Today I want to talk about one of the most difficult and dangerous emotions, which is hopelessness. There’s a huge difference between feeling like your life is temporarily in an unacceptable set of circumstances and feeling like there’s no way out or that your life is never going to be ok. I’ve personally found that I can put up with a lot in the present moment as long as I feel like I’m moving in a positive direction, as long as there’s the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.
I got to thinking about this subject because I was talking to a young lady the other day who was recounting her feeling of helplessness in her life. As we began talking, it was clear that she was basically following a path which was prescribed by her parents. She’s doing pre-med to become a doctor but she she has absolutely no interest in going into the medical field and she wasn’t excited in any way about being a doctor.
That’s not the sort of doctor I would personally want to go to as a patient. This person described that her true desire to become “the worlds best cricketer” or potentially a lawyer. She said in her society women did not have very many rights and she was very passionate about improving the legal situation for women.
I’m going to come back to the particulars of this lady’s story in a moment but it just struck me as a situation that many of us can relate to: having extremely opinionated parents. Of course our parents want the best for us. They’re trying to give good advice. They’re trying to guide us in a direction where they feel like we will be secure and happy.
I think it’s helpful to remember that your parents are from a completely different generation. They grew up in a completely different world and they can only understand the world from their perspective, which may or may not be outdated.
If these parents truly knew how unhappy their advice was making their daughter, I seriously seriously doubt that they would be pressuring her in this particular direction but they feel like they know better than her because they are are older and have additional life wisdom. As we know, when you’re younger you’re completely dependent on your parents. There’s a limited ability to divert from what their expectations are but as you get older and have more of an ability to take care of yourself, you really have the option as to whether or not you’re going to follow the path that’s been laid out for you from your parents or even from your society.
In this case of this young woman, I suggested that step one would be to absolutely give up on being a doctor because she didn’t want to be a doctor. It’s making her feel hopeless so why would she pursue that path? I suggested she speak with her parents about her desires. Why not at least see how they would feel about her being a lawyer? Her parents probably just want her to get a job that’s going to pay well. It seems like being a lawyer would be a perfectly well-paying job and they would potentially be open to that.
Of course I don’t know this woman’s parents and she lives in a completely different country, so I don’t know the particulars. I’m just trying to be as helpful as I possibly can but she said something very interesting:
“I’m just waiting for the right time to have that conversation. I’m going to go ahead and go to school for another year before I graduate with my pre-med and then I’m going to have the conversation.”
That response absolutely horrified me because it made me feel like this person is going to choose to be miserable for at least the next year and she’s basically achieving a degree (this pre-med degree) that we all know she’s not going to ever use. She’s going to basically put her life on pause for an entire year while she’s feeling miserable just to satisfy her parents.
Now I am very very close to my parents, so I understand the desire to do what your parents want but at the same time we only have one life to live and time is our most valuable resource. We absolutely cannot afford to waste it. We owe it to ourselves to not live a life of misery just to make somebody else happy. So when I was speaking to this lady, first of all I was wondering:
“Is being the world’s best cricketer a realistic goal? Is she some savant level athletic woman?” So I asked her: “Hey, are you really, really, really good at cricket?”
I actually asked her that two different times and she did not respond. I interpret from the lack of response to me that professional cricket playing is probably not that much of a realistic option. I did think the fact that she said she wanted to be the world’s best cricketer was actually a pretty good sign, though, because it showed that she was passionate about something.
If you want to be the best in the entire world at something, that is an indicator of a passion that you can actually pursue.
Maybe she would fail at being the world’s best cricketer but maybe she would find a career that she would enjoy tangentially related to that, perhaps in some sort of business service related to the cricket industry that she would not have been aware of had she not truly tried to be a professional cricketer.
I very strongly believe if there something that you’re passionate about, even about something kind of ridiculous in the sense that it’s probably not realistic for this woman to make a full-time career of being a cricketer, but at the same time you should try out pursuing your passions because even if they don’t work out you’re gonna learn more about yourself. What you learn along the way may open up different avenues that you were not totally clear on in the first place.
For example, here at Aspire, which is my passion related to helping people live healthy, happy lives, this is not where I started on day one. This is where I feel that I was meant to be but that was built upon many experiences I had in the past. I did high school and college debate and I didn’t realize that these communication skills potentially might end up being part of what I use in my career. I pursued environmentalism as a passion for a while and that is a core component of what we’re doing here at Aspire. I even had a series of jobs that I found to be relatively unpleasant but at least each of them taught me what I didn’t like so that I could move in the direction of pursuing my passion.
Passion is not something you just choose and then follow for the rest of your life. Passion is a constant state of learning.
As you get closer to what you think your passion is, as you learn with more precision exactly what that is, you’re starting on a path on which you don’t ultimately know the destination. But you know what a step in the right direction feels like. For this lady, not pursuing being a doctor and pursuing either being a cricket or a lawyer, or potentially both, at least was going to lead to a level of deeper self understanding and who knows where that path might lead in the future.
I thought the more realistic option was being a lawyer so I asked her to talk with her parents and I thought it was interesting that she was going to wait a year before talking with them. What if she doesn’t live another year? The reality is any of us could be hit by a bus tomorrow.
The fact that we exist at all is such an overwhelming gift and we absolutely cannot afford to waste it, so if there’s some passion that you’re scared to pursue, I’m giving you permission right now to pursue it please.
Please, please pursue it. We all have circumstances in our life that limit our ability to 100% follow our passions. In this case, this person probably is financially dependent on her parents. In other cases, we have bills to pay and that’s just a reality but you can always pursue your passions on the side. You could always get an internship on nights and weekends so you can figure out if this is actually what you want to be doing.
If you were at least experimenting, then you can be guaranteed that you’re learning and as you’re learning about yourself that’s going to open up new and exciting opportunities. Before you know it, you’re going to be spending your life pursuing your passions and as somebody who is doing that with 100% of my energy, I will say it is scary but it is extremely exciting. I used to feel a similar feeling of helplessness that this woman felt because of a confluence of different circumstances but not only do I not feel like that anymore, I wake up every day excited.
I wake up every day energized because I know I am making the world a better place and I know I am being fully aligned with my purpose.
So if there something that you’ve been thinking about, if there something that you want to explore but you haven’t given yourself permission to explore it, I am giving you permission right now. Please don’t throw your existing life away but figure out a way on the side with minimal risk to to go ahead and learn more. Go ahead and start experimenting in a safe way so that you can take one step in a positive direction. You don’t have to restructure your entire life on day one but please take one step in the direction of following your passion and you’re going to find the that these feelings of hopelessness completely fade away. The human being is capable of putting up with a lot as long as it feels like it is moving in a direction where there’s going to be a better tomorrow.
It is on you to set up the circumstances so there will be a better tomorrow.
We all have people that care about us, such as friends and family, that have opinions about what would be the best for us but only we can take action to truly make a better tomorrow for ourselves. Even if you have to put up with some temporary annoyances between here and there, it is going to fill your days with joy and excitement to know you are moving in the direction of the life that you want to lead.
Please take one step today. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me directly. I would love to help you in whatever way I can but ultimately you have to choose to make your life awesome and I’m writing this article to encourage you to do that. Thank you very much and have a great day!