Here’s a new thought: you don’t need to have your whole life figured out by your 20’s. Seems pretty obvious to me, but not so to most young adults these days. People are absorbing this life urgency from parents, teachers, schools, and the culture. Young people also seem to believe that adults started at point A at age 18 and went directly to point Z where they are as 50 year old adults, even though most grownups travelled a more circuitous or zig-zag path to their calling. So let me offer you a tool to put you on a different path, with the hope that you can relax and start allowing life to unfold instead of forcing it. I call it The Dot Theory.
I bet most of you have completed those numbered dot drawings as kids, where you’d look at the page full of dots and have no idea what the final picture would become. So you’d start connecting the dots, one, two, three, four and so on. After a while an image would start to emerge from the dots, and by the last point you could clearly see the complete picture. It didn’t matter that you had no clue at the start about what the final depiction would be. As long as you persisted in connecting dots, an image would evolve.
I believe that that is how finding your life’s work happens.
Dots are any experiences that cross your path that you seem drawn to because it seems like it would be fun, because your gut is telling you to do it, or if for whatever reason it just feels like the right thing to do at the time. Dots can look like a lot of things: a class, a job, volunteer work, traveling, reading a biography, joining a club or group, trying a new activity, or having a cup of coffee with an adult you find interesting.
It’s important to be open-minded about potential dots. They might go against the grain, be totally different from your past experiences, involve new groups of people you don’t usually associate with, or may be judged by others as being weird or a waste of time. That’s when trusting your intuition needs to come to the forefront. Trust your gut above all else, and you’ll always be on track.
I read about Nathan Sawaya in an article in the St. Louis Post dispatch last year that intrigued me. Nathan loved building with Legos as a kid. When he was nine his parents refused to buy him a dog, and he channeled his disappointment by building a life-sized dog with his Legos. He says it was an ‘aha’ moment, realizing he could build from his imagination vs. just following the prescribed design. From that day forward, if he thought about becoming an astronaut, he’d build himself a rocket; if he moved onto wanting to be a rock star, he’d construct a guitar.
When he went to college he kept a box of Legos hidden under his bed that he periodically brought out to play with. He moved on to become a successful merger and acquisitions attorney, still continuing to create with his Legos. He began to accept commissions for his Lego sculptures, and on the day his artwork website crashed from excessive traffic, he decided to make a change. He walked into his boss’s office the next day and told him, “I’m going to play with toys full time.” Since then he has travelled worldwide displaying and selling his Lego pieces. He typically has around 1.5 million Legos in his design studio. Nathan had found his passion.
Nathan wasn’t building Lego rocket ships in his bedroom because one day he wanted to be an international sculptor. He did it because it was fun, and life did the rest.
That is how your life path can emerge as well. Be aware of and open to Dots that cross your path, trust your gut and follow your passions, and the picture of your life will slowly but surely evolve, one seemingly unconnected experience at a time. Yield to the current of life, unencumbered by cultural conditioning, external pressures, and popular opinion.
P.S. I am currently writing a new book full of wisdom about how to create a fulfilling life, and The Dot Theory is one of it’s chapters. I’ll give you a heads up when it’s published.
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