I recently came across a podcast episode that included an interview with author, Gretchen Rubin. In the interview she talked about her experience as a lawyer and what led to her leaving that career to become a writer. She explained that becoming a lawyer wasn’t something she consciously chose for herself. She became a lawyer because she was good at researching and writing, and because people told her that it was a good career option. In doing so, she was experiencing what she calls, “the drift”.
The drift is going through life without truly making a conscious choice about what you decide to do. It involves reacting to whatever circumstances life presents you with.
The drift isn’t always a bad thing, though. There are times where it works out in our favor. Sometimes you meet that special someone simply because you were in the right place at the right time. Or you take a job that presented itself to you and you go on to have an amazing career that helps you support your family. It’s often those happy coincidences that bring the greatest joy in life.
We have to be careful with the drift, though. Going through life simply making the most of what’s presented to us, or doing a thing just because we’re good at it, robs us of choice. It’s the things we choose in life that make us feel alive and often have the greatest impact.
In the case of a career, you choose a path based on what you are good at instead of what you are passionate about. For many of us, we don’t even know what we are passionate about, and that’s an entirely different story.
I found myself working in the auto manufacturing industry. Not because it was something I was thrilled about doing. When I first entered the industry 12 years ago, I was just trying to make the ends meet. I wanted a job that would allow me to make enough money to take care of myself. It was something that I drifted into, not something that I chose. Drifting into this industry created a lot of opportunity for me and was pivotal in my journey to discover the real me. But as I began to discover myself, I eventually out grew the industry. Where the drift took me no longer served me. I needed to shake things up and go after what I really wanted for myself.
To overcome the drift, we have to get in touch with ourselves and discover who we really are. We have to follow our curiosity and really examine what it is that makes us feel alive in life. It helps to take a look at our schedule. Often the answer to what our next move should be can be found in looking at how we spend our time. It’s those things that we do simply for the sake of doing them that we can learn to leverage into our next career.
In my automotive career, I was really passionate about all things related to organizational culture. Most of the books I was reading and the videos I was watching talked about how to improve workplace culture. I never shied away from having difficult conversations, and I always prided myself on being connected to the needs of the people I managed. My goals were to create an atmosphere that set people up to do their best work. That is what drove me. In learning this about myself, it was no surprise that I would eventually transition to a career that allowed me to do this everyday.
We have to have relentless drive in overcoming the drift. It takes us saying, “Fuck it” and committing to choose ourselves by going after what we really want in life. We have to say no to drifting through life.
Author and triathlete, Rich Roll, showed this kind of relentless drive when he said no to a sedentary lifestyle and being 50 pounds overweight. One night after walking up the stairs to put his daughter to bed, he was so out of breath that it scared him. It took the fear of having a heart attack at the age of 40 to inspire him to take control of his health. He called this a “moment of clarity”. The relentless drive that was birthed out of that moment led Roll to adopt a vegan lifestyle, become an ultra endurance athlete, and eventually go on to become according to a 2009 issue of Men’s Magazine, one of the 25 fittest men in the world.
You can drift through life and take whatever breaks come your way. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. Some people go on to have really good careers by riding the wave. I personally had a really good career in the auto industry. I started out working on an assembly line, and was able to eventually open and manage a facility that provided full-time employment for 25 to 30 people. The job came with good pay, a company car, and allowed me to travel to Europe a few times a year. In the eyes of many, I was successful. The only problem is that it wasn’t what I chose for myself. It was just me taking advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves. True success for me, is doing work that makes me feel alive — work that allows me to bring my whole self to work everyday. That is what I have now. That is what I chose.
Choose your life. Take some time this week and look at your current place in life. Are you where you are because you chose it, or did you arrive to where you are out of circumstances? If you made it to where you are because you chose it, congratulations. If circumstances brought you to where you are, then ask yourself where you would be if you chose it. Once you create a possibility for being, you can then take action. It’s that deliberate action toward fulfilling that possibility that will help you avoid drifting through life.
Originally published at medium.com