So, you’ve reached your 30’s. Congratulations! You’ve graduated from college/trade school, achieved a well-paying job, gotten married, had kids, and life is great. Well…maybe not great. It may be that, in addition to those achievements, you are also buried under a large pile of debt. Maybe your well-paying job is soul-sucking. Maybe you’ve gotten divorced and are dealing with custody issues. On second thought, life doesn’t feel all that satisfying. At best, it’s…ok. So, again: Congratulations! You’ve achieved all those things that society tells you are important, but…there’s something missing. A giant dream-shaped hole exists deep within. You feel like a fat hamster running on a wheel that goes nowhere. So, perhaps you’re asking yourself: Now what?
Once upon a time, I wanted to be a rock star. Up until recently, writing music and playing shows with my various bands was a big focus for me. I realized, however, that I had a rather unhealthy relationship with my music and songwriting. One of my main problems was that I only wrote songs when I felt inspired to. I never made it a daily habit. Thusly, I never felt that I wrote at the caliber of many of my peers in my local music scene. I never felt that I excelled at guitar, my main instrument. Most of this, of course, was based on my own perceptions of my abilities. But, I also feel it was due to the fact that I never practiced on a daily basis. I only played music when I felt “inspired”. I never felt confident in my abilities, because I never established a firm foundation for them to stand on and thrive to begin with.
Many people – you will know if it’s true for you – do this. They are passionate about something. And passion is wonderful. It’s what makes the world go round. Without passion we’d be mindless drones. But passion alone is not enough. Passion comes and goes. It is a fire that fizzles out, only to be sparked again by a song, performance, movie, book, [insert other external stimuli here]. But that spark only lasts for a short while before it fizzles out again. And after it fizzles out, what do you do?
In the past, especially in my 20’s, whenever I faced any sort of (what I considered) resistance—seeing better musicians, for instance—it would fizzle my passion. I’d think that I could never be that good and I’d retreat into a video game or binge watch a Netflix show for hours. Before I knew it, the day was over and I had gotten nothing done. This behaivor was a regular occurrence. It was a habit.
Then I discovered writing.
And I really enjoyed it. It turned into a new passion. But I decided I didn’t want to just be so-so at it. I wanted to be really good. I knew that I needed to approach it differently than I did music. So, I educated myself and learned what I needed to do.
I turned my passion into a habit.
Since I started regularly writing about nine months ago, it has become one of my top priorities. It is just something I do–even when I don’t feel like it. It is a non-negotiable task that must be accomplished. Every. Single. Day. In order to ensure it gets done I do it first thing in the morning.
As a result of turning writing into a habit, my relationship with it has been a lot more productive than my relationship with music was. I say was because, for the first time in 18 years, I’m not actively engaged in some sort of musical endeavor. I quit my band and haven’t played my guitar in about a month.
And the thing is, I feel okay with that.
The reason I feel okay with it is because writing has encouraged me to engage in a much healthier lifestyle. Exercising, eating better, reading more, being a better father and developing a deeper interest in current social/political events have all been side effects of becoming a regular writer. It’s even trickled into my day job, where I have become more engaged, achieved a handful of raises and even a promotion as a result. Now in my 30’s, I feel more productive and energized than I ever have in my life.
And I intend to keep moving forward and improving in all these aspects of my life. It fills me with a sense of purpose. Life holds a deeper meaning now.
That is not to say that writing is the sole reason I began engaging in healthier habits, nor am I suggesting it is the cure-all. It was, however, strongly correlated with the other changes I made in my life. And it didn’t happen all at once. Everything I’ve done so far was achieved bit by bit. Like any type of work, to do it well, you have to break it apart into modular units.
It took me until my 30s to realize this. If you want to achieve a sense of purpose, no matter what age you are, one thing to focus on is turning your passion into a habit. If you want more info, I highly recommend The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. It offers excellent insight into why we do what we do and how to evaluate our unhealthy behaviors and adjust them.
Now, visualize yourself in the future. Maybe you have a completed, written work on a bookshelf or in a digital bookstore. Maybe you’re getting ready to participate in your first marathon. Maybe you’ve gotten that big promotion at work.
Or…maybe you are in the same place you are now.
Either way, those years will pass by. Do you want to be in the same place in five years? Spending every night or whole weekends binging on Neflix, watching other people’s stories, but not creating any of your own? Whether or not you’re an author, we’re all writers. We write our own stories every day, complete with our desires, weaknesses, conflicts, and opponents.
Do you want it to be a satisfying story?
Learning to write well is difficult and I still have much to learn. I will probably never make much money doing it (if any). It will likely never lead me to becoming a New York Times bestselling author, either, but at least it has inspired me to seek out purpose and, hopefully, to become a better person.
Writing was my Reset button. Are you ready to push yours?