By Darren Sharland
The day I quit my life… again. Or did I reset it? This must be the fourth time in my brief 35 years, but it is filled with no less possibility than the previous three occasions. At 20 it was to explore opportunity, at 27 it was to see the world with my own eyes, at 30 it was for financial recovery and now... it is to contribute something meaningful to this glorious world. Each time, with a backpack and little expectation, I have grown in a new and usually unexpected way. It is exhilarating, at times it is challenging. This article in the New York Times shows how some young people are redefining their education experience to better ready themselves for the reality of the global context.
I chose London first, to follow my initial creative and material aspirations. It was tough and filled with learning. I was rewarded by the diversity and energy the city provided and was well on the path to what might be considered success, but I needed a more balanced perspective.
With a new citizenship in hand, I went to explore the world. A world that had previously been closed to me. This journey was the education needed for me to re-imagine my conditioned perspective. At times I felt I had entered another universe, the cultures so different, so inspiring… but also at times saddening and frustrating. I learned as much about me and where I came from as I did about the people and places I experienced.
Returning to London after 1 year, my revised outlook was reinforced by the realities of the 2008 financial crash. The energy once present in this city had all but dissipated. I was astonished by the power an arbitrary system had over a population... and myself.
The comparatively unaffected and accessible Australia next provided me with 5 years skill-set development, but under the most claustrophobic visa restrictions. By the end I had accumulated possessions, lived in a beautiful house in a wonderful neighbourhood in a desirable city. Nothing had helped to bring me closer to a sense of purpose. I received all kinds of advice, usually people encouraging me to live similar lives to themselves. They didn't seem particularly happy to me, or at least did not want the same wonderful challenges I had grown to enjoy. Years of trying to imagine another way of living finally culminated in a decision to explore the truly unknown.
With two bags and a cat (now currently being graciously babysat), I've done it again. First, there was a break from my daily routine to reach clarity of mind. 6 weeks in Europe included some beach time in Croatia, some cultural city time in Budapest, some explorative nature time in Transylvania, refined Rome dining culminating in me landing for an extended period of planning and work on the idyllic isle of Bali, Indonesia. A word of advice. Be mindful of taking a self guided hike through the countryside of Transylvania. Being chased by packs of sheep guarding hounds for 4 hours over pastures, rivers and through forests (reminiscent of the final scene in 'The Hunger Games') is far less fun than it sounds.
Don't underestimate the power of travel and change in igniting your passion. I provide my personal journey as a prelude to understanding how I arrived at my need for change. Each of your life paths will be different. There will be something specific to you that inspires you to seek more from life. Hopefully my experiences will help you realize that little is impossible when you simply take action. Now, I will impart my insights into change-making that I hope provides an affirming basis for the shifts you may wish to make in your own life.
5 Things to do to make your change
In this section I will suggest 5 things that anyone can do to make your own change. I will use my example with particular actions that I am and intending to take. I do not know if I will succeed at this plan, but that is the point of the exercise. When we set ourselves on a path into the unknown, we grow, learn and change. The very reason for me taking on this challenge in the first place. Remember, there is no such thing as failure. When a new challenge arises, it's a new opportunity to solve a problem to maintain the direction of your own personal shift.
1 - Know your passion
Notice I have said 'know your passion' not 'find your passion.' Chances are that you already know what you love doing. You might have been directed away from your passion at a young age with the question 'how will you earn money from that?'. Passion doesn't seek external reinforcements. To create something great, be sure to expect to dislike a percentage of the process, but the smaller that percentage the better chance you will have to create something wondrous. 'Screw finding your Passion' is a great article on this subject worth a read.
For me, it took some travel and some time to release myself from my educational conditioning. Some people realize their passion through education, but chances are the majority of us don't. The schooling system is not set up for this. In travel I found my fascination with people, culture and social systems. My tertiary education awakened my interest in design and construction, a career path I elected to follow for 15 years. And as far back as I could remember, I loved storytelling, writing, talking and particularly helping people laugh and relax through observational satire. And I thrive on making things better, I love change and improvement. These are a lot of different interests that placed beside one another form my passion. They are particular to me, as yours will be particular to you.
You feel a passion, you don't seek it. It finds you and it consumes your mind. You may love, I mean really love to cook. You may find the technical workings of a mechanical process fascinating. You may find using your body exhilarating, recording repetitive information beautiful, the days weather compelling.
To know it, you must observe yourself from anothers perspective whilst being present enough to feel the energy a task or process provides you.
2 - Reinforce your Passion
The goal here is not to replicate what others are doing. Seek out people that have followed their gut, seem livened by their work. Information and inspiration is now but a mouse-click away. We have never been more connected. Seek out your subject and be inspired by those that have created something. We used to learn from people that could do, not people that could talk about doing, as in our educational system today. Learn by example. Be critical, imagine improvements or alternative methods.
For me, TED Talks have been utterly inspirational. I watch their obsessions presented with feeling. I seek out reinforcing objectives, but am also careful to explore outside of my world view. There is a lesson in every innovation that has been followed through. Personally, I despise conflict and war. Military developed drone technology saddens me and leaves me feeling quite helpless... but then I discover people using this technology to deliver medication to remote areas, to assess the environmental impact of human activity or to record a breathtaking waterfall as never seen before. I become inspired by a great sense of possibility. Much in this world can be bitter sweet, but it's our responsibility to reinforce the sweet. Be responsible.
3 - Know your Abilities.
Knowing your abilities is different to focusing on your shortcomings. Most people fail to act as they live in fear of their real or perceived inadequacies.
Firstly, passion inspires learning. What might seem like a giant mountain becomes a minor speed hump 'carrot and donkey' to your destination as you pursue something that has you inspired and engaged. Skills will be honed, learning is seamless.
Secondly, no person is an island. The video above explains how that nothing we have achieved, has been achieved in isolation. When the time comes to put a project in motion, connect. Connect with people that believe in the outcome and have skills that you do not. This collaborative approach ensures the best outcome. Challenge and be challenged in the spirit of collective achievement. It is infinitely more rewarding to share the journey than to go at it alone.
4. Set a Direction, Be Wary of Goals
By now you've discovered in yourself what work or personal change needs your vital attention. You have self-assessed and started connecting with people and information that is driving your passion. Perhaps you're awake until all hours of the night, chatting with people, researching, thinking... realizing that you have salary paying work in the morning. Dammit! You probably have far too many ideas by now, too many options. How to decide what to do, where to go from here.
This, only you can decide. Writing things down can help you arrive at your answer. Start with asking yourself what you want for yourself. I would advise to focus on a feeling or desire. I want to feel free, I want to feel masterful at something, I want to feel challenged, I want to feel secure. These feelings as they are now may change in time, but this desire of the moment is what will drive you.
Then list all paths that could take you there. Be sure not to romanticize the potential journey. Know the challenges and be ready for them, but be mindful that most challenges will be unexpected. Be ready for that too. By now, certain possible directions will stand out to you as the most attractive.
Talk about it with people, test its validity, remember to remain impartial. You will get a lot of advice from people that will preach caution from their own limited perspectives. They might even test you with questions you really needed to consider, but hadn't yet. The best conversations I've had are with people that are able to look at the idea as if for the first time, without prejudice. They ask questions and show an interest as they try to solve the direction with you, rather than caution you against it. People that you do not know very well can often be the most helpful, as they have little historic investment in their perception of you.
In my case, my project challenges the very foundation of most peoples socioeconomic belief system. The conversations usually start with an aggravated line of questioning, often testing. As I answer questions and ask relevant ones in return, we tend to reach a level space of intellectual debate that returns to my project. This is when I know that I'm onto something good. Inquiring interest where previously there was none is a little affirmation that keeps me going. It often leaves me with some further research to undertake, but generally motivated.
Set your change to your emotional driver, set the result to a path that you have now considered well... then set yourself some targets. I like to word 'targets' over 'goals'. A goal to me seems quite definite. There is a risk that if you miss your goal, you will feel that you have failed and motivation could dissipate. A target on the other hand, suggests to me that you will try again, with a little change in posture or from a new position... and you will do this straight away with what you've learned. Extrinsic circumstances may require you to set some timelines, but only do this if absolutely necessary. It's better to do things well than to chase a ticking clock. We've been told that time is money, but I argue that this is how we're in this mess in the first place.
Contrary to our conditioning, there is never a perfect moment. If you are part of the worlds minority, the educated and secure, you are more likely to be cautious. We have placed so much significance in our things that we have let those define us, making us risk averse and afraid. Some things warrant consideration of course. Food, housing, welfare of young children, health, etc, but much of what we perceive to need is imposed upon us.
It can be argued, little worthwhile comes without risk. I think the original phrase is 'without hard work', and this is certainly true. Courage has a lot more to do with the successful examples you might connect with. If you place too many conditions on yourself before taking action, time will pass and you will have a achieved nothing.
Don't take my word for it. I'm only starting on this path. I am by no means a 'success' at it, but I am far more content, inspired and optimistic than I can ever remember being. I see possibility like never before and am getting things done. I have targets that I have no idea whether I can achieve... but it's in that adventure that I finally feel engaged and alive.
Darren Sharland is the founder of Look. the other way, an entity in progress to facilitate a more sustainable Socioeconomic system through the power of collaboration. Darren has a background in Architectural Design and holds no recognized qualifications.