profit work, politics, etc. These are perfectly reasonable assumptions—if you live in A general conception, a common opinion, an oft-cited statistic 7 —none of which have actually been verified by you, but all of which are treated as gospel by society. These problems then extend to how we view our own potential.

These are only a few examples of the slew of delusions and misconceptions we tend to have about how great careers happen.

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I have no idea, mostly. And I think most people have no idea. Things are just changing too quickly. If you can figure out how to get a reasonably accurate picture of the real career landscape out there, you have a massive edge over everyone else, most of whom will be using conventional wisdom as their instruction booklet. Pretty stressful, but also incredibly exciting.

A career path is like a game board. This is promising news.

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If you simply understand what the game board really looks like and play by modern rules, you have a huge advantage. And this brings us to you and your particular strengths. With enough time, could you get good enough at this game to potentially reach whatever your definition of success is in that career? The distance starts with where you are now—point A—and ends with you reaching your definition of success, which we can draw with a star.

The length of the distance depends on where point A is how far along you are at the current moment and where the star is how lofty your definition of success is. But the game boards in less traditional careers often involve many more factors. Acting ability is only one piece of that puzzle—you also need a knack for getting yourself in front of people with power, a shrewdness for personal branding, an insane amount of optimism, a ridiculous amount of hustle and persistence, etc. If you get good enough at that whole game—every component of it—your chances of becoming an A-list movie star are actually pretty high.

So how do you figure out your chances of getting to any particular star? What makes someone slower or faster at improving at a career game? Your level of chefness. Careers are complex games that almost everyone starts off bad at—then the chefs improve rapidly through a continual loop…. Your work ethic. This one is obvious.

Someone who works on their career 60 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, is going to move down the path almost four times faster than someone who works 20 hours a week, 40 weeks a year. Someone who chooses a balanced lifestyle will move slower than a single-minded workaholic. Someone who frequently breaks from work to daydream or pick up their phone is going to get less done in each work hour than someone who practices deep focus. Your natural abilities. Talent does matter. Smarter, more talented people will improve at a game at a faster rate than less naturally gifted people.

But intelligence and talent are only two types of natural ability that come into play here. Depending on the type of career, social skills can be critically important as well. In many careers, likable or subtly manipulative people have a big advantage over less likable people—and those who enjoy socializing will put in more people hours over time, and build deeper relationships, than antisocial types. Persistence is simpler than pace.

A car going 30 mph that quits driving after 15 minutes gets a lot less far than a car that drives 10 mph for two hours. And this is why persistence is so important. A few years is just not enough time to traverse the typically long distances it takes to get to the raddest success stars, no matter how impressive your pace. Your Real Strengths and W eaknesses. When we list our strengths, we tend to list our areas of existing skill more than anything else.

Instead, strengths should be all about pace and persistence qualities. Originality or lack thereof should be a critical component of the discussion, making qualities like agility and humility trademark chef traits notable strengths, and qualities like stubbornness 8 or intellectual laziness classic cook traits important weaknesses. The subtleties of work ethic, like a knack for deep focus or a propensity to procrastinate, should also be a major part of the discussion, as should natural abilities beyond talent, like savvy and likability.

Qualities related to persistence, like resilience and determination and patience, should be thought of as promising strengths, while a social tentacle clamoring to appear successful as quickly as possible should be viewed as a bright red flag. This lesson applies to specific skills—but most general pace and persistence qualities can also be worked on and improved if you focus on them.

This would be an impossibly big list, only ruling out paths that are clearly far too long for you to traverse at your maximum possible pace on the path like me chasing a career as an Olympic figure skater. To complete our Reality Box audit with that caveat, we need to evaluate:. For those paths, evaluate your starting point, based on your current skills, resources, and connections relevant to that field. Think about end points and where on each line your star should be placed.

Make an initial estimate for what your pace of improvement might be on these various game boards, based on your current pace-related strengths and how much you think you can improve at each of them in other words, how much your speed might be able to accelerate. You take your game board and make it a line, you plot starting points and success stars that together generate the various distances in front of you, and for each, you multiply your pace by your level of persistence.

A from-first-principles Reality Box audit may bring some overly optimistic people down to Earth, but I suspect that for most, an audit will leave them feeling like they have a lot more options than they realized, empowering them to set their sights on a bolder direction. A good Reality Box reflection warrants yet another Want Box reflection. Reframing a bunch of career paths in your mind will affect your level of yearning for some of them. One career may seem less appealing after reminding yourself that it will entail thousands of hours of networking or multiple decades of pre-success struggle.

Another may seem less daunting after changing your mind about how much luck is actually involved. This brings us to the end of our long, two-part deep dive. After a fairly exhausting box-auditing process, we can return to our Venn 10 diagram. Assuming some things have changed, you have a new Option Pool to look at—a new list of options on the table that seem both desirable to your high-priority rankings and possible to achieve. If there had been a clear arrow on your map before your audit, check out your new Option Pool.