A few years ago I was reading through the intros of random books on Amazon and one paragraph jumped out at me. It was from Aubrey Marcus’ book, Own the Day, and it stuck with me.
To summarize it, he wrote that around his 30th birthday, he was depressed, unhealthy, constantly sick, and not doing what he wanted to be doing with his life. He decided to change it. He started a company, ate better, exercised more, and essentially built his life from the ground up. His company became a multi-million dollar enterprise and he is living with adventure, more love and less fear.
I was still a few years away from 30 when I read that, and now that I am fewer years away from 30 (1.4 to be precise), I am having a similar revelation. If you had asked me when I was 20 what 30-year-old Ethan would be doing, it probably wouldn’t look much like what my life does look like.
In many ways, I’ve had more experiences in my 20’s than people twice my age. I don’t regret any of those. What I do regret is the strings of time in between those adventures and expeditions where caution was thrown in the trash and I opted instead for safety and tedium. I opted for a steady paycheck instead of the abnormality of the road.
Or other days, I wish I had more of a paycheck. I thought that by now I’d own a house, or at least my own apartment complete with my own kitchen appliances. Instead, I’ve passively waited for things to come my way, rather than building my way into a sustainable future.
Like Tony Robbins says, people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in 10.
Unlike Tony and Aubrey, I don’t want to drift into New Age mysticism or some sort of quasi-motivational ‘attraction mindset.’ What I’m realizing though, is that there are many ways to passively live life in a way that doesn’t take responsibility for yourself. I’ve spent a lot of time waiting for things to come my way rather than building an on-ramp for the 31-year old Ethan to prosper.
The Bible is not silent here either. Paul says that people who don’t work don’t eat, and the author of Proverbs condemns the lazy man, telling them to look even to as small a creature as the ant for motivation. No Christian should adopt a passive laziness mindset. Avoiding hard work is not biblical.
I feel like I’m having a similar moment of epiphany that Marcus had around his 30th birthday. I’m realizing that the world won’t come to me while I sit around waiting for ‘the good life’ to come my way.
Think about it like this. James K.A. Smith has written that humans are teleological in nature. That means that each of us has, in the back of our minds, a picture of what we are moving toward. Or what we think we are moving toward. Just like 20-year-old Ethan, I had a picture of what my life would look like when I’m 30, and I’m not quite there. In some ways, I am, but in many, I’m not, and I owe that to passively waiting for the good life (eudaimonia) to just come my way.
This refers to how I use my money,
how I date and look for a spouse,
how I look for a job,
perhaps more, how I prepare for my dream jobs and pursue education,
how I use my time,
what I eat and how this affects my health and energy,
and waiting for certain patterns of sin (addictions) to just vanish on their own.
In regards to that last one, this is a key element of Alcoholics Anonymous, as well as Sexaholics Anonymous. Until you can take responsibility for your own life and your actions which have brought you to where you are, you’ll never get to a better place. Your addictions won’t just leave on their own. Hence the word addictions.
Maybe you’re younger than me and this realization won’t hit you this hard for a few years. Or maybe you are having it earlier than me, which is great! It means you can begin to work toward your goals sooner than me. Take responsibility for every hour of every day you live, and the 30-year-old version of you will thank you.
If you’re older, it’s never too late to clean up and re-orient. Eat better, go to bed earlier (something I’m working on right now too), quit your job to chase something you really want to do. Etc.
99 times out of 100, your version of the good life won’t just arrive on your doorstep, you need to build it yourself. Don’t expect it to come in a week either. The word ‘build’ implies that it takes time and effort. Maybe ask yourself, what could I be doing in 5 years if I start working toward it now? Does it involve school, saving money, or anything else that you could do in 5 years?
Become more teleological in your thinking: Establish a clear goal and move yourself toward it, rather than waiting for something to come to you. I can almost guarantee that the life that will come to you will not be the one you want. Instead, move yourself toward the life you want. For me, it involves a lot of traveling and creative work which can be done remotely. For you it’s probably different.
If you’re tired of your life being the way it is, perhaps today can be your lights witch moment as well, where you can wake up and say Gee, how much time have I wasted? Time to freaking build something!
Whatever it is, don’t wait for it to come to you. It won’t.