By Rob Shaul
A person close to me is adrift in life.
He’s in a dead-end job, which is fun, but no longer challenging. He doesn’t like where he lives. While he has family in the area, he’s single, with no personal relationship to keep him anchored.
His life’s okay, but he feels “stuck.” He’s “comfortable” – but uneasy and knows change is needed.
Long ago in my 20’s I explored spirituality and found that the Stoic idea of “nature” worked best for me. This idea is that life isn’t random, but there isn’t higher being working all the levers.
Instead, “nature” brings structure to life, but is totally unconcerned with our welfare.
Nature won’t go out of its way to hurt you, or to help you … instead, it will do its own thing and it’s up to you to navigate as best you can.
Think that you are truly adrift, at sea, in a small lifeboat, with minimal food, water, and supplies.
The sea may bring a hurricane that kills you or friendly currents and wind which push you to safety.
Whichever it is has nothing to do with you. The sea is just doing its own thing and your welfare is of no concern.
So then are you helpless, at nature’s mercy – adrift and getting pushed around by life randomly?
No. You can always take action in your own interest to make the best of what nature brings your way. You can conserve your water, makeshift string and bait to fish, rig a sail, prepare a way to signal for help, set your attitude to stay in the fight and never quit.
Do these positive actions mean nature will help you out?
Nope. Again, nature doesn’t care about you and may send a hurricane anyway. But it may also send mild weather – just enough current and winds for you to make a go of it – if you take the right actions and are prepared.
On one hand, this spiritual approach is empowering. We can always do something to help our situation.
On the other hand, this approach is fatalistic. Because no matter the positive choices we make or “right” actions we take, no higher being is looking out for our welfare.
We can do all the “right” things, make all the preparations, and still Nature may come along and crush us like a bug regardless.
Nature has no malice towards us – it’s just doing its thing and we were in the way. Life is not fair.
In my Happiness Formula, there are three things that make you happy:
(1) Doing work you love.
(2) Living in a place you love.
(3) Being around people you love.
I’ve found that if you have two out of the three you’re happy. Three out of three and you’ve hit the jackpot in life. But just one out of the three and you’re uneasy at best, miserable at worst.
Previously I’ve written about the blessing and curse of accommodation. What worked for the person I describe above two years ago doesn’t work now. He’s accommodated. He’s never much liked where he lives, but did love his job. That’s changed now, and he’s restless.
What to do?
First, if you know what you’re doing now is wrong, stop doing it. Quitting the wrong thing will force you to begin the search for the next thing.
Note that I wrote the “next” thing, not the “perfect” thing.
The next thing might not be perfect … in fact, it likely won’t be.
Many people are caught adrift in life – comfortable but restless and linger in this rut for years because they keep looking for the next “perfect” thing. You know these people – always talking about starting a business, changing careers, moving … but never take action.
Know there is no “perfect” – what’s important is that you make a change. The “next” thing likely won’t be perfect – but it also isn’t permanent. Look at your options, chose the best one, and take the leap.
If it doesn’t work out, leap again, and keep at it until you find what works.
This journey and disruption won’t be a waste. Often we have to try the wrong things on our way to finding the right.
Human beings aren’t static. As we age and mature our priorities, wants and needs change. Life is fluid. It’s possible you’ll end up happy with a partner, job or home which you could have never imagined would bring you joy in your younger years.
As well, never underestimate the power of momentum. Once you take a positive step in a new direction, sometimes nature aligns the wind behind you, and gives you a gentle “shove” – intentionally or not. Opportunities and options open up and what at first seemed dark and scary, brightens and excites.
In this case, this person I know is quitting his job, and moving to another state where he has family – so at least he’ll start anew near people he loves.
He had tried three times to get accepted to a trade school in that area, but for whatever reason this didn’t work out – but he’s going anyway. His family there has some connections and job options, and he’ll have a place to stay for a while. Nature is giving him a momentum-driven, friendly “shove.”
He knows what he’s doing now – job and location – aren’t working – so stopping them and trying something else.
This takes courage. I’m happy for him.
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