How Did I Get Here?

Once in a Lifetime – Talking Heads [1]

“And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself
Well…How did I get here?” 

Even if you’ve never heard of the Talking Heads, you’ve probably heard their song, “Once in a Lifetime,” that has become synonymous in TV and Movie soundtracks with mid-life crisis and inevitable loss of youthful idealism. You don’t have to be middle-aged, however, to find yourself in moments of reflection that lead to the question “Am I where I’m supposed to be?” or like the song lyrics, “How did I get here?”

Some of us feel like we have fallen short in some aspect of life – haven’t found a life mate, aren’t as far along in career, haven’t climbed Mt. Everest, etc. Others of us will have completed a personal “checklist of success” and still feel unfulfilled. In both cases, the problem may indicate an unconscious conflict between the “self” we defined as children and the “self” we have become after years of life experience.

We all grow up in a social and physical environment that shapes our vision of our future. Columnist, Dr. Matthew B. James, recommends this exercise[2] to sort out which of these expectations are in line with your adult values, and which are hangers-on from impressionable youth[3]:

  • Make two lists, one of everything you desire in life or career and another of everything you don’t want. Note: It is important to list only those things you DO want, not things you SHOULD want. “Should” nearly always indicates that someone else has written the value for you.
  • Choose one of these items as if it were the only one you could have. This is your highest value.
  • Continue until you have discerned your six or seven most important values.

With a strong sense of what you truly value and what you don’t, you can more easily hold those “missed” goals up to the light and let go of the ones that don’t fit.

For example: A business owner who truly values working with clients and helping them solve problems can let go of the “childish” goal of growing his business to a 10,000 person corporation, a scenario that would prevent him from ever talking face to face with customers.

By contrast, another business owner may discover that she truly desires the rewards and thrill of working in a large organization and may choose to join an established company instead of growing her own further. She may have to overcome an early bias that valued entrepreneurship over “working for the man” to do so.

If you can align your core values with your present and future goals, you might start hearing Timbuk 3’s “The Future’s So Bright (I Gotta Wear Shades)” in your personal soundtrack.