[SPOILER ALERT: THIS IS QUITE A LONG STORY, BUT IT’S WORTH THE READ]
Allow me to introduce you to Jay (not his real name, by the way). I ran into Jay when I was taking the opportunity to step away from my desk and into a rather nice coffee house to grab a coldbrew and some clear air to think. I can’t recall how we got chatting, but I do recall, early on in the conversation, thinking ”Are you talking about me when you’re saying all this stuff?”.
You see, as Jay told me his story, it was like he was living a life that was running in parallel with the life I had when I was around his age; and he was telling me my own story.
Aged 33 when I ran into him, Jay had always been a motivated guy. For him, just like it had been for me, what success looked like was set out early on: financial independence, stability, solid career and a plan for the future, with maybe (OK, definitely) a family as the icing on the cake.
In school, Jay made the sports teams and got good grades, but he always felt like he was on the brink of failure. So he outworked his classmates, never relying on his own ability: that definition of success that had been spelt out to him echoing in his mind, never allowing him to relax or take his foot off the gas.
After completing college with a solid degree, and despite longing for a future filled with variety, creativity and the things that brought his soul to life, Jay opted for the respectable career that he believed would meet the demands of that ingrained definition of success that hung over him. Accountancy. A career that represented everyting Jay knew he wasn’t, but that ticked all the right boxes.
Making good money, Jay married his high school sweetheart and started his family. By all accounts, he was the very picture of success, and earned no end of praise for the amazing life he had established.
Only, for Jay, his life never felt that amazing.
Sure, he tried to embrace it, to love it. But it never came close to meshing with who he really was as a person (not that he even knew who that was any more).
And, Jay explained to me, for a few years now a restlessness had been growing deep inside, and a discontent that drove a longing for something different.
But what that different looked like, he had no idea.
And because he had no idea what the alternative to the life he had looked like, never mind how to get it, Jay tried to project the picture that this life he felt trapped in was very much the one that he wanted.
But, more recently, as the discontent growing deep inside gained momentum, projecting that image became harder. Much harder.
As we spoke, he rested his palms on the table, sighed and laid his soul bare. It was so close to home for me that it was hard to hear.
Very little seemed to satisfy - holidays, nice cars, gadgets - nothing scratched the itch. His job gets him down. He feels a very real tension between work and home. And, no matter what he tries, he feels like he will always fall short of the mark somewhere - whether it's time with his family, performance at work, meeting the expectations of family, friends, his boss, whoever.
As Jay explained all of this to me, it was clear that he was trapped in an interpretation of who he really is; and that interpretation had snared him in a life that was far removed from the one he was made for.
I discovered that, if you push him (and man, did I ever have to push him), Jay will peel back the facade and admit that his life is not all that he hoped for. It isn’t all bad - aspects of it, such as his wife and kids, are all he could wish for; but whole chunks of it don't feel complete, or like they fit with who he is.
Trouble is, he's not even close to being clear on who he is. So he tries not to dig too deep because it's frustrating. And so the cycle of living a life he was never meant to be living, complete with all its frustrations and disappointments, continues.
I asked Jay what his biggest blockage to breaking out of his situation was, and he told me that it was the paralysis of fear: fear that he may be trapped and, even at 33, he may already be locked into a trajectory he does not want.
He’s worried that his current career is all he knows and all he is qualified to do, but more and more it sucks the life out of his soul. But he’s scared that if he changes direction, or declares how he feels, people will think he's lost the plot.
And, worse than people thinking he has lost the plot, he worries that he will disappoint his parents and his wife.
And the bottom line - his biggest concern - is that he is unsure he can carry on living what he knows is a lie, and not the life he was made for.
I’ve been where Jay is. Maybe you have, too. Maybe you are there right now.
And, if you’ve been there, or find yourself there right now, you may have discovered what I did, and what I was able to share with Jay: there is a way out. It’s not easy, and it is full of twists and turns, but the struggle is worth it.
You see, when you break free of the interpretation of you, step into the person you truly are, and embrace the adventure of your real life, you become your best self. And, as your best self, you cannot fail to be the best partner, parent, sibling, friend, colleague, whatever, that you ever could be: you cannot fail but to live a life that is the very epitome of success, whatever that looks like for you.
If Jay’s struggles sound familiar, if you are trapped, discontent, aware that the life you are living is not the one you are made to live, and the person you have become is not the real you, then I have good news: there is an alternative, it’s within your grasp, and you have what it takes to get it.
And I say that with absolute certainty because, if I can do it, so can you.
To start your journey towards your true self and your real life, why not grab our free self assessment tool: ‘Just HOW Motivated Are You?’.
Click here to download a copy now, and feel free to drop me a line or leave a comment to share your own experiences, struggles and/or victories.