Most people come to NLP looking for answers.
But the biggest question we face is the question of what to do with our lives. Our answers to this are formed in childhood. When we grow up, our specific dreams tend to change, but our aspirations do not. Most of us still long for an extraordinary life.
But is this what we need?
As a society, we value and celebrate exceptional achievement and extraordinary lives. This is reiterated through the self-help industry, which fuels a growing emphasis on self-improvement.
The outcome of the need to improve yourself is that you are not okay as you are. Add social media to this mix, which sells aspiration under the guise of self-love, and you are left with dissatisfaction, and people feeling guilty that they are not living better lives.
It is unsurprising, then, that when deciding what to do with your life, good enough is never good enough.
But what if it is?
Find your own “good enough”
As the philosopher Alain de Botton says, “it takes a good deal of bravery and skill to keep even a very ordinary life going”
Besides, aspiring to an exceptional life is just another form of procrastination. If you wait for something to be perfect, you will never take all the small, necessary steps that perfect is ultimately made up of. Or the missteps.
Because this is the other point about an exceptional life. Everyone who has lived one unanimously attests that it was an accident. You cannot plan greatness. Greatness is just something that happens when you follow your curiosity, listen to your gut, allow life to take you places, and make mistakes.
It is much more important to have a go, than to know where you are going.
After all, you cannot fight fire with fire and you cannot fight randomness with order. So, instead, lean into life’s uncertainty.
If you are unsure what to do with your life, do a few inexpensive experiments, and see what pays off. Follow one area of curiosity and see where this leads you.
Try and try again
If you do that, you may end up somewhere much better than you ever expected. Because, this way, you are not limited by your own beliefs about what you can or cannot do, and your experiments will constantly help you widen your understanding of who you are, what you enjoy and what you are capable of.
For example, if you suspect that you want to be a coach, attend an open day for the kind of coaching you might want to do. If you enjoy it, take another experimental step in that direction. If you do not, course-correct and pursue something else.
But, either way, do something. The only true obstacle to a great life is to spend it in limbo, wondering what you should be doing, but ultimately doing nothing. By treating the question of a life purpose as an experiment, it stops being scary and starts being fun.
Follow your curiosity
Ultimately, the question of what to do with your life is a journey, not a destination. Life is random, and you cannot anticipate where you will end up, nor where your actions will lead you. So just follow your curiosity.
Steve Jobs, for example, dropped into a few calligraphy classes while at university, without really knowing why. “It was impossible to connect the dots looking forward, it just felt right… but it was very, very clear looking backward ten years later” he said, when he designed computer fonts.
How NLP can help
So if you can’t control where you end up, what can you do?
Focus on what you can control. Focus on your state, and your motivation for doing things.
In NLP, a state is what it feels like to be you in any given moment. It is influenced by many things – your thoughts, feelings, emotions, body, as well as the world outside and is entirely within your control. Unlike life, it is something that you can learn to influence, with time and practice.
So define your life purpose as a state instead. If your life purpose is to make money, ask yourself why? What is your motivation for making money? What do you hope to achieve by it?
The vision of happiness
You will probably find that your ultimate answer is happiness. In fact, most of our goals and desires lead back to happiness. Whether it is making money, having a family or amassing public acclaim, we believe that a certain goal will lead to our happiness.
So cut out the middle man. Make happiness your goal instead, and work on learning how to control your state.
By focusing on the “how” instead of the “what”, you allow yourself to feel more empowered, and can actually enjoy the journey to your life purpose.
About the Author.
Sophie Leane is a guest writer at NLP School. She gained her degree at Oxford University and more recently has studied NLP with Robert Dilts in Santa Cruz California.