What’s next for you?
Last weekend, I was talking to a school friend after years.
We went down memory lane as we remembered ourselves as kids. In the ninth grade, when I had switched schools, he was the first person to sit beside me on the first day at the new school. I was extremely nervous on my first day so I was grateful to him, though I never expressed it.
We both were polar opposites. He was the class clown and often got into trouble for his antics. I mostly played by rules. He was decent at his studies. I was the annoying topper kid who was the teacher’s pet.
But despite our differences, we became friends. We shared our tiffin boxes. He copied my homework. We used to go to the movies together.
Surprisingly, we have stayed friends, or at least in touch over the years. Isn’t that the definition of friendship these days, anyway?
As we talked this time, we looked back at our past, present, and future.
He told me that he never expected to reach where he is right now in his life. Everyone thought he was a clown (he used a more sinister term for himself which I cannot use here :D). Nobody expected him to do great in his studies or otherwise.
But, in his own words, he exceeded all expectations people had of him.
He might not have gone to a prestigious institution like an IIT or an IIM. But, he has a well-paying job in the Silicon Valley of India. He is married. He has got a dog. He is doing great for himself by all other standards of Indian society. I am really proud of him.
Then, he finally came to the real question he wanted to discuss, “I have exceeded expectations that people had of me. But where do I go from here? How do I set the next goal? What’s next? “
I was stumped. I did not have an answer to this.
It is a good question to ask. It means you are changing and evolving. It is a sign of progress.
But, the answer is not always easy.
It becomes tougher when the society is no longer involved. In my friend’s case, he is lucky to be in a condition where he believes that he has exceeded the expectations people and society had for him. He said, “I know beyond this ‘X’ number at the ‘Y’ position, I don’t want to go further.”
Now, he can hopefully begin to figure out his own dreams, goals, and desires.
Most of the time, people continue to chase things without stopping to consider why. We think we want something because society tells us we need them. Good grades in school. A respectable job that pays well. You know the routine. These are what they call mimetic desires.
The journey to break free from the trap of mimetic desires demands introspection, reflection, and most importantly, the courage to walk your own path. This is when you:
- Take a step back to figure out your values
- Figure out your next goal no matter how big it might be, and
- Break it down into small chunks of projects and mini experiments
- Choose a project that can make you fulfilled
This is essentially how I answered my friend’s question which in turn was inspired from my past newsletter on How to Figure Out What You Should Work On?
It won’t be easy, of course.
People will question you, some might even mock you. The worse part is you will question yourself. You will probably face your biggest demons, shortcomings, and self-destructive thoughts when you take a plunge to walk your own path. You might also give up in between. But, the pain of abandoning yourself once again to do what society expects you to do would be too much. So, you will start all over again.
It is okay.
It is part of the work. This is how you deeply know yourself – the good, the bad, and the ugly. This is how you continue to grow beyond what society expects from you. This is how you test the limits of what you can do. This is how you realize your true potential.
So, tell me. What’s next for you?
Until next time,