I could come up with some statistics and cite some research to show you that most people are not exactly satisfied and content with the work they do for a living.
But you already know that.
It’s also safe to assume that most of us do want an ideal life for ourselves.
By ideal, I mean working on something that we really enjoy, where work doesn’t feel like work. Something that makes us want to get up every morning and inspires us to give our best and make a difference.
Even I want that.
The only problem for me is
“I don’t know what that ideal work life looks like.
I know I want it. I know I am willing to work hard for it. But I also know that I am not living that life yet.”
What’s the solution to this problem?
Where to start and how to start?
This is a problem that intrigues me a lot primarily because I want an answer for myself, more than for anybody else.
In this post, I want to tell you the answer that I have found and why I believe it is the right one.
We live in Echo Chambers
What is an echo chamber?
Imagine if I locked you into a room with the walls that echo your own voice back to you. In this kind of an arrangement, you would only be able to listen and experience the ideas, thoughts, and words that you have spoken and nothing else.
Now think of your social universe — the people you meet and the places you go to.
If you are at your home, you meet the same people as your parents do and you probably have access to the same information and thinking as they do.
Think about your friends when you meet them at college. When you talk about careers and job, why is it that the same five options are almost always discussed? How many times have you heard the same career narratives?
The point I am trying to make is that we are almost always surrounded by the same kind of thinking. We have a tendency to get trapped into a bubble — a routine of familiar people and familiar stories.
Now think about how this becomes an echo chamber. When we hear the same stories again and again from the same people in our social universe, we tend to reflect and speak those stories ourselves too.
Ask yourself about how often in your life till now have you met and heard the life-story of a pilot or a professional chef or even a monk for that matter?
It just doesn’t happen so obviously and naturally.
When we live in echo chambers, we don’t get an opportunity to see beyond the reoccurring stories that we have heard and the similar kind of people we have met.
And then what happens?
“When we can’t see ourselves in people, we try to fit ourselves in the roles and boxes that we do see around us.”
Jay Shetty, Motivational Speaker
We start normalizing and believing that these are the only few things that we can do with our lives, that this is the only narrative available for our own stories.
This affects our identity and the way we see ourselves. Robert Cialdini, the prominent psychologist and the author of the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion says that
“What those around us think is true of us is enormously important in determining what we ourselves think is true.”Robert Cialdini
This goes on to show that how living in echo chambers and bubbles of familiar and similar stories creates our perception about who we are and what we can do.
So, in order to answer the question we started with, the first part of the answer is to become aware of your echo chambers. The sad truth is most of us don’t even know we live in echo chambers.
It’s like what the philosopher Thomas Cooley said:
“I am not who you think I am; I am not who I think I am; I am who I think you think I am.”
Thomas Cooley, Philosopher
Read it again.
Let that blow your mind for a second.
You can’t be what you can’t see
Our question now becomes “How do I break this Echo Chamber?”
Personally, I started thinking about this question first when I was reading Nike founder Phil Knight’s book called Shoe Dog.
Before this book, I had not read much in the genre of biographies and autobiographies. I realize this in hindsight that I was missing out on a goldmine.
The best part about reading personal accounts of different people is that it gives you an opportunity to vicariously live somebody else’s life. It allows you to break your own echo chamber and see what life looks like from another person’s perspective.
Why is this important?
I think Jay Shetty answers this the best when is talking about the topic of How to Find Your Purpose in one of his interviews.
“It’s important to open yourself up to new role models and new experiences. We meet people who are just like us all the time. If we keep living in an echo chamber, it’s going to be impossible for us to get to where we really want to be.
You can’t be what you can’t see. If I never meet a billionaire, I wouldn’t know what it feels like and what it looks like. I have to first be exposed to unique role models and unique experiences.”Jay Shetty, Motivational Speaker
So that’s the second part of the answer.
Exposure to different people, different stories, different experiences, different workplaces, and different environments.
We found the WHY. What about the HOW?
Get yourself exposed to unique role models and experiences is great advice but come to think of it, it’s not like this is brand new information.
Haven’t we heard the usual rhetoric in business which goes like,
“If you want to be a millionaire, spend time with millionaires. If you want to do a start-up, spend time with entrepreneurs and start-ups.”
The challenge I believe is that we might be unaware of the means and ways to do that.
And this is where the final part of the answer comes into place.
Here are a few easy ways we can make the process of getting exposed to unique role models and experiences a little bit easier:
- Read more Biographies and Autobiographies. These are the books that will open your worldview to how different people build their own narratives and stories.
- Watch more biopics and real-life inspired movies. What’s better than reading about diverse people? Watching their journeys.
- Listen to podcasts and business interviews of people from different spheres of life and listen to them talk about their journeys.
Although there is no such age restriction to people who can apply this process, it works best for the students who are currently in their twenties. Primarily this is because many of them have no significant responsibilities which allow them a space to think beyond financial remunerations.
In conclusion, I believe that a good way to start approaching how we think about our ideal work life is by first being aware of our echo chamber and then eventually breaking it by getting exposed to unique role models and experiences.