I turned 30 slightly less than a month ago. That’s three decades of life right there. Birthdays are something to be celebrated, of course, because there are a whole lot of people who never made it to their own Xth birthday. A birthday is a milestone – a testament to your being able to survive that many years on this earth. But what do we have to show for these years of life?
Of course, in some countries, just being able to survive is a true achievement in and of itself. I am not belittling that in any way. But in more developed countries where safety is often taken for granted, you could probably live your entire life shuttling from home to work and back again without fear of dying. What is the value in a life like that? Again, I am going to assume work isn’t some really meaningful work like social work, healthcare, etc. I’m looking at you people who sit in an office cubicle for the bulk of your lives.
To me, life is a gift – an infinitely precious one and one to be treasured. The time we have on this earth is limited, and that means every day, every hour and every minute is valuable. We never know what day will be our last, and we should treasure what we have for the time that we are allowed to have it. But for most people, it is enough to go through life as if it were a conveyor belt. You spend the first two decades of life in school, then you spend the next four decades or so at work, getting married, buying a house and starting a family on the way, and then you retire for hopefully at least one more decade before you kick the bucket.
Now I don’t know about you, but a cookie-cutter life like the above is not what I want for my own life. But I must say here that for all you office cubicle dwellers – I am not some rich person sitting on an island resort beach typing this on my laptop – I am one of you. I spent the first two decades of my life schooling and the third decade living in an office, so yes I admit it – I’m a complete hypocrite. But this is where life milestones like 30th birthdays can be put to use: to set goals to achieve by the next milestone.
I don’t know if I’ll live to see 40 years of age, but logically that’s the next milestone going by age. (I know, it sounds crazy when the average lifespan of a human being is 80 years. But I have this retort: Why do you assume you’re average?) So the question I have to ask myself is: Where do I see myself in 10 years? The standard interview question, now used for our benefit and not the organisation’s benefit.
To answer my own question, I think 30 years is a long enough time spent following the conventional route. I’ve finished school and I’ve got a decent stable job. In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, I’ve got the physiological, safety and social parts down. That just leaves the esteem and self-actualization parts, and these are the parts I want to focus on for the coming decade. For those unfamiliar with the hierarchy, go have a read. It will really open your eyes and give your life a new perspective. For myself, I started the Thought Experiment as part of my effort to fulfill the esteem and self-actualization needs I had – I wanted this site to be my contribution to the world in my own little way. If a single person could read my articles and feel enriched because of it, then I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. (And thanks to some of the feedback I’ve gotten, I know I’ve already succeeded.)
That’s quite enough about me – I’m writing this article for you guys after all. To that end, I encourage you to ask yourself the following questions: Do you like how your life has turned out so far? If your life were to continue on the way it has always been until the day you die, will you be happy with the life you lived? If the answer is yes, you can probably stop reading right now. Take note that there is a huge difference between being content with what you’ve been given by life, and being content with your own efforts. As a general rule of thumb, one should always be content with what life hands to us (When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade), but we should always expect better of ourselves, simply because we can be better.
But, if the answer is no and there’s something missing in your life right now, then I suggest you think real hard about where you’re headed and what action (yes, action! We have gotten too used to being passive and being blown wherever the winds of life take us) you can take to change your course.
What you do today can improve all your tomorrows.
Now, this is where I can hear all of you cubicle dwellers saying “But all the things I want to do don’t pay me well enough. I need the money to maintain a certain standard of living, etc.” I understand, because I’m a cubicle dweller myself. But have you considered that you don’t need to make money from the things you want to do? Life is much more than simple Yes or No choices.
The truth is, the reason why we work in unfulfilling but well paying jobs has never been about money. It’s always been about security, or more accurately, fear. Yes, that’s right. We work because of fear. Fear of the unknown increases our tolerance of what is known. That’s why we are okay to work long hours, to do work we find unfulfilling and to tolerate bad bosses. It also diminishes our curiosity about the unknown (this is where the phrase “curiosity killed the cat” came from). That’s why we tell ourselves that these work problems will be the same everywhere, and so it’s much better to just stay put.
Why do I say it’s not about money? Look at our world today. If you really wanted money, working in a conventional 9-to-5 job is probably one of the least efficient ways to get money. You’ll have to work your entire life, and even then you’ll probably never be able to retire without worrying about whether you have enough. Look at all the people who are rich enough to not need to work. Did they get there by working in such a conventional 9-to-5 job? No. They took risks, they started businesses, they invested in things which were highly speculative and likely to fail. But the risk paid off and now they employ you to make them even richer.
So despite us knowing all this, why are we still cubicle dwellers? Because it is all we know and are familiar with. It’s as simple as that. And this fear is what I’m going to spend my next decade of life attacking. Because I know there’s much more to life than what we know.
What about you? Where do you see yourself at the end of the next decade of your life? Change your perspective, and you can change your life for the better.
If you can dream it, you can do it.
I hope this article helped your life in some way. If it did, please check out my other articles on my site and share them with friends and family! I would also like to happily announce that the Thought Experiment has reached more than 4000 views! That is a true milestone and one I can be proud of. A big Thank You to everyone who supported me and this website – I couldn’t have done it without you 🙂
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