Meaningless mistakes

Ten mistakes that ambush
our aspirations to
a meaningful life

True stories of mistakes made
and lessons learnt

Jeremy Deedes, founder of Crazy for Change, tells how the first twenty-five years of his adult life were wasted and meaningless. However, this wasn’t the way it was supposed to have been. 

The voluntary and environmental sectors provided Jeremy with opportunities to make a real difference to the world from day one. But unfortunately, external pressures from peers, traditions and money got in the way, as did low self-esteem, fear and poor self-awareness.

Jeremy reflects that he could have had a life-changing and meaningful career from the moment he left college. But, instead of ignoring insistent voices, he succumbed and fell into an aimless life lacking integrity and values. Unsurprisingly, this precipitated bouts of boredom, dissatisfaction and the pursuit of a hedonistic lifestyle to escape the meaningless in his life. 

But nothing lasts forever. Jeremy turned his life around and searched for a way to lead a life of meaning and purpose by serving others. Eventually, he found his vocation in coaching people to lead a more meaningful life by sharing his story and the lessons of his earlier mistakes

Through reflection and research, Jeremy has worked out what went wrong. But, more importantly, he has also worked out – and describes overleaf – how he rectified and dealt with the challenges.

1. ‘It’s the way things are’
The longer your circumstances stay unchanged, the more they seem to be the only way. As a result, your vision and imagination become blinkered, and you begin to see your world as the only world.

A nudge from outside can make the scales fall away, so cultivate connections with people or groups outside your world.

Yes, leaving it all behind can be painful. However, it can also be refreshing, inspiring and rewarding.

2. Pursuing happiness, not meaning
Everyone wants to be happy. However, searching for happiness is like fighting for peace or fucking for virginity. It doesn’t work. Happiness achieved through maximising pleasure and minimising pain is usually transient and shallow.

The alternative is to focus on meaning. This often involves challenges and suffering. However, it also triggers personal growth, achievement and integrity.

When this happens, paradoxically, long-lasting, deep happiness comes naturally.

3. Avoiding pain

Pain is inevitable but labelled an unwelcome gatecrasher in our relatively comfortable and safe world. As a result, anger and resentment are common reactions to pain. 

However, pain is a powerful motivator for change and growth. So, instead of shunning pain, let go of your anger and allow your pain to bring change and meaning into your life.

And if, in all probability, you cannot change the situation you find yourself in, change yourself, but do it with compassion.

4. Making mistakes over mistakes
Mistakes are your greatest asset – as long as you see them as opportunities for learning and growth.

Unfortunately, mistakes often bring shame, a powerful source of pain. Shame goads you to hide from your mistakes and avoid the growth and change they can precipitate.

Instead, develop the vulnerability to accept your mistakes. Then, you are in a solid position to help others in a similar situation. You begin to make a difference and find meaning in your life by helping people deal with the mistakes you made.

Patient courage
5. Giving in to fear and doubt
Get less done

The fear of being judged, exposed or rejected are common challenging feelings for which no internal defensive mechanism exists. You find yourself in this situation when you move from ‘being for oneself’ towards being in the world or being with people – often referred to as moving out of your comfort zone.

This can create stresses and fears that can become barriers to the change you want to bring about. But, conversely, expanding your horizon has the potential to create an environment for learning and growth to survive these experiences.

Change, fear and stress are par for the course when you live purposefully, so welcome them as valued guests who bring precious gifts

6. Lack of self-awareness

Who am I? It’s a good question and difficult to answer, so many people don’t try. However, good self-awareness is essential to a meaningful life.

Research shows that most people think they know themselves. But, in fact, the opposite turns out to be the case. As a result, you can be over-confident of your abilities to the detriment of what you want to achieve. Without clear values, you may make choices that don’t serve you (or your connections) well. And without self-awareness, you could end up upsetting your friends and colleagues without knowing it.

It is a good idea to understand yourself clearly. You should work out a clear understanding of essential motivators such as your values, passions, aspirations, domain, habits and your reactions to and impact on others.

Seeing your inside self is one half of the coin. The other side is how people see you, a vital assessment that will significantly impact how you live meaningfully

Patient courage
7. Seeking too much when enough will do
Get less done

You are probably very familiar with social and economic pressures. But unfortunately, both have the potential to prevent you from living a meaningful life.

Your peers, society in general, and your bank can all ambush your plans for living life a little differently.

It all comes down to your sense of ‘enoughness’. Social and financial pressures are alleviated when you determine that you are enough and have enough. This will happen as you develop your sense of self and deal with issues around fear and doubt.

8. Staying solo

Life is tough. Change is tough. Being enough is tough. However, the burden is easier when you share it with others.

This is why a network of friends, colleagues and advisers is essential. There is nothing like talking to someone to work through your challenges and aspirations. Conversation changes lives, literally.

Beware, though, of people who feed off you rather than feed you. Stay with the radiators and ditch the drains. Keep the relationship mutual. You can be there for others as they can be there for you.

Patient courage
9. Not taking responsibility or leading
Get less done

Resentment, blame and complaint are common strategies for dealing with pain and setbacks. But think about what happens when you complain or blame others for your misfortune. In short, you abrogate personal responsibility for putting things right.

Yes, some circumstances may be entirely beyond your control. However, you always have a choice. You can surrender to circumstances by blaming others.

Or, you can show responsibility and leadership and make something of a bad situation.

10. Inadequate resilience

Resilience is often regarded as the preserve of HR departments and local authorities. However, the concept applies as much to individuals and families.

If you are determined to make a difference to others, they will recognise and appreciate your commitment. They may even rely on it. So, you cannot simply step back and leave your followers in the lurch when the sky falls.

Resilience gives you the strength to carry on when others fall by the wayside. Your ability to lead a meaningful life will be supported by the resilience of your health, money, mindset and network

Patient courage

Continue the Journey

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Next, discover the five steps to a meaningful life