When I was growing up, I knew what I wanted to do for a living. I knew what I was good at doing. I went to school for years to become better at it. So why have I spent the last 25 years working in a completely different field where I had no training, limited experience and where I never expected to work? What happened?
What happened was the future. What happened was that I had to make choices that I never anticipated. I had to choose between making a career in a field that was highly political (and didn’t pay well), and getting into a field that would support my family and bring me some satisfaction. Then I had to choose between moving up the corporate ladder and giving my family some stability. Now I’m looking at choosing what to do next as my options are becoming more limited in the field where I work.
No one ever told me that the future would turn out this way. I’ve learned the hard way. Circumstances that I could not control forced me to make choices I never anticipated. I don’t like this. But I’ve learned that I can’t change it.
Despite the fact that I didn’t ask for the life I have and that sometimes I feel very dissatisfied with it, I have learned some useful lessons. Here are a few:
- If we knew what would happen to us in the future we would not be happy, since we would have no choice about it.
- Uncertainty is built into our lives, and while this may make us uncomfortable, it also gives us opportunities to grow and develop.
- Some things we can control; others we cannot. Knowing the difference between these is crucial.
- Other people’s choices impact our lives, often in ways we don’t like.
- It’s better to have a plan and try to follow it – even if it fails – than to leave things to chance.
- Your attitude toward your life is independent of your circumstances.
Yes, the future is never what we expect it to be. And we can become better people than we ever dreamed possible by accepting this fact and choosing to respond to our circumstances in a positive manner.
Here’s an example of what that life might look like:
“There are those whose faces are so alight with life that they serve as a blinding reminder, amid the darkness of our time, that joy and charisma and hope still exist. These are the energizers, the cheerful individuals who inspire and enliven those around them even though their own backgrounds, genetics, and environments would give cause for them to be apathetic and detached. They, too, might have come from a broken home or poverty. But instead of choosing bitterness, they seem blissfully aware of, and deeply thankful for, their blessings, even when those blessings are fewer and more meager than others. These few, the energized and happy and thankful among us, are not “lucky,” nor are they to be envied. For their treasures are available to all of us. Their treasure is freely chosen attitude.”
(From The Motivation Manifesto by Brendon Burchard)