A year and a half ago I came across a theory by South African Daniel Sá Nogueira which suggested that in order to achieve one’s true potential, one should embrace those things that they naturally suck at. OK, he might have word it a bit differently but the point was the following:
There is always something that we want: freedom in our careers, someone to love, to help others or to help ourselves. And when we want something really badly, we are ready to do anything to get it. Because we think that that’s how the world works. You decide on a goal, encourage yourself with motivational quotes and get to work. But what if all that struggle actually brings you even further from your goal? And what if doing the exact opposite would actually broaden your perspective and eventually give you what you want with less effort? Sounds puzzling, right? Well, let me give you an example.
For most of my 20s I made decisions based on freedom and adventure — whenever there was a chance to immerse myself into a new culture, I followed my heart without questioning. And it was really my heart that made the decisions, not my head. The heart made decisions based on a feeling which grew into a desire and soon there was no going back. Occasionally my head tweeted something about bank accounts and career continuums but those arguments were never the winning ones. Of course, I gathered experiences which made me the well-rounded person I am today, but the problem was that I was continually starting over and not building anything lasting or long-term. Most of my jobs lasted less than a year and even my relationships were mainly with Prince Charmings from the YOLO Land.
And then came 30s. It was a like a truck that came around the corner, ran me over and then reversed. Many things in my life — my passions, hobbies and goals — didn’t serve their purpose any longer. I knew what I wanted but I had no idea how to get it. And this time plane tickets were not the answer. Thus, I was the perfect guinea pig for this theory of “opposite behavior”. Perhaps the real freedom awaits when I’ve learned to grow the opposite of it? I’m sure you have heard of the children’s game called “Opposite Day”? My game was similar — except that it lasted for a year and I would not recommend it to children.
The game started with the question: “how would your life look like if you made your decisions based on safety and security?”. This was one scary question, believe it or not. Thus, the first answers were actually questions. What if I lose the sight of my goals when I’m not actively working on them? What if I wake up one day and notice that my life became mediocre? Or even worse, what if I wake up and notice that I’m in Hop Lop (an adventure park for kids) and all my kids (which I don’t have) are in sugar high? It’s a gray Saturday in Finland and I have nothing better to do. Yes, people are scared of stupid things, and I was no exception. And that’s how I decided to stay in Finland — the scary cradle of safety.
This first safe decision was followed by countless others, in all areas of my life. Whenever I had a desire to do something, I asked myself “is this a short-term pleasure or is it also valuable in the long-term?” And then most often I did the exact opposite. It meant saying no to a travel-related book project and saying yes to learning new useful skills. It meant signing up for yoga classes instead of buying new running shoes and going through year long medical examinations instead of relying on quick fixes. The process involved a career change, a breakup and a pretty big pile of books. One tough year to be honest. But you know what?
Best game EVER!
And now that it’s over, and I am the proud winner, I can see how certain things had to happen before others could. Some cool stuff has been happening lately, and it seems that freedom and adventure can appear in many forms. They don’t always require plane tickets, but even those might appear when the time is right. With this being said, I’m off to the tropics!
Welcome 30s. Happy to see you.