I am unhappy, so I must make changes. What is more important than waking up excited to tackle the day? To take one more step towards your goals? To simply enjoy the moment?
What if you wake up every day and these goals are not your own? What if you wake up and you would prefer to escape the day rather than confront it head on? What if you become apathetic, unmoved by whatever happens to you or what you achieve that day?
For the first time in my career, I am asking myself these questions. Now that I see it for what it is, that these questions are ones I face every day, the time has come to take action.
Sometimes it takes a moment of clarity to realise the last months or years have been a lie. For me, the last 3 months in my new job have been a lie.
Where before I was a leader, I now dully follow orders and wait for direction, acting more like an ant than the leader I have been in the past.
Where before I was charismatic, I now leave the talking up to others and interact with others with mild disinterest. Where has that energy gone? Why am I not inspiring others and improving their lives with each interaction?
Where before I had purpose, I now feel like I’m consigned to limbo, waiting in a metaphorical airport lounge for an idea to strike or a more inspiring opportunity to come my way. I am waiting, though, for something that will never come unless I take action.
Where before I was happy, I now feel melancholic, with a sense of resignation to an unhappy year or two: apathetic, lacking energy, excited about nothing.
‘Now I’ve committed to it, I don’t want to admit failure by quitting.’
Now that I see these truths emblazoned on paper, I am shocked to realise that they describe me. They are words I would never let become reality if I caught the signs earlier. They are now inescapable, however, and lead me to question:
If this describes my life, then why have I not already made radical changes?
How have I got to this situation and how can I make radical change?
I got here out of fear. I will get myself out by being brave.
For the last year, I have avoided confronting the inescapable reality that I need to run my own business. I have made excuses about needing more experience, learning from mentors, mastering my design skills, etc.
However, the reality has always been there that I am highly independent & have run a business before. Mentors, mastery & experience – all these are best achieved in the frenetic, uncertain world of entrepreneurship.
Despite this, I joined a startup in São Paulo which I loved, but it was not my passion. When I left them, I did so in order to pursue something more challenging, so applied for startups in Berlin.
After finding a really exciting opportunity in Berlin, I flew over for the interview, met the team, agreed on a contract and moved here full-time.
It was only a week or two after starting that things started to go wrong. A lack of autonomy, leadership and direction quickly brought about an oppressive state of apathy and unhappiness.
However, how could I admit to myself that I had made the wrong decision after only a couple of weeks? What about all my family and friends? What would they think if I gave up a well-paid contract in a new city?
This was my ego & the Sunk-Cost bias in play.
Essentially, the Sunk-Cost bias is a human tendency to continue committing resources to something purely because you have already committed resources to it. This can be seen with, for example, a poker player continuing to play in order to win back their money or an investor funding a second stage of investment for a failing company just because they invested in the company before. It’s bad economics in action and is a strong driver of human behaviour.
But fuck that. If you worry too much about what others think you should do then you’ll never end up doing what you want to do. Who is the one living your life 24/7? You or your social circle?
If you are someone with a niggling thought at the back of your mind saying ‘Is this really what I want to do with my life? Does this really make me happy? Am I passionate about it?’ then it’s time to make changes.
Useful Tools: Meditation and Journaling
Self-awareness is a very powerful tool when it comes to focusing on what makes you happy or provides purpose in your life. Self-awareness is not something that I have been naturally bestowed with, but rather something I have cultivated.
By doing a 10-minute daily journal you cannot escape the streams of thought that are constantly with you. Writing them down every morning allows you to confront your problems, clarify your thoughts on a subject and has been proven to make you happier.
Combine this with 10 minutes of meditation every morning (try the free Headspace starter course) and you’ll not only feel 10-20% happier every day, but you will also find much greater calm & clarity in your day-to-day life.