A new year is coming.
New beginnings. A chance for a blank slate.
As mentioned in my inaugural post, I’ve recently made some changes in my life. Although they may seem trivial at first glance, they are anything but.
I’ve spent the last seven years doing everything to find out how fast I can run a marathon. The answer, it turns out, is not very fast. But that doesn’t change the fact that for these years, it’s been my calling. My identity.
When I got up in the morning, my first thoughts were what run(s) do I have on the plan for today. And how do I structure the rest of my obligations to optimise this or these runs.
“The undisciplined are slaves to moods, appetites, and passions.”Stephen Covey
At first glance, it might seem excessive. But, if you’re like me, you’ll recognise that there’s freedom in this type of discipline.
Freedom from worry about whether you’re spending time on the right thing.
Freedom from the anxiety that comes from a lack of clarity and unspent energy.
Freedom from the depression resulting from grading yourself with other people’s scorecards.
I view life as a series of changing seasons.
The season for dedicating myself to running has come to an end. And I’m entirely fine with that. I did everything I could, and I have no regrets.
But as I find myself at the threshold of a new beginning – the turn of the year – I recognise the dangers of a blank slate. While they come with unlimited opportunities, they are also traps. Traps that see you falling headfirst back into old and unhealthy default patterns. Patterns of feeling, thinking, and acting.
Or, often in my case, not acting for a lack of clarity. A lack of calling.
To do so would be to discard everything the last seven years have taught me. Namely that I need a passion. To feel alive, I need to chase something. To dedicate myself to the pursuit of improvement in some avenue.
“It’s easy to live your life by somebody else’s scorecard, it’s hard to live your life by your own scorecard, but only one of those is likely to make you satisfied”Shane Parrish
And, perhaps the most important lesson of them all: Only I can discover what that is. Through exploring my curiosity, pulling on threads, and seeing what unravels.
The societal defaults of chasing wealth, status and fame are meaningless. I need to uncover what I’m intrinsically interested in pursuing and give it my all.
My aim for 2024 is to dedicate the year to regrouping. To hone my ability to exist and survive and do my best even without necessarily having a clear avenue of improvement that guides my every day. And to do so without falling back into the self-destructive patterns.
I believe there is tremendous value in being able to live well even in seasons without a clear calling. It is in these seasons you’re free to play and grow. It is in these seasons you’re free to explore your curiosity in a way that leads to next season’s calling.
Compared to a decade ago, I’m much better prepared to survive these quiet seasons of life. Being a parent to children five and two means there’s rarely a dull moment. And having a spouse that now knows me well enough to recognise my destructive patterns, and calls me out on it, is tremendously helpful.
“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”Leo Tolstoy
At the same time, however, this means I must be vigilant. It’s easy to think that all of this makes me immune to previous mistakes. Not so. The last couple of months, I have observed myself defaulting back to all the familiar thought patterns of old.
“I need to make something of myself!”
“It’s time to fully dedicate myself to my career, to maximise my earning potential before it’s too late.”
“Never mind that I don’t have any good options at the moment, but if I don’t start a business now I never will.”
A lack of good opportunities should not be misinterpreted as a need to pursue bad ideas. Nor should you mistake a lack of a clear calling as a cue to dive headlong into whatever first catches your attention.
That’s why 2024 will be all about finding balance for me. Because I need to reposition myself, to be able to explore opportunities that come my way and be ready to pounce once it becomes clear that I’ve found a good one.
Writing will be a key part of that exploration. To force myself to fully express half formed thoughts, so that they can be solidified or discarded. And to better understand myself, so that I’m ready to grab my next calling with both hands.