I Don’t Know Where I’m Going…And It’s Not A Great Time.
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I’m not recommending this to get rich, happy maybe, but not rich ;-) The following is a guest post from John.
I Don’t Know Where I’m Going…And It’s Not A Great Time.
I appreciate Tim inviting me to guest post. As we are at the start of a new year and heading into new adventures, I thought I’d tailor my post along those lines. When I was a kid, whenever we’d be on a driving vacation and we’d get lost, my dad would always use the old joke:
“I don’t know where we’re going, but we’re making great time.”
It always made me laugh. I don’t really know why. I guess even back then the idea of blindly going forward without knowing where you’re going seemed so illogical it was funny.
Now as an adult, and especially as an inspirational author and speaker, I see a lot of people struggling with that.
I see a lot of people who are racing down the road without knowing where they’re going. Only now, because I see the people and watch their emotional responses to that reality, funny isn’t really the attribute I’d ascribe to it.
And it’s not that the people aren’t “making great time,” which in the adult world translates into “doing a lot of things.” They’re doing all kinds of things.
As a matter of fact, their lives are so packed full of things they’re doing, that they start to feel overwhelmed. That’s not too funny either. Eventually the energy rush of doing, becomes overwhelmed by the overwhelming, and very different emotions start to dominate their life.
They start feeling sad, depressed, unfulfilled, and often…really lost. A lost which isn’t going to get resolved by making great time doing a whole bunch of doing.
There’s a very powerful book, that was recommended to me by someone who attended one of the first presentations I ever did. It’s called Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl.
Tims Note: That’s a tad spooky as the book was number one in my list of 20 Greatest Self Development Books Ever Written
Frankl was imprisoned during World War II in the Nazi prison camps. His formal training was as a psychiatrist and while he was doing his best to survive the camp experience, he couldn’t help but notice from a clinical perspective, what was going on with his fellow prisoners.
He said you always knew when someone was going to die. A few days before, they would give up. No amount of talking from their fellow prisoners or threats from the guards made any difference. They wouldn’t move from their prison bed, and a few days later they died.
In his book, he talks about two things that were the most dominant factors in determining whether people gave up.
The first was a time issue. People in the camps didn’t know if the experience was going to last for 10 more months, 10 more years, or the rest of their life. This ambiguity about when their current situation would change was a key factor that contributed toward people giving up.
He felt that if people had know exactly how long it was going to last, even if it was going to be for 10 years, that they would have held on. But the ambiguity was so overwhelming, they gave up. The second factor was the prisoner’s ability to see themselves outside their current situation.
Those who made it were able to envision surviving the experience and then doing things that brought them joy.
They could see themselves fishing, gardening, being a doctor again, hugging a loved one…whatever were the things they wanted to be doing.
Those who could not see themselves outside of their current situation would give up, and then die.
Frankl’s book is powerful on many levels. It certainly resets your bitch and moan meter. After reading it, most people see their “problems” in a whole new light. I certainly did.
That alone is relevant as we look into a new year. When I read it, it had another particular insight for me because of the work I was doing. I teach something called the Big Five for Life.
It’s a concept I created based on a life changing experience I had in Africa while backpacking around the world with my wife. I describe it in much greater detail in my books Life Safari and Big Five for Life- Leadership’s Greatest Secret, which Tim has posted about in the past.
I’ll give you the thirty second version of the Big Five for Life here.
What if you knew the five things you most wanted to do, see, or experience in your life? The things so important to you, that if you did, saw, or experienced them, then on your deathbed, you could look back over your life and feel like you got it right.
That your life was a success, by the only true metric of success that mattered, your own definition of it.
And what if once you knew your Big Five for Life, you started aligning every moment of your life toward them.
Your actions, your thoughts, your beliefs, all helping you make your Big Five for Life a reality. So there I was, out teaching the Big Five for Life around the world and I read Man’s Search for Meaning.
And boom! It hit me.
The same emotional things that Frankl saw going on in the camps are going on today. Just to a different degree. People who are struggling to find their place, their Big Five for Life, or their PFE (Purpose for Existing) as I call it in The Why Cafe, have the second symptom he noticed.
Their current situation isn’t what they want, and they can’t envision themselves doing the things they do want, because
THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT THOSE THINGS ARE!
They don’t have a clear picture of what that better reality looks like.
The other symptom is at play too. Because they don’t know what the better reality looks like, and they don’t know the way to find that better reality, they don’t know how long it’s going to be before their situation changes for the better. It could be ten months, ten years, or forever.
Now, people’s every day lives are nowhere near as bad as the conditions the prisoners were in at the concentration camps. Not even close. And that’s why for the most part (although not always), you don’t see people just give up and their life ends a few days later.
Instead, it’s a much slower downward spiral. When people get overwhelmed by not knowing the direction they want their life to go, and when they’re going to be moving in that direction, they often feel lethargic and depressed. Monday mornings, or sometimes every morning, it’s a struggle to get out of bed. They over consume foods or use alcohol or substances to numb their reality. They are slowly giving up, and in truth, slowly letting themselves die.
They don’t know where they’re going, and it’s not a great time.
If you’re a Life Coach, or even in less formal situations, just human to human where you’re simply being compassionate to another person, you have an amazing opportunity to help someone out of that downward cycle.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with people from all kinds of different backgrounds, cultural conditioning, and from many different countries around the world. And I can honestly say that in less than six hours, by asking the right questions that help people transition information from their unconscious mind to their conscious mind- you can help anyone get clear on their Big Five for Life.
Or as is the theme of this piece, in less than six hours you can help anyone figure out where they want to go, and have a great time getting there.
It’s not some incredibly difficult or unachievable state of awareness to achieve. It’s just that most of us never learn the way to do it. That was certainly my state for the first three decades or so of my life.
We can move our own lives, and help other’s move their lives (if that’s your calling) in an upward spiral. A situation where things get better and better over time, not worse.
Have an amazing 2011. Keep the nose pointed toward your Big Five for Life and not only will you know where you’re going, you’ll have a great time getting there.
John P. Strelecky is the #1 Bestselling inspirational author of The Why Cafe, Life Safari, The Big Five for Life, and co-author of How to be Rich and Happy.