How a simple book is changing the way I approach life

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I’ve been thinking about my vision recently. My purpose in life. My manifesto. What do I believe in? What do I stand for? What do I value in life?

It’s a surprisingly difficult thing to articulate. I understand why brands and businesses have such a hard time writing their mission statement or describing their goals or their brand voice. It’s difficult to put into words what we believe in.

I just finished this book called Start With Why and it talked all about how successful leaders and businesses don’t just sell products, they sell a WHY. They sell their beliefs. They get people to believe what they believe and in turn, those people buy their products. Even though the book focused on businesses and business leaders, this is clearly important for regular people too. Individuals need a WHY.

I feel like I used to write and journal so much that I knew myself. Even though I felt lost most of the time. You know how that teenage angst is. But now I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. I feel like I’m just treading water in life. I feel like I have followed the path that was laid before me, and it was an easy one. I feel that I have coasted along doing what I was supposed to do, never taking huge risks, never trying anything new or unexpected.

And now here I am, 26, married, with a good job, a house, and a dog. I have everything that I was supposed to have, but I’m not sure what the greater purpose is. I don’t have a why, I just have what. I know what I do. At work, I help brands reach their audience with targeted messages so that they can increase their sales/enrollment/visitors/traffic/etc. I create strategies for these brands to tell their story through advertising and social media. I work within their budgets to buy media that will be effectively placed in front of the right people so that they buy into the brand. This is what I do. But I don’t know why I do it.

If anything I would say that the reason I do what I do is to pay the bills. I work to get a paycheck. I work so that I can relax on the weekends. I work so that someday I won’t have to work. This is normal. This is what most people will say if you ask them why they go to work. Most people don’t go to work because they love work. I don’t go to work because I love it. I have a job to do, and I like that job, I’m fairly good at it, I enjoy the accomplishment and the day-to-day challenges. But I don’t work because I believe in it. I don’t work because I believe that it’s going to change the world. I just work to pay the bills.

I think the ultimate dream would be to find the work you can do that you believe in. Work that aligns with your values. Work that lights a fire in your soul and makes you believe that anything is possible. Work that allows you to make your mark on the world, in some way or another.

I am trying to define my why. I am trying to define who I am and what I believe in so that someday I might find a job that gets me out of bed in the morning, not to pay the bills, but because I believe I can change the world. I want to work for a cause that I believe in.

I think that at some point in past history, an average of success was realized. The path was laid to get to that average. They said that if you have parents, grow up middle class, get an education, participate in activities, go to college, get married, own a home, have a pet, have children, work steadily, and retire on time, you will have lived a good life. An average, moderately successful, but altogether good life. And at one point this was called the American Dream. It was unattainable for some. It was a dream for most. And it was a great expectation, a worthy goal.

And with increased media, advertisements, internet, television, movies, and social media, I think that “American Dream” was reinforced so much and so often that everyone forgot there could be alternatives. It was so easy to do what was expected and to teach your children the same thing because you want your children to be successful as well, and if you found moderate success this way, then you want the same for your child.

We’ve forgotten that it doesn’t have to be like this. This is a great way to live, but there are other paths. I am quite happy and content to be on this path because this is what I’ve always wanted. I truly am living the dream. But I do want this dream to be my own. I want it to be something that I created. I want to make sure that everything I think I want is actually what I want and not just something that has been brainwashed into me through mainstream media.

So I’ve decided to do some soul searching. I’ve always thought of myself as a very confident, self-assured person who knows what she wants and knows how to set a goal and go after it. But that was in high school and college. I was so focused and driven in my classes and in swimming. Once I got into the real world, I think I floundered just a little bit. I think I got off-kilter when I found out how hard it was to get a job and how much you have to prove yourself to get anyone to pay attention to you. I think I lost some of that self-confidence and I lost trust in myself to set goals and attain them. I wasn’t sure what my goals were because I didn’t really care. I set my bar low because I just wanted a job and I just needed to get paid.

Now I’ve reached what seems to be a small plateau. I can look behind me and see the climb I completed to get here. There’s bound to be more hills and mountains in the distance. But for now, I’m on flat, solid ground. I can walk confidently and safely, and yet I’m not sure where I’m going.

I need to get back to that why. I need to search for what I know to be true and stand behind that with all my might. I need to set goals that align with those beliefs and I need to do everything in my power to make sure that I am striving toward something that will make a difference. I just can’t stand on this plateau without any direction for too long. It’s too comfortable here.

 

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