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Looking for shortcuts in life ended up being my biggest mistake

And the slowest path to success.

I was always looking for the easy answer. Even before concepts like life hacks, quick fixes and get-rich-fast schemes (and scams) even existed. Or at least before we had all heard of them. Even before the infinite source of wisdom and opportunity called the internet was invented, I was in constant search for my passion, for an easy way to make a living and for the meaning of my depressing life.

I was stuck in the frustration of not knowing what I wanted or what direction to head in. How could I get anywhere without having a map of where I was going? Or for that matter, without even knowing my destination at all. I wanted nothing more than to figure it out. Or at least to have the confidence to believe in my pursuit whenever I did get some vague ideas.

I was unflatteringly bitter and jealous of everyone who had known since they were ten years old what they wanted to be in life. I felt like they had a head start and I was falling behind.

While sulking about not having my dreams all figured out, I started to look into ways of making quick money, thinking that at least that would buy me some freedom and time.

But without passion or a why behind it, nothing worked. Or rather, I wasn’t able to complete any project I started. I didn’t make any money and I didn’t get closer to my goals (regardless of how vaguely defined they were).

I just saw dead ends everywhere I looked.

No matter how much I tried, or how much my friends offered helpful tips and suggestions, I only saw obstacles. I couldn’t change jobs, because I didn’t have the right education or experience for the jobs I preferred. I couldn’t move abroad, because I didn’t know where to go. I couldn’t travel more, because I didn’t have enough money. When I was single, I couldn’t see how I would meet someone and when I was in a relationship, I only felt trapped.

I saw all the failures before they happened, so I did nothing.

And by doing nothing, I failed so much more at life than I ever could have done if I had tried to do something that mattered. But doing something that mattered was scarier. I didn’t want to fail at something that was important to me.

Whatever that thing was.

All I knew was that I wanted to be free. I wanted to travel and live abroad, I wanted to do something creative for a living — like art, crafts or writing. I wanted to write a book. But I couldn’t see how and I knew that any traditional route would be long, costly and likely to fail.

So I stuck to my 9–5 job while trying to travel when I could, being miserable the rest of the time and constantly looking for shortcuts and solutions. I wanted to just win the lottery or stumble into a once-in-a-lifetime investment. Or maybe just marry a millionaire who could rescue me from it all.

I worked so hard at a job I didn’t care about. I hated the city I lived in. I saw no way out.

For some inexplicable reason, it seemed easier to work hard at something I didn’t want, rather than to work at getting closer to where I wanted to go. Somehow, I thought that waiting for a brilliant solution to one day just fall from the sky and land in my lap, was the simplest path. That it was the shortcut.

I didn’t trust myself to get me to wherever it was I wanted to go anyway. I wanted someone else to come along and save me, give me an opportunity or just whisk me away and solve my life for me.

Looking for the hacks and the shortcuts, ended up taking more than two decades of my life. I was so obsessed looking for the end goal, I never even started. I wanted to only do things that would lead me directly to my finish line. I thought everything else was a waste of time. Ironically, this is exactly why so much time was wasted. This is why I lost over twenty years, that by any measure could have been much better spent.

Just over two years ago something happened to shift my mindset. Maybe I just matured or maybe something inspired me to think differently. I don’t really know where it came from, but I know that the tiny, seemingly insignificant steps I took after that has made a bigger impact in my life than the twenty-five years before that combined.

Instead of focusing directly on an undefined goal, I started focusing on improvement. I started taking small steps that wouldn’t necessarily take me to where I wanted to go, but that would make me better, stronger, wiser and happier.

Without that, I can’t get anywhere anyway, or even if I by some miracle would get somewhere, I wouldn’t be ready for it.

After this shift, I started setting up new daily routines, I started with super simple exercises, both physical and mental. I focused on getting an attitude of gratitude. I started following up and measuring daily achievements and the balance in my life. I even took an entrepreneurship course, without knowing if I was ever going to start a business.

I do at least ten to fifteen things every day now that I never did before. And I have eliminated just as many things. I hold myself accountable by posting both challenges and creative work online and by telling friends about my practices.

Is it hard to stay focused and to stick to consistent steps and routines without even really knowing what they will lead to? Absolutely! Do I sometimes want to cheat and skip the meditation or the short daily exercise program? Almost every day! But I don’t.

Even when I don’t feel like it, I do what I need to do. If I’m in a bad mood or tired, I listen to an inspirational podcast or read a good book, instead of soaking in my misery. And I’ve learned to shift my mindset faster when bad days do come along, as they always will.

I may not have known, and I still don’t know, what my end goal is. I don’t know how I will make a living in the future or where I will live or who I will have around me. And I still don’t know how I will get there even if I figure the rest of it out.

All my life, I’ve been wondering about these ”whats” and hows”.

I could have spent another couple of decades looking for the shortcut to these, but instead I am now doing everything I do because I want to be ready. I want to be strong, I want to seek out new ideas and opportunities. I want to have a positive mindset and an open heart. If nothing else, because it makes me happier.

Now, I spend hours, days and weeks on creative projects that nobody has asked for and that doesn’t give me any income at all. It brings me something much more valuable than money — it gives me skills, knowledge, new ideas ideas and satisfaction.

I seek out like-minded people. I am deep into the world that I want to live in, even though I can’t live there yet. I don’t know how to make a living off my art or my writing, but I create every day. I don’t know how or when I can move abroad, but I spend months in other countries every year. I don’t know how or when I will have total freedom to travel and work when I want, but I just spent the entire winter as a digital nomad. I am testing the waters instead of sitting at home trying to come up with the perfect solution.

By taking this longer path, I am closer to the life I want than ever before. I am happier, more confident and calmer. I am more self-aware and I have learned much more than I could ever explain or have imagined. I get better ideas and they come to me more often. I am more inspired and make better art. Mentors have crossed my path and nudged me in the right direction. My mind is clearer and my thoughts healthier. Even though I spend more time working, my life is more balanced.

Instead of dwelling on the past and about the disadvantages I believed I had (that were all imagined!), I am only looking forward. The past is just a source of knowledge and useful experiences. It’s just something to use as a measuring point to see how far I’ve come.

There is this one thing about the past, though….

…a regret I still can’t seem to let go…..

I wish I had taken the detour right from the beginning.

I would have gotten here so much faster.

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