5 April 2021
Like many, I've struggled for the entirety of my short life to know "what I want to do" with it. I've entertained about a thousand ideas, learned about a hundred, and tried a meager handful of them. And to be honest, I still have no idea what I want to do.
There are a couple of things I do know from these experiences, like the fact that I love creating things and watching people enjoy the things I've made. But what the heck am I supposed to do with that? Unfortunately for myself, generically "making things" doesn't quite fit into my weird need for precise definition and direction.
So instead of trying to find the "it thing" to do, I've settled on a rubric that helps guide my decisions.
1. Real world impact - Does it actually make a difference?
The first thing I evaluate is impact. This one is almost laughable to me, because isn't this THE question? The thing that unites humanity under a common banner? We want our lives to have meaning, to have impact. It's so incredibly human.
But impact, in this context, is highly subjective. While we could measure it quantitatively, impact as a personal rubric is most powerful when it aligns with our own impact bias. Believing in something is one of the strongest psychological motivators, and we need that personal motivation, otherwise we eventually burn out.
Our experiences inform our impact bias. Think back to the moments that really meant something to you or where a need was deeply met. My version of impact will look different than your version of impact. And honestly, my version of impact has changed (and will continue to change) over the years. As long as it resonates, that's all I need; I know I'm contributing to something greater than myself.
2. Engaging work - Do I come alive?
The second thing I look at is if my daily work is diverse and engaging. Do I like how I'm spending my time? Is it interesting work? As someone with adhd, this is incredibly important. I've found that my daily workflow has to have a balance of high-concept work and detail centric work, has to contribute to some form of long term success, and has a diverse range of tasks throughout the week.
I'll never forget the moment I watched my first choreographic labor of love come to life. I was standing in the wings of the stage during our first dress rehearsal. The idea that I nursed in my mind for months, and labored over in rehearsals for another three months was finally coming to life before my eyes. To see it there, alive in its own right, was life changing and I fell in love with the creative process.
Ever since then, I've looked for those moments. They come infrequently, often at the end of arduous processes. But they mean I'm on the right track, and what I'm doing makes me feel alive.
3. Sustainable lifestyle - Am I happy?
This has been the hardest thing for me to learn to evaluate. I easily focus too much on the requirements of day-to-day life and forget to zoom out and look at the patterns in my own life. This has mostly been a process of elimination for me, especially as I've learned to identify the elements in the last two points.
Grab a coffee and zoom out a little with me. Are I laughing regularly? Or am I having panic attacks once a month 😅? (That last one was my most recent indicator that I needed to change what I was doing) Looking at the trends in my life helped me see where I was happier than I thought I was, and where things needed to change.
Pro tip: I created a daily journey in Notion, that's actually a database for my daily life. It allows me to track trends like happiness levels, activity, effectiveness levels and all sorts of other metrics. It's been hugely useful in helping me to see the patterns in my life instead of isolated experiences.
So there it is! Those are the three things I look at to evaluate where I'm at and what I "should do". It's currently brought me to the best season of my life so far, despite a global pandemic. I try to sit down with these things semi-regularly and check to see how my lifestyle compares, and make the appropriate changes. Using this rubric has been an incredibly freeing way to make my decisions. There's no end goal anymore. Just a pretty fabulous way to live my life, trying aaall the things and learning as I go.