Thursday, 11 September 2008

Growing up through the Quarter-Life Crisis

The other day while I was chatting with my best friend, we both conceded our lives had changed a lot during the past one year. Break-ups, new love relationships, re-prioritization between work and love life, relationships with family, moving places, new career, new directions in life - either already been through or under way.

We both heaved the sigh of relief that our worst may already passed. But at the same time, we know there are more for us to go through while recovering.

"Hey, you know what?" I exclaimed to her. "I read about this. It is called Quarter-Life Crisis. It means now we have really grown up." I did not get to see her expression, but I knew she concurred vehemently.

"After coming out from college and working, we thought we were grown-ups but we were still very much like teenagers, having no idea of our future and hardship that we need to endure." I added. "So now, we are officially a grown-up."

In fact, it is not just me and my friend. I know most of my twenty-somethings or approaching-thirty friends (and new acquaintances) are going through the same quarter-life crisis. Some learn from it and become better. Some are still in denials and unable to accept why these happen to them. Some may have totally given up. In fact, I begin to meet more and more people who are in the midst of quarter-life crisis because Jeffrey has a way of attracting them. Most came to him to ask for helps and advices. Others (like the first time I met him) were drawn to him because there are things we want to know about this world, about ourselves and we know he can provide that knowledge since he been through a lot (crisis, failures, success, etc.) in life.

According to him, there are 5 main problems with us:

1. We never do the things that we should do
2. We do not take good care of ourselves
3. We are not making enough money because we work the wrong way.
4. We have not cared for others and nobody care about us.
5. We have not learnt well because nobody is teaching us.

I do not think I need to delve into what is quarter-life crisis as there are already 2 excellents posts about it: One from my favourite blogger, Penelope Trunk and another one from Holly, a member of Brazen Careerist.

Marrying the two posts, it means:

We're all just growing up. Finally. Let us take some risks now to achieve our dreams, because we do not want to be eighty and regret not taking these risks.

Growing up involves being able to reflect back on the past and understand more about my own self, where I come from and where I want to be.

I like this photo of myself - the way I happily climbed on the gates to take this photo with my brothers, who looked cute themselves too.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Maybe what you need is a Paradigm Shift

Dr. Stephen R. Covey, the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, speaks of Paradigm shift. Here, I adapted his illustration to my version of what it means to shift our paradigm.

Let's say you need to go to a town called, “Growing Journey” to receive a very important award at a place called “Success” in the fine Sunday evening. Since you never been to the town, you ask the organizer to send you a map for directions to “Success”. Happy to oblige, the organizer photocopy a map and send it to you, along with some directions. The only problem is it gets mixed up and the map of another town is sent to you instead. Unfortunately also, the map’s title gets cut off during the copy and you don’t realize it is the wrong map.

On Sunday morning, you get on you car and head to the town. Once arriving in the town, you follow the directions as in your map. Soon you are hopelessly lost. You give the organizer a call.

"I got your directions," you say, "but I can't find any of the roads you mention on the map."

"It's really easy to find," the organizer reply. "It's right in the end of the town from where you come! You need to try a little harder."

"Okay, I'll try harder," you reply, and you're off and running. You are driving twice as fast and getting twice as lost. After lost for more than an hour and getting discouraged, you call the organizer again. Sensing your sinking spirit, the organizer says "It sounds like trying harder wasn't the answer. What you really need is a positive mental attitude."

Well! That wise suggestion strikes you like a bolt of lightning, and your mental attitude is instantly transformed. You get back in that car and you start driving, and everything is wonderful. You're still completely lost, but that doesn't matter. You are happy being just where you are, wherever you end up in.

The problem is, you are still lost and you might never going to make it to “Success” in time to receive your award.

You first try to change your behavior by trying harder. Then you try to change your attitude by looking at the positive side of things. But what really you need to change is your road map. Trying harder is good. Having a positive attitude is good. But if you are following the wrong map, changing your behavior and your attitude won't do much good. You need to change the map you are following. You need a paradigm shift.

Mostly, people struggle to find their maps. Sometimes, they have the maps, but they do not know they are holding the wrong maps. And they are lost because they start their journey even without the right map.

Let me take this adaptation from Steven’s illustration further. Let’s say you get smarter and know something is wrong. You think you should seek help from another person. So, you stop to ask a young man you run into for direction to “Success”. He looks trendy and seems to be doing nothing in the middle of the day, unlike other passer-bys who rush by.

"Success"? You mean "Success-In-Progress" right?” he asks. “Cause I just know the latter. I have been there for a couple of times. I could not stand the heat there; it is very hot at that side of the town.” he adds.

Unsure, you answer “Hmm, I guess it is the same. Can you show me the direction to get there?”

“If you are touring around, I think you should go to a place called "Being-Content" because there are some nice parks there.” the young man offers his suggestion unsolicitedly.

“Oh, I am not here for fun. I come to receive an award.”

“It is pity that you have no time for fun.” he replies smugly, for he clearly knows what fun is all about. But he also wants to show that he knows the way around this town very well, so he continues to give your a detailed direction.

Thanking him, you get on your journey again. You miss some turns and get lost a couple of times but finally you reach the place in about an hour later. Well, it IS really hot and uncomfortable there. You call the organizer and say you have reached “Success-In-Progress”.

“What? No!” the organizer exclaims. “"Success-In-Progress" is different place from "Success". But you are getting nearer. It is just another hour drive from there. Just continue on south. And do get here fast cause time is running out.”

“South? I wish I have a compass with me. ” you think to yourself. But, you don’t.

Then, an old man walks towards your direction. You decide to ask him for direction. Fortunately for you, he knows the place and has been there before.

“That area is the best in town. Great scenery and refreshing air. Not much people there. Quiet and tranquil places for relaxing. You can just do anything you like there..........." The old man rattle on as if he just get so happy thinking about that place called "Success".

"You have to go uphill to reach there." He continues. "But the road there is very misleading and has a lot of ups and downs. It is quite difficult for me to give you the exact direction. If you miss a turn, you will probably end up somewhere else but only realize it couple of hours later. If that happens, you will never make it in time to receive your award. I wish I can go together with you, but I have things to settle here. " He pauses for a second, then he continues. "Young man, why don’t you get yourself a map?”

“I do have a map! Give me one sec. Let me get it”. You take out the map given by the organizer from your car and show it to the old man. After looking at the map for about a minute, the old man said, “Young man, I pretty sure you have a wrong map. I have gone to almost every places in this town, even the most grisly place. But I do not think it is near to any of that in this map.”

“No wonder I cannot find the place no matter how hard I try. Finally, I know what the source of the problem is. Thank God I met you.”

“You got it, man! So, you know now what you should do. I am sure you will reach your destination in no time after you get a right map. The bookstore is just right at the corner of that building over there. You won’t miss it. Remember to check for the “Success” place in the map. It should be at the north of the town.”

“Wow, thanks. I am glad to meet you. Just hope I have met you earlier, so that I won’t have to travel to all the lost worlds, making time so pack now.”

“Yeah, you better get running, young man. I hope you reach "Success" in time.”

In the first meeting with the young man, you learn that:

- There are people who will mislead your goals with their own.
- Some people have given up on success and be contented with wherever they are.
- Everyone has their own definition of success. Other people's definition of success might not be same as yours.
- You have to clearly know your goal and your definition of success in order not to be misled or influenced.

In the second meeting with the old man, you learn that:
- you are not aware that you have the wrong map until someone point it to you because you are not clear-minded and easily influenced by the wrong people.
- you most probably travel to all the wrong places before you realize your map is wrong. In some case, you might not want to accept you have the wrong map. Maybe you continue to work hard and have positive attitude but still ended up nowhere.
- if you have spent a long times getting lost, it is harder for you to reach success for you cannot afford a lot of mistakes or wrong turns.
- someone can point to you on how to get the right map in life, but they cannot just "bring" you to success. You have to make the journey yourself. With your own copy of map.

So, ask yourself this. Do you need a Paradigm Shift?