While life is rich, diverse, and complicated, the agenda for a life without regret is simple. There’s really only two tasks to complete:
- Become the person you’re comfortable dying as
- Surround yourself with the people you’re comfortable dying with
In other words, who do you want around your bed as you take your last breath, and who do you want them to mourn?
Do you want to be the man who was born poor but died rich? The middle class family man that made everyone laugh? The priest? The artist? The accountant?
Do you want to be surrounded by kind, warm friends? By your family? By your children? Your colleagues? Your community?
While the agenda is simple, it’s not easy.
It’s hard to know what we want, who we want to be, what we want to do, who we want to be around.
It’s usually easiest to just follow the path of least resistance. When a job opens up, take it.
As you take your steps, it’s important to consider what you’re actually getting out of it.
Are you taking the promotion because you know it will mold you more into the person you want to be? Because you love the people you’ll work with and you want to build lifelong friendships with them? Or because you don’t know what else to do?
The danger is not in taking a blind step, but rather in submitting to superficial influences (like status in the case of a promotion).
There’s plenty to write about this, but what I find fascinating here is the perspective other people have on those being most true to their agendas.
The more you consider your agenda (who you want to become and who you want to be around), the more specific it gets.
“I want to be a zookeeper specializing in big cats surrounded by kind people who like dark humor, comic books, and disco.”
Living your life to fulfill this agenda will make you very unique, strange, unusual. You won’t be a gray tax advisor covered in icicles.
From the outside, those most honest with their agenda look crazy. Their behavior misaligns with the modern agenda of unchecked accumulation of resources and self-optimization for status.
People on the outside can sometimes be hostile to those working on their true agenda. Sort of like when you’re playing pickup basketball and one of the guys decides he’s actually playing soccer, and breaks all the rules with little regard to everyone else.
There’s plenty of pressure to follow the everyday pattern of succumbing to a borrowed, ill-considered agenda.
The only way to win is to be thoughtful about what you want and why.
So long as you stay true to your agenda, there's no reason to worry. Even if you can't complete it, you'll be happy knowing you tried.
The costs of fulfilling your agenda might seem odd to everyone else, but that’s your only option––unless you actually do want to die an unfulfilled dentist surrounded by mean friends with mouths full of cavities.