The other day I was watching a documentary about George Harrison which got me thinking a lot about how we go about defining ourselves as individuals, defining our journey and the time we spend figuring things out.
In George Harrison's case he enjoyed playing guitar, so he joined his friend's — Paul McCartney — band. Later on, already as part of The Beatles, he started exploring song writing and his original songs started to make the album cuts. And a few years later, when he discovered Indian culture and, specially the practice of meditation, he felt such a powerful connection, a sense of wholeness and synchrony with the world, that he explored it intensely in his solo projects.
During his eventful and creative life, he took the time to explore new things that intrigued or fascinated him. He took time to figure things out.
Sometimes we might be too hard on ourselves for not having it all figured out. Our early life is usually so meticulously orchestrated, almost without interruptions: start off going to school, choosing a career, going to college, getting a job ... That once we want deviate from the path most travelled, it feels somewhat unnatural to stop and recalibrate.
I do believe that it's very positive to take time to experiment. Otherwise, we'd never develop new interests or open up our minds to new possibilities.
It’s OK to spend some time Soul-Searching
But not indefinitely!
Take a step back and be patient, but be alert. Don’t let anything drag. Be honest with yourself and identify when something is a lost cause. More important than having the drive to start something new, is having the courage to acknowledge that it's time to quit.
While most people might see quitting or admitting that they're not suited for XYZ as a failure, it can actually be a enormous win.
You're winning back time that you'd be spending on something that's not moving you towards full realization, you're minimizing frustration and getting back brain cycles and motivation that can be spent on things that you find exciting and rewarding.
Recalibrate. Execute. Repeat.
Musical instruments need to be tuned. Precision instruments need to be calibrated. We all benefit from a (re)calibration from time to time.
It’s OK to spend some time looking for who we are and what we want. But that was to be time-bound. It must also have a clear goal. Otherwise you'll digress too often and struggle to maintain a course.
Don’t spend your whole life soul-searching to avoid execution. Executing may hurt, it requires a lot of focus and, most of the time it’s not even fun. But the rewards are a million times greater than if you stayed in the could-have-should-have limbo.
You end up knowing more about yourself and developing skin in the game. You learn to be dedicated to a handful of things, while everything else is background noise. And that’s OK.
Gauge your Experiments by their Output
A good way of understanding if your (re)calibration is being productive, is to evaluate its output. Humans like immediate feedback, so make sure that along the way, you have small checkpoints.
If you're learning something new or performing a new kind of task, set measurable goals. If you can, ask other people for feedback. This will give you a sense of the quality and impact of output to other.
Pay close attention to how you feel.
Do you feel accomplished? Do you feel tired, but happy that you did something you didn't know you could do? Or do you feel like carrying a burden, disconnected and eager to do something else instead?
We all know that we can't feel 100% happy, motivated and excited about life all the time. Look for a sustained healthy balance.
And if you find yourself constantly hovering below 50–60% on your happiness/motivation/excitement about life curve, give it some thought. You might need to recalibrate.
Just like George Harrison, through the course of our lives we are presented with — or we can create ourselves — opportunities to stop, recalibrate and go on new direction. Take that chance.
Move away from could-have-should-have limbo.
Because, at the end of the day, the journey is queen. It is what you experience and the great things you can create from it that will matter the most.
Thanks for reading!