What is it that you *really* want to do?
December 16, 2017

I had been a very ambitious kid, often attracted by shiny things that looked tempting from the distance. My mother recounts numerous stories from my childhood that make me realise that I have always wanted to do everything. Even as a kid.

While this might sound not so peculiar in particular, let that sink in for a moment. What does it actually mean when someone says they want to do everything? They probably say ‘no way’ lesser — if not never, to things that come their way. The flip-side, as any observant by-stander would quip, is that they almost never bring things to closure. It would be safe to say that the most common assumption — or conclusion behind this trait is sheer lack of patience to stick to one thing.

I had discovered I was one such specimen of our species long ago. To be honest, for a fair portion of my life I’ve quite enjoyed doing a boat-load of things concurrently. Diversifying allocation of brain-space has historically brought tranquility to me in troubled times — but that’s an exception and not the norm.

“For a better part of your life”, one of my mentors had told me, “you must strive for laser-sharp focus on a handful of things”.

“You must figure out what you really want to do at the moment”, he had said. I came back home to mull over it with a troubled mind. I have never had to choose things to do. I just did them all. All the time.

So I did a thought experiment. I asked myself, if I were akin to a machine that shuts down every night and erases memory of what happened today in favour of a totally blank slate — what are the things I’d probably not do today. Then I repeated the same for duration of a week, a month, and a year. I wrote everything in my journal. I was surprised.

For instance, I was struck with an incredible realization this year. The societal machinery has us believe through countless instances of the rhetoric that hard work is truly tied to success. And trust me, I had internalized this ever since I was a kid. Until early this year, I consciously used to work 16 hours a day, glued to my text editor, genuinely believing this would translate to my company’s success inevitably. As a result, inadvertently, I completely ignored everything else which were equally important to the company’s success. A shift of perspective actually helped me realise how untrue that rhetoric is, and why success cannot be a function of parameters of the singular.

I’ve discovered that it is good to take a pause and reflect on the things that you care about once in a while. Even if you’re doing what you love, zooming out to see the bigger picture helps you reiterate your purpose. This also allows you to judge if it’s the most logical use of your time and effort — since you might be missing out on doing some other things that you really wanted to do, against something that you love but probably can do with doing it less.

We have very limited time left of whatever meaninglessness our lives are. Not being in control is not very efficient.