November 7, 2011

How To Put Off Making Decisions About Your Life

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Everyone hates making decisions, especially ones that are important and determine the course of their future.

Thankfully, there’s often no need to make such decisions.

Instead, you can simply put them off, often indefinitely. By shifting your life to autopilot, you’ll be in good company, since many people prefer to let things come their way instead of making things happen.

To join this large and nebulous group, here are a few strategies that will help you defer making any real decisions.

Apply for something. Whether a grant or scholarship application, some form of higher education, or some kind of competition, applying for anything is a great option for putting off real decisions. First, it takes care of the immediate problem of how to spend your free time and energy, and then it provides you with an extended time of waiting around to learn the results of your application.

Applications usually require a lot of time and paperwork, with letters to beg for, various records to hunt down, and essays to carefully draft that will later be quickly skimmed by an assistant. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment from having submitted your application, even though nothing has actually been completed or decided.

Enter or re-enter formal education. Best combined with “apply for something,” the choice to enter or re-enter formal education is great at slicing away years of your life, often at a time when you’re best prepared to put them to good use. Professional schools or advanced degrees are especially useful options, since you’ll have plenty of peers who are also delaying their decisions about life, and society in general will respect you for wasting your time in a scholarly manner. If you do it right, you can hide away in formal education for at least two years, sometimes longer.

Adopt fatalism. Accept these phrases of the fatalist: “If it’s meant to be, it will happen” and “Good things come to those who wait.” Above all, do not believe that you can influence the reason why something happens, and do not believe that good things come to those who hustle.

Pursue side projects. There’s nothing like a good side project to keep you from what you should really be working on. In fact, an entire life can be composed of a series of side projects. Side projects are especially helpful at giving you a false sense of security and focus, thus obviating the need to think about what really matters. Go ahead, say yes to that thing that will distract you from your purpose. You can always return to reality later.

Embrace ignorance. This choice is especially easy and common. When encountering a crossroads, determine that you don’t care about the outcome and don’t want to know which destination is best. Base all of your analysis of the situation on your existing beliefs without gathering more data. Ignore warning signs that you might be wrong, and accept that if you’re scared of something, you shouldn’t do it. (Note: this strategy will also help you in your beliefs about politics, religion, and people who think differently than you.)

Ask everyone for advice. No need to think for yourself; ask everyone else to do it for you. For best results, signal your hesitation about the decision to the people of whom you ask advice. This way, they’ll tell you what you want to hear: take your time, there’s no hurry. You’ll be happiest if you receive conflicting advice from your advisors, because you’ll then feel more comfortable about waiting it out.

Compare yourself to others. Instead of thinking about how everyone’s situation is contextual and unique, look at people who are more successful than you and fall into despair over why you haven’t achieved as much as them. Alternatively, look at people who are less successful than you, and console yourself that at least you’re further along than them. As a bonus, choose to apply other people’s definitions of success instead of thinking about your own.

Decide to settle. Perhaps the most common strategy for life avoidance, “settling for what you have” is the best way to defer your potential, your possibility, and your dreams. Thinking ahead to a vague, undefined future is especially helpful: “I’ll have more time for the things I want to do later.”

Opportunities to rationalize settling are both unique and limitless. You’ve done a lot already… why bother challenging yourself anymore? Stop and take it easy—you deserve it, champ.

***

All of these strategies will serve you well in your quest for passivity, for they all represent external factors that will make your decisions for you. This will then set you free from the burden of making them yourself. Never take matters into your own hands!

Always remember: there’s plenty of time. No one ever dies young or unprepared. Ignore the 1,440 minutes available to you today, the changing of the seasons, the nagging sense that you could have done something more if you had made the effort. Don’t worry about the days flying by that you’ll never see again.

If you mess it up, you can always do it all over. No pressure, no urgency. Right?

###

NYC meetup! I’ll be in the center of the universe on November 15th at 7pm. Tickets are free while they last, but they won’t last long. If you’re nearby, I’d love to see you.

Image: Mike

Comment on this article

108 Responses to “How To Put Off Making Decisions About Your Life”

  1. I especially love the points about advanced education. So many people don’t recognize that higher education is a business just like any other company, and their job is to get people to purchase their product: by any means necessary.

  2. I’m reading this as I hold on the phone with USPS asking about an application I sent out certified mail.

  3. Hahaha – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught myself thinking, “Maybe I’ll just go back and get my MBA – that’ll give me time to figure out what I’m doing…”

    At the same time, though, I think it’s also important not to rush and overthink decisions. As I’m getting ready for self-employment, there are a number of big decisions that need to be made, but now isn’t the right time to make all of them. It’s hard, because I can be a pretty impatient person, but I also know that I need to wait to have all of the information I need before pulling the trigger.

    Definitely good to find a balance, though :)

  4. The thing that always makes me refrain from culling AONC from my Google Reader feed when pruning season comes around is your willingness to give us readers a good kick in the arse when we need it.

    And I needed it.

    Many thanks, as always.

  5. Haha – you know what’s another great way to put off making decisions about your life? Work on a cruise ship! :)

  6. Great post. I may have to disagree with you about the side projects, though. I play in a band when I’m not doing my “real work” (which I love!) and it is a ton of fun to rehearse with the guys and go out and play at clubs and events every other weekend or so (plus pick up a little extra cash).

  7. It took me thirty seconds to get the irony of your post … then -mindblow-.
    I’m in the middle of the bridge to the redesign of my life, and I’m falling for every and each one of your points. Ouch, ouch ouch.

    Thanks for the inspiration you’re giving.

  8. Haha,

    Amazing post. With just a small hint of sarcasm :) I have used all of these methods and yes all of them work very well in putting off important decisions. I was just thinking about some of these, another one is over thinking EVERYTHING, to the point where you just do nothing.

  9. looking outside of yourself – comparing yourself to others and asking everyone for advice – can be a real soul killer.

    For me, resisting the pull to look to others was one of the hardest patterns I had to break. If I hadn’t, I’d NEVER have the rejiggered life I now enjoy.

  10. Thank you for this. Love the article.

    I have spent the last five years putting off a decision and the act of putting it off and trying to have both choices (even though they contradict) has caused so much stress and unhappiness and regret.

    My choice involved the direction that my life was taking. One option involved adventure and the other involved comfort. Looking back, the second option was really driven by fear, but I could not see that at the time.

    It took a major life event to hit me upside the head and see the two options for what they are: a life of happiness or a life of regret.

    And just making the decision took a load off my shoulders that i didn’t even realize was there. I truly believe that this next 6 months are going to be the best of my life all because I had the courage to make one decision.

    So for everyone putting off a decision about their life, ask yourself this: 20 years from now, will I agree with the decision, or will I regret it.

    If you will regret it, change it. Even if it is painful to do so. Your future self will love you for it.

  11. A nice way to start my Monday morning, especially since I’ve had moments when I’ve toyed with all of these options (except for embracing ignorance–I’d never admit to that one!).

  12. Ouch. How did you get a hold of my journal? or last month’s calendar?

  13. Fabulous use of sarcasm.

  14. volunteering for something that you care about is awesome, i play with kids at Children’s Hospital. Not once and i’m distracted to think about making a decision the kids are excellent at making them for me, “which game should we play with?” I ask. “Candy land!”

  15. Fuck me I love this article.

  16. Whoah… many thanks for writing this. I’m the king of side-projets. ;-)

  17. I really enjoy your articles. However, I must admit I am not too sure about this one.

    I am a firm believer that you are what you think you are. That you can do whatever you can do. I believe that you can achieve anything you want in life as long as you have a firm sense of direction, some sort of sense of what you want out of live. Those who may postpone decisions following your advice will sit down one day and may feel they have not accomplished much.

    It is the life changing decisions you take what makes you what you are today. They open doors for new opportunities and we should always always welcome these challenges.

    Love life, because it is great and we all are here for a purpose not to delay it!

  18. And now I’m off to do something with my life. Thanks for the reminder.

  19. Best post ever. This is so relevant, so true – so many people I know are doing this. And all that negativity and passivity just gets so… frustrating, because they could be so much more. I love the sarcasm and all the points you’ve listed out. This is the article I wish I’d written.

  20. I have this mantra. ‘Do. Don’t think. Act. Don’t plan.’ It works for me because I tend to be a little to analytical at times and sometimes I just need to get going. Learning from doing will almost always trump other methods.

    It’s also impossible to see all the possible outcomes before you start. Sometimes a little faith is in order. :)

  21. I think this is the kinda post one writes when they’ve had just one too many conversations with folks who seem to be unaccountable for their own lives.

    been there, for sure.

  22. I do this for 24 years.
    Now I live instead of just exist, but sometimes it´s hard not to fall in the same routine…

  23. Interesting how many of the things on the list figure heavily in the advice you get from people about what you should do with your life. I spent months fending off a well meaning family member’s entreaties that I should go and get my masters degree. In my first year when I should have been starting a masters, I finished my first novel. Second year, just started second novel.

    (Confess though, I’m a sucker for seeking advice and comparing…)

  24. November 7, 2011

    Paul Kinsky

    I absolutely agree with most of this, except for the side projects part. Side projects are amazing! You just have to know yourself well enough to find the right ones, projects that interest you enough to work on in your free time. Projects, and THIS IS GOING IN ALL CAPS, PROJECTS THAT YOU WILL FINISH.

    Of course, I’m an engineer by trade and most of my side projects are in my field. This is great, because my natural approach to the problem “learn how to do X” is to find a side project I’d like to do that will also teach me X.

  25. I have to say I disagree with you on the advanced education. I’m sure there are people that do use it as a way to put off making a decision about their life, but there are others like myself for which it IS a decision about their life. I did go and get my MBA, I’m almost done with it now. But for me it was a decision made to grow in my life and help me get farther. For me, NOT going back to get it would have delayed my life and I would have still been spinning my wheels. But because I did it, I learned more, made new contacts, and am able to take the job I want to have. So not everyone makes the advanced education decision just to put off deciding what to do in life. For some people, it is a PART of their decision on what to do with their life.

  26. Damn you, Chris! Your anti-procrastination post distracted me from finishing the project I am working on! :)

  27. Nail on the head today. Just the kick I needed today. I have performed every single one of those tasks, almost in order.

    I am writing my letter right now.

  28. Four years ago, my husband had gone back to school in his late 30′s to get his MBA (unfortunately required for what he wanted to do). I’m a total business nerd and was fascinated by a lot of his course material and would chat with him and his classmates about it, and used some of what I learned in my (money-making) side projects and my business. Yet when so many of them suggested I apply to the school… I asked why? I already have a masters degree (biochem) and I have the tools to run my own business, which I’ve now been doing for 2 1/2 years… *without* an MBA. (Most of them are middle management for Random Big Company…)

  29. Brilliant. Now back to my side project.

  30. Hi all.

    Thanks for reading, as always.

    @Sheryl (and other pro-formal-education folks),

    That’s fine, I don’t disagree with that perspective and certainly not your own unique experience. I’m glad to know it’s worked well for you. For many other people, it is indeed a way of avoiding things while going into debt, but of course there are always exceptions.

  31. November 7, 2011

    Matthew Allen

    This one sort of made my chest hurt- I know all too well how to put things off and waste the time I’ve been given. Simply seeing so many ways to put things off had the opposite effect on me it seems: It made me want to run and do something, anything that I’d been putting off. I will always tend to do things “in my own time” that is, when I feel like it- but really that just boils down to doing things that make me happy rather than doing things I really don’t care about.

    Maybe the lesson here is to find a balance and do what needs to be done, but take some time to smell the roses also. Both paths have their merit.

  32. This is exactly what we need on monday mornings. A perfect way to start the week. I especially love the advice on asking for advice. Mentors are great unless you find they start to halt ur progress and action decision making. I’m sharing this….

  33. Well played sir.

  34. And if your not going to do any side-projects or experiment with school or other hobbies and what not, hopefully you pick the perfect “business” right off the bat or it’s gonna be painful to waste all that time.

  35. Not your everyday common wisdom. I’d say maybe even taboo. Get it out there. Well done.

  36. Wow. What a relief to find that I’m actually on the right path and that all those who criticize my growth just happen to fit in some or all of the categories above!

    Thank you for the pat on the back, really needed it.

  37. I was going to comment but it was a distraction.

  38. Terrific — And from the perspective of an old timer –
    The earlier in life force yourself to look at what you really want and do your best to go out and get it the better — Take the chance and stand up for what you want NOW! Establish with the world who you are and thrive on! You will never regret it.

  39. I spent five years waiting to leave an abusive husband. I didn’t trust myself or my judgement. Now I have five years of regret!

  40. and again, you’ve peeked into my world and said out loud what I needed to hear… ALL of those points hit the mark of some part of my life, up until now… So, as I step up to the plate, I know that there is no more time to waste, if I want to be the woman I can feel just under the skin. You Rock. Thanks.

  41. OK…it is hard after working to quit…so be ready for either doing nothing or finding a craft, art, etc. project, bugging your family, neighbors, friends who have other things to do besides listen to you…or study the internet which has everything on it, or spend the time wandering in the library, malls, elder quarters, hospitals, clinics, (surely you are sick with something mysterious), or what? Yes, you do get to a point where you should not drive, or be responsible for yourself…but then….OH, well, if you are not retired, then there are all those options just mentioned in your editorial of how to waste time and ‘look’ productive, kinda frustrating, too… easier said then done, thanks

  42. Chris – wow, your descriptions of those things that keep us off track are too compelling. A great reminder that just subtle distortions can be used as a smokescreen for avoiding our best life. Good is the enemy of the best indeed!

  43. So funny — this mirrors a conversation I had with a friend last night about work and how much I love my work (struggling, but happy, fantasy novelist). I’ve had a number of well-meaning people in the last couple months suggest various “side projects,” which I told my friend about, expecting her (the soul of practicality) to tell me to listen to them and not put all my eggs in one basket. Instead, she told me to buckle down this winter and finish the final book in my series and get it out before I worry about any “side projects”, that they were just distractions from my true goal. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for her advice and for your article in my inbox this morning.

  44. Great post, Chris! Don’t underestimate side-projects though. If chosen wisely they can aid very well in achieving your main goal. Moreover, they can give inspiration and just something else to think about.

  45. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE THIS POST. Did I mention how much I love this post? I at times suffer from “comparatitis” and was having a bit of an episode this morning. Thank your injection of wisdom. It’s exactly what I needed.

  46. In the case of #’s 2 and 4, I would really, really, alter them slightly to include the phrase, “For the wrong reasons”. I’m going back to school to get two degrees I want that will in no way, shape or form affect my life, job or career. One of them isn’t even a job I can do in my state and I have no plans to move. Why am I doing them? ‘Cuz I wanna and I authentically like school.

    Side projects, if done appropriately, can lead you to new discoveries about yourself. My project to make a RenFest costume allowed me to conquer my fear of failure (again, damn thing has a longer half life than a radioactive isotope) and realize that I really like the stress-relief one finds in sewing. In fact, I want to take it up as a hobby now. Granted, once you factor in time and the cost of fabric it’s a fiscally stupid decision but it’s fun and I like it.

    For humorous reasons I like to tell people things like, “I’m not settling until I start my next relationship.” It’s funny because it’s true. Now, who wants to sign up to be my next mistake?

  47. I’ve done 6 out of 8 “putting off” decisions. Thanks for the kick in the ass today. I needed that.

  48. I’ll start off by saying that I love how most of your posts challenge us, and I agree with most of them.

    I must admit I have people who are in University just because that was the next logical step after high school. That being said, going to University sometimes IS the next step on achieving big goals, depending on what your goal is.

    Sometimes, you don’t know what your big goal is, as it isn’t always easy to figure it out. When that is the case, some people work, some travel, some go to school to try to see what they like, what they are good at and what they really don’t want to do!

    The way I see it, an application IS the first step in achieving something. I think it is much better than status quo. Of course, you have to continue challenging yourself and working hard after that, but I wouldn’t discredit ALL applications and ALL graduate studies, the same way not ALL 9-5 jobs suck.

    Interesting way of viewing things though :).

  49. Strange how those with a contemptuous attitude toward higher education are usually those with less of it.

  50. What if that “side project” will temporarily provide you with money that helps you to keep working on your ultimate goal? Any thoughts? This is a question I’m facing at the moment.

    Again another thought-provoking post Chris. Thank you

  51. I agree with much of this. But, of course, if you want to be an MD in the USA, you have to go to school, and there is quite a lot of applying and waiting involved. Now, if I could practice medicine in this country LEGALLY without a degree, I’d be all about it! At times, I doubted if anyone would want to go to a Medical Doctor who didn’t have any education, but if I priced myself competitively, that might not be a concern. ;-) I saw an inspiring expose on some TV journalism show a decade ago about a GP who had NO education beyond a BA, but practiced as a GP for YEARS and no one was the wiser. Of course, he’s in prison now because his ex-wife turned him in. Le Sigh.

  52. Hey Chris – Is that sarcasm? As is often the case, you sure know how to hit the nail right on the head. Super post, lots of truth there for sure. Take your life into your own hands is a big, big thing to learn for most of us.

    But I’m still sending my kids to college :-)

  53. I just was talking to a friend yesterday about a phrase I got in a fortune cookie: “The minute you settle for less than you deserve, the minute you get less than you settled for”

  54. Delightful, now what was I doing….

  55. Very funny and VERY true. I loved this blog. Nice one Chris.

  56. This was your best work yet! Loved the sarcasm and disregard for “how things should be done.” Motivates me to keep working on what I want to achieve. A sincere thank you Chris.

  57. Wow. So almost everything I’ve ever done.

    But I don’t get it. What decision am I supposed to be making about my life?

  58. So, like, the last several emails I’ve gotten from you are precisely targeted at my mood and where my mind is when I receive them. You must be psychic. Thanks for the constant reminders to BE.

  59. Going back to school for me is my only option as you can’t even get an administrative assistant job now w/o an Associates degree. Ridiculous! I am over qualified in skills and life experience but w/o that degree, they don’t care! I know people with Masters degrees who are working minimum wage jobs because they can’t find jobs in their field. So no, a higher education isn’t a guarantee but you were lucky.

  60. Though a generally useful message, I think it is blind to areas where an expertise gained through formal education is required. I sure hope your doctor, dentist, spiritual leader, mental health professional, etc. have ‘wasted’ many years of their lives getting training. I know mine have.

  61. What a great article! I especially fall victim to comparing myself to others. I sometimes feel bad for myself when I look at all the cool, amazing things people are doing. I wonder, “Why can’t I be there, doing that?” Sometimes it translates into fuel for getting things done, but other times it leaves me feeling sub par, like I’m missing out somehow. I’d like to change my perception from “Look at the cool, amazing things people are doing!” to “Look at all the cool, amazing things I’M doing!”

    I have also considered graduate school and have been asking others for advice relentlessly, much to the same grim outcome. I need to listen to myself and what I want to do rather than polling an audience of people who are nearby at the time.

  62. I love this post, and I truly appreciate the challenge it offers to those of us that might consider putting off big decisions for any of the above reasons.

    I saw a great quote from Jim Rohn the other day, which I think relates directly back to the formal education piece and also the point you make in AONC the book.

    “Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.” – Jim Rohn

    I couldn’t agree more — I have found that in pursuing my own education on my own time I am far more and enthusiastic and learn in a far more relevant fashion.

    Hope you’re all enjoying the journey.

  63. I’m definitely an adopter of fatalism, and quite the unwilling ‘settler’. I’m consciously trying to live life ‘on purpose’, and your comment about there being 1440 minutes in a day has just thrown me. Days seem to pass so quickly, yet I never realised until I saw it on the screen in front of me exactly how many minutes make up each day. 1440 sounds like so many! I dread to think how many of those I tend to waste…

  64. “And I? I took the [road] less travelled by / And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost.

  65. Pingback: Have you made a decision? « careerfair2011

  66. I wish I could add some new witticism here but we all agree: “Thanks for the kick in the ass.” Your timing is impeccable!

  67. Hi Chris! I always read your blog but rarely comment (though I often comment in my head, to others, and occasionally to you in an email) but today your post compelled me to hop over here and say that I think you’re a rockstar. I found myself wanting to forward this along to a bunch of my friends who have recently decided to go back to grad school after basically feeling lost or frustrated by the “real world”. But instead, I decided to just agree with you and take note that the strategy of “Asking for advice” is one I use often and will turn to less often moving forward. Thanks!

  68. Hilarious! You might add:

    Marry someone from another country so that you can tangle with the INS for a few years.

    Have a baby so that you can make someone else your priority for a long while.

    Been there! Ha ha.

  69. These are such great points. It’s easy to lose perspective when we’re faced with something that’s hard or new to us. Seems like this sentiment was in the air today because I had this conversation twice.

    When I’m up against a challenge, I try to take small steps toward the goal. It helps to keep moving forward while avoiding the distractions.

  70. Story of my life! I could take classes forever as a way of not making a decision. Thanks for writing this.

  71. November 7, 2011

    David Clarke

    I never do ANY of the above EVER

    ha ha ha , great post

  72. Hilarious. I’ve come to the realization recently that I’m really good at getting what I want because I don’t have the patience to sit back and wait for things to happen to me. Although, there is the other side of the coin where sometimes my boyfriend and I over-analyze a situation to the point that we can no longer make a decision about it. I believe that is called “analysis paralysis”. lol

  73. Thanks for the timely and much-needed kick-in-the-pants reality check. Time to get a move on :)

  74. This post was definitely a slap in the face. I have definitely fallen for many of those, and am considering some of them in the future.

    But sometimes, these strategies can be good if they prevent you from making the WRONG decisions about your life.

    Classic example in my own life: after I finished my bachelor’s degree in Economics, instead of making the default decision that was expected of me (get a full-time job in business), I applied for a grant to teach English in Spain. This opened the door to tons of travel opportunities, helped me meet entrepreneurs who inspired me, and awoke in me a hunger for following my dreams and creating the own rules of my life.

    So sometimes it’s not always bad to put off making decisions, if it can buy you time to eventually make the RIGHT decisions, and help prevent you from immediately making the wrong decisions that could get you trapped.

    thanks for the inspiration!

  75. Chris, I LOVE this post. I’m so glad you didn’t change your tone at the end. Satire through and through.

  76. This is the most timely and needed of the many awesome posts from you Chris. I am at a crossroads in my life where I have been doing everything to avoid making a decision. Call it fear, weakness, or plan old procrastination, this post has killed it. Thank you so much and keep up the awesome work.

  77. I think Chris is just challenging you to consider why you are going to school or not or doing that side project or not. Ask yourself if your wasting time and avoiding what you really want to do now or is this what you want?

  78. November 7, 2011

    Thomas (pyrxgl)

    Fantastic insight. I have to join the chorus, which you have already acknowledged, about education. When it is done to distract or avoid, it is not as beneficial. For me, my formal education was the cost of admission. I decided that I wanted to impact as many people as I could, so I inserted myself in the education system. I am now, in an alarmangly short amount of time, the entrepreneurial center of a University and an entrepreneurship center (under construction, but it’s mine!). Chris it happend so fast I’m still scared, but it was my goal from day one, and somehow I hit it out of the park. And I’m going to change my University, my State, this country for the better. Perhaps I could have done it without a 6 year detour. (Technically, I still don’t have the PhD, so I’m still detouring) But this is the path I saw, I took it, and the knowledge, the experience, and the credentials have all been an integral part of my journey. In short, when I look at your list of distractors, I see two groups. The majority of them I can not see any redeeming quality to. However, some of them, although they can be misused, have much to offer, when approached with the right mindset.

  79. I like what you’ve done here and kinda find the tone of a contemporary Zen Buddhist talking then a self-loathing pessimist. Some of your rhetoric reminded me of author Wayne Dyer said about one of Tony Robbins sayings it went something like “If you dream it you can, and if you believe it you will!” and then Wayne Dyer adds “and if you don’t that’s okay too.” You’re basically talking about how to stay happy amidst an addiction to procrastination. The part where you talked about deciding to settle reminded me of this TED talk (the paradox of choice). I also talked about some of the opposite attitude last week on my blog (Create & Execute: Fear, Procrastination, a Little Alcoholism, and the Paradox of Inaction.)

  80. Haha, love this!! Very well-done!

  81. Looks like you finally read my blog Chris, the cynicism is contagious! :)

  82. Why can’t any of these *be* your life? Hell I’d be happy with a life full of “side projects”, because I’m transient and like variety and just having ONE BIG PROJECT ZOMGS would bore me. Everything we do is part of life; it’s not like we can put off days and go off-life, as it were.

  83. Focus. Action. That’s it. When you know what you want, you don’t have to spend a lot of time analyzing it.

    The problem is when you don’t really know what you want and you get mired down in all the tactics you described above (and we’ve all done at least a few of them).

    Instead of doing all these hurry-up-and-wait activities to find out what you want, get rid of the stuff you already know you don’t like about your life and you’ll see your dream bubbling to the surface. That’s what happened for us, and that’s why I’m writing this response from Thailand instead of from a cubicle in the States. It’s why I finally finished my first book after 10 years of “trying” to do it before. I could list a dozen other things that “magically” came to fruition when I got rid of the crap in my life. (and by “magically” I mean I still had to work to get them, but it was an almost distraction-free path)

    You may not know exactly what you want out of life right now, but every single one of us knows what’s not working in our lives. Focus on clearing that up and you’ll see what simple action can do for you. Then you can turn that newly sharpened skill toward your bigger goals.

    Nice post, Chris.

  84. Excellent read. Unfortunately I can relate to all of those points.

  85. Let’s pity those who have a passion that REQUIRES a degree (e.g., doctor, lawyer, professors, etc.).

  86. I’m a big believer in the critical thinking skills that a good university education endows. Part of the problem with trying to educate the Australian public on issues like climate change is that so many people have so little respect for education, training, and the expertise of the scientists who are reporting their conclusions on this issue. While I think that you can get stuck in a constant cycle of higher degrees, I do not a good education should be treated as something expendable. When I taught high school English, I was shocked to see that 15 year olds could not grasp basic spelling and grammar that I learned in primary school when I was 10. Education does matter. Just don’t make it a substitute for real life!

  87. I only partially agree with this. If your goal requires you to get a degree of some sort then go do it right away and get it as fast as possible (I got my 3 degrees – BA, MSc, PhD in 7.5 years). Don’t be like all the people who say that they are “going back to school” some day but never do anything about it. But don’t go get a degree because you can’t figure out anything better to do. Do apply for jobs, grants etc. Do it now. But don’t sit around and wait for the outcome. Get in with doing stuff in the meantime.

  88. Great post.
    However i do disagree on the further education, and also the side projects – it’s good to have more than one focus on your life.

  89. Good one, Chris. I have a couple of Masters and two PhDs. But no more – now I am just a well educated, acting, focused person.

  90. I think you just described my entire life, most of it anyway. Reeling a little right now. I knew all of this, of course and have been thinking more and more about it lately. Time to act.

  91. Great post. It was exactly what I needed to hear today. I’ve been struggling to refocus after several months of living life on autopilot. I didn’t know that’s what I was doing but after seeing the word autopilot in writing, it struck a nerve. No more of that!

    It’s posts like this that keep me reading this blog. Thanks for sharing.

  92. Chris – This is the best ironic essay I’ve read since ‘A Modest Proposal’, written 282 years ago. Bravo! And so true. Makes me glad I did not go back to school when switching careers this last time (although I have been learning stuff through informal internet courses). It’s also timely for me because tonight I’ll be co-leading a workshop to help people discover their passion and purpose and turn them into their right work. I will mention some of your points in the workshop.

    Thank you so much for writing this – I hope it galvanizes the Universe.

  93. Awesome post Chris. My and I went through a devastating financial crisis that’s taken us 5 years to clean up. Parts of me are still waiting until it gets completely and utterly resolved to begin my life again. Your post made me realize that waiting is really wasting.

  94. November 8, 2011

    Michael Bardwell-Scott

    Its funny, because halfway through this article I realized this another way to become (how did you put it) “unremarkably average.” I love the sarcasm. This is a good reminder to take accountability for your life and go do something.

  95. November 8, 2011

    Gregory Zummo

    Thanks for the timely kick in the ass. I think all of us need this periodically.

    I am finally going to start several small businesses I have been “working on” for the last 2 years. Whether they are successful or not, at least I will be doing instead of planning.

  96. Love it. Sharing on FB. Retweeting on Twitter. Posting on G+. Did I mention I love it?

  97. Chris, You are one weird dude. Congrats!

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  99. November 8, 2011

    Marianne Bowen

    Thank you–just what I needed to read at this moment!

  100. Loved the sarcasm….however, you haven’t told me anything I didn’t know already.

  101. While we should by no means settle, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with going with the flow. Sometimes we force things that are not in our best interest. Maybe that’s a little Taoist of me.

  102. I actually had an intense conversation with my sister and a friend-of-a-friend a couple of weeks ago about the value of higher education.

    I got my MBA a few years ago because I *wanted* to (back then, I liked the idea of saying I had accomplished that goal) even though I’m fairly certain it had no effect on my job prospects, nor on what I want to do in the future. Because of my experience, and the fact that I wholeheartedly subscribe to non-conformist thinking, I argued against my sister getting her MBA, which she wants so she can get ahead and, ultimately, “get rich”.

    The friend-of-a-friend argued it was highly valuable and encouraged her. (As do my parents, because it’s the “safe” way to go.) Did I mention he’s 25 and just finished his MBA? Oh, kids. I wanted to say “Let’s have this chat again in 10 years and see if you think the same way.”

    Life will teach you many lessons that school cannot and will not. Just get out there and do your thang and everything else will take care of itself!

  103. It always amazes me how many of us try to wrap up our talents and contributions in bureaucracy and formal structures.

    Let’s open the gift and let it do its thing!

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  105. November 14, 2011

    Jessica Moran

    So good! This was such a needed kick in the butt for me today; I’ve been ridiculously passive about more than a few issues.
    Thanks for posting.
    ~Jess

  106. Brilliant. But there is one thing I’d like to say. If everything you do gets your full attention and love, then your life cannot be wasted. You might not have succeeded in the one big project, but you will have lived.

  107. You know, I always used to think maybe there was something wrong with me feeling uneasy about doing things the “traditional” way. I used to think “why can’t I pick the classes I want if I’m paying thousands of dollars for them?”,”Why can’t I learn this on my own instead?”, “Why should I listen to you?, you grew up and live differently than I do”. I start to embrace my resistance the the norm more often, as it seems it’s heading me down the right path. Often times when I decide to pursue something I’ve been resisting (due to traditional dogma), paths seem to open up as if saying “yes, you’re heading the right way”. For me I don’t give people much advice, nor do I take it, because unless they’re already in the same mindset it’s pointless to give or receive advice from them. It’s hard to explain to my parents why I decided to drop out of school and just learn on my own, they’ll just cut me off and say “well it’s good to have anyways”. It can be quite lonely trying to forge your own path, even with those that love you.

  108. October 2, 2012

    Christine

    Why are so many of these posts SPOT ON?! Love it.

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