Recently, I was asked two questions by a friend who is in a stage of active self-inquiry in his life. I’m sharing my response here below.
Do you envision having enough time and energy that you feel necessary to be the father and husband you want to be with your new career path?
How do you value your systems and find the ‘fulfillment’ from them over the traditional goal-setting method?
I think both these questions center on the same topics: identity, values, and beliefs. I’ll acknowledge a bit of recency bias here…each year for the past decade, I take 2-3 immersion courses related to self-discovery, self-observation, self-inquiry. Last year, the courses I selected were around the topics of identity, values, and beliefs, and for good reason: our identity, values and beliefs dictate our thoughts and actions. It’s an interesting relationship we have with our identity, values and beliefs. We can unknowingly/knowingly inherit them, we can unknowingly/knowingly create them, but they’re always there. It’s the operating software (OS) we run. We create them and they create us; but is the reality created what we want to be true? If we experience alignment, then great. If we experience misalignment, then great too. Leaning into the misalignment is one of the best lessons I’ve only recently learned. When’s the last time you ran an OS update on yourself? For me, I ran my last major update over 12 years ago, when I started my first business. What a realization this was. No wonder I was experiencing misalignment. So, over the past year, I’ve leaned into the misalignment and ran a proper OS update on myself. My identity, values, and beliefs were under investigation. I wanted to find what is true to me now.
A lesson from Tony Robbins sat with me deep: “we whore our values at the protection of our identity.” An internal discord can be insidious to our relationship with ourselves, as well as with others. I know I found that true for me. For me currently, my identities in my life are prioritized around the roles of ‘husband’ and ‘father’. Not simply just being a husband and father. Digging deeper, what type of father or husband do I want to be? This is an interesting process because these roles are not individual pursuits. They require consistent cooperation and calibration with a partner (my wife). If we both say yes to roles as primary providers or caretakers as parents or we want to be creators/builders of businesses, then we are saying no to some other roles. My wife and I had to get clear on what roles we were individually saying yes to. Perhaps even more powerful, we got clear on removing identities that were no longer in support of that.
One of the beliefs I’ve chosen to run by is “we can have virtually everything we want…but we can’t have everything we want.” I took this from Ray Dalio. You can read his book on Principles here which I highly recommend: Principles, by Ray Dalio. Upon first read of this principle, I felt distaste; I experienced it as a compromise, a settling for less. But with a bit of investigation, I realized it to be true for me…and experienced it as freedom, not restriction. In my 20s, I envisioned my 35 year old self as a millionaire provider who coaches his kids’ basketball teams, takes his kids to jiu jitsu practice, does homework with his kids and cooks and cleans. With introspection, I realized I only selected these items because I didn’t trust in finding a partner who would share these roles with me. Well, all the sudden, 35 comes and I’m not all of these roles. I can get close to some but not reach all…not by myself. So, that’s true. And how do I deal with it? I maintain a tight grip on my primary role: provider. I maintain a loose grip on the others: being caretaker, kids’ coach, tutor, et al. That gives me tremendous space to breathe and be excellent at my primary role, not a dabbler of all roles.
So, to answer the first question: yes, I do envision having enough energy. But “enough” is a concept that undergoes consistent examination and appropriate OS updates. To answer the second question: I find fulfillment in deepening my truths. I still use goals to track progress. But I’m not attached to the illusion of feeling fulfilled because fulfillment is not a sedentary target. Youth masquerades itself in the illusion that there is more time. Age masquerades itself in the illusion that there is not enough time. I believe the healthiest relationship to have with time is presence.
There’s a martial artist who once described going in the ring is a way to meet himself. “I enter the ring because I have questions about myself. I want to meet myself.” I resonate with that. Along similar lines, philosopher Alain de Botton (I also recommend his works) noted that it’s useless to feel frustration with others for not knowing all about us when we, ourselves, don’t know all about ourselves. The mystery in ourselves is the space where fulfillment evolves. Goals are for tracking, not fulfillment. I believe that fulfillment comes from a consistent alignment of our identity, values and beliefs with our thoughts and actions. In that belief, fulfillment is always present…it’s up to us to find it.