January 14

5 Essential Decisions That Will Make You The Architect of Your Destiny

You have the power to shape your reality. But too often you get caught up in the wild eyed dreams of the future without changing anything in the present. It's not massive change, but the little things that we do repeatedly that lead to big changes in our lives.

An architect doesn't design a house without paying attention to details. When he's building a house, he knows every detail. The details are the foundation on which everything is built. The little things you do, the details of your life, are what allow you to become the architect of your destiny.

1. Design Your Days

Designing your life begins with designing your days. If you can't deliberately design one day of your life, how can you expect to become the architect of your destiny? If you spend the whole day reacting instead of responding, making default choices instead of deliberate ones, you've chosen to be a spectator rather than a participant in your own life.

Designing your days begins with intention.

  • What time do you intend to wake up and what time do you intend to go to sleep?
  • What do you intend to eat?
  • How do you intend to spend the first 3 hours of your day?
  • What time are you going to decide that the workday ends?

These might seem like basic questions. But, if you can't get the details of one day sorted out, it's going to be impossible to plan your life. Or in the words of Seth Godin, "The best way to be where you want to be a year from now or 10 years from now is to do something you'll be glad you did today."

Become the Author of Your Story

The most important decision you'll make about every experience in your life is the meaning you assign to it. You get to decide if your experiences are a temporary circumstance or a permanent identity.

  • Someone breaks up with you. You can either conclude that you're unlovable or that you two were incompatible.
  • Someone hates your creative work. You can either conclude that you have no talent or that it wasn't for them.
  • You get fired from a job. You can either conclude that you're never going to be successful or that it was the wrong job.

In every situation, there's a story that makes you powerless, and another that makes you powerful. Seeing your experiences as temporary circumstances makes you the author of the story. Seeing them as a permanent identity makes you a victim to the events of your life.

In every situation, there's a story that makes you powerless, and another that makes you powerful. Seeing your experiences as temporary circumstances makes you the author of the story. Seeing them as a permanent identity makes you a victim to the events of your life.

To become the author of your story, you have to access your thoughts, finding what Sarah Peck calls “the lifelines,” one of which is writing. When your story only lives in your head, it's hard to shape it to your own liking.

When thoughts are only in your mind, they're like an uncontrollable tornado. And trying to control them is a fool's errand. You have so many thoughts happening in your head every single day, it's hard to know which ones matter. Writing helps you to separate the signal from the noise. It makes you realize that the voice in your head isn't you and is frequently full of shit.

3. Don't Just Choose From the Options in Front of You

You can approach your life in one of two ways.

  1. As a series of checkboxes to cross off society's life plan
  2. As a daring adventure in which you are the author of the story, and the architect of your destiny

But, throughout our lives, we're programmed to choose from the options that are put in front of us.

  • High school counselors present you with options for the classes you can take
  • Your parents give you options for potential colleges
  • Course catalogs give you options for majors
  • Internet jobs boards give you options for jobs
  • Thought leaders give you options for how to build an audience, start a project, etc, etc.

With all the options in front of you, it's pretty easy to be blinded to the possibilities that surround you. The greatest lie that you've ever been told is that you have to choose from the options in front of you.

If I had an opportunity to go back to Berkeley for a semester at this age, I would take the Van Wilder approach to school.

  • I'd join every ethnic club from from the Philippino student association to the Halell house. Why? Because I'd meet a ton of people, get invited to lots of parties, and might get lots of really good meals
  • I'd write for the school newspaper and the campus humor magazine
  • I'd also ensure that every semester one of my classes was based on nothing more than my genuine curiosity

When you choose from the options in front of you, people who aren't going to live with the consequences of your choices become the architect of your destiny. Whether it's your peers, parents, or society, remember that you're the one who wakes up and lives your life and goes to work at your job every morning.

4. Let Go of Your Expectations

If you want a guaranteed way to ensure that no experience in your life is thought of as wasted, let go of your expectations. This is easier said than done, and the place where this became clear to me was in my dating life.

When I hired Nick Notas as a dating coach, one of the things he told me was that if my only intention was to have as much fun as possible, the person I was with would too. But I had been trying to manufacture fun, which was still based on a series of expectations. Expectations of how the other person would behave, what would happen, etc, etc. But when I decided to have no expectations, it became a lot easier to have fun. I also ended up having a blast hanging out with someone I met.

When you don't have expectations of people and situations, you can show up without any baggage. You see every experience as a process to be enjoyed rather than a problem to be solved. When you have expectations, you've chosen your response before an event even takes place. When you have expectations and they aren't met, you reinforce scarcity. But when you have no expectations, all things that go your way are a bonus, and you reinforce abundance.

This takes practice. I suggest that you do your creative work, go on dates, and move through the world for a few days without any expectations. At worst, you'll feel lighter. At best you'll get more than you could have ever wanted.

Having expectations is an attempt to control the uncontrollable. Everything you fight has power over you and everything you accept doesn't. As Gary John Bishop says in Unfuck Yourself, “Expect nothing and accept everything.”

5. Adjust When Things Don't Go According to Plan

It's inevitable that things in your life won't go according to plan. Even if you map out how you're going to get from A to Z in explicit detail, there will be detours, dead ends, false starts, and false horizons. It's just a part of the geography of a creative life. The truth is that you will at some point have to evacuate a life plan.

When I applied to business school in 2007, I had no intentions of becoming an author. I saw it as my path to a higher paying job. But, when I graduated into a recession, I had to adjust my plan. I had to accept the parts of the reality I couldn't change and get to work on the ones I could. So, I started writing.

There's one thing you're always in control of, regardless of how much money you have, or what's going on in your life: how you spend your free time. You can accomplish remarkable things with just one focused hour a day of deep work and uninterrupted concentration time.

Becoming the architect of your destiny doesn't mean that you'll become rich, famous, the next Steve Jobs, Beyonce, or Orpah. It means making deliberate choices, letting go of the idea that you can control everything, changing what you can, and accepting what you can't. It means realizing that your story and destiny are fluid. And they will keep changing throughout your life.


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