What kind of life do you want? The question you should not be asking.


You’re probably familiar with the motivational speeches and books out there that urge you to choose the life you want, and then go out and make it your own.

“17 steps to the life you want.”

“Live the life of your dreams!”

They make it sound so easy, and yet most of us know that life usually doesn’t turn out that way. If having the life you always wanted was simple, everyone would be rich, healthy, and popular.

Maybe they’ve got the question slightly wrong. Usually, you can’t control the results in life. You prepare, you make choices, but things usually don’t work out as you plan.

So what if you forgot about how things turn out?

Instead of asking “what kind of life do you want,” what would the question be?

I think the question would have to center on the type of person you want to be.

What kind of person do you want to be?

You’d have to have some way to look at qualities that are apparent in lots of different people, and then decide which ones you want to keep, to nurture, and to strengthen.

Honesty, patience, courage, peace, kindness… if we made a list of the qualities we want to add, those would probably be at the top, wouldn’t they? Can you think of any others?

But there are other qualities, too — the kind we already have and probably wish we could get rid of. Most of us have been keeping, nurturing, and strengthening these kinds of qualities for a long time.

These are things like bitterness, fear, inaction. If you’re an adult, it’s likely that you’ve had an encounter with these; they’re like a right of passage. They become like bargaining chips, after a while — we hold onto them tightly, as if they have immense value.

But the truth is, they’re worthless.

Here’s my wager: bitterness, fear, and inaction are those things that keep us from being the person we want to be. If we’re going to become the people we need to be, then we’ve got to go find all those chips and put them on the table.

Everything about this is hard. But that’s the thing about wagers — you can’t take the pot unless you’ve got skin in the game.

Do you want to get in the game? I do.

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