Breaking the Old Pattern

If you were raised in an impoverished and closed-minded culture, chances are, you’ve probably adapted the usual life pattern:

Get a degree → find a real job → earn money → help unfortunate relatives → buy a house and car → earn more → buy stuff → impress others → get married and have kids → earn for your family → earn more and more → buy new stuff again → save for retirement → keep helping the unfortunate relatives → wait for your kids to graduate before you retire → save as much as you can → and then retire.

The moment you retire, your kids may have probably graduated. And as expected, they too, will adapt the same pattern. The cycle repeats for generations and generations and generations. But not unless someone in the family breaks the pattern.

I broke it.

How and why I broke the pattern?

Breaking the pattern may sound unconventional and uncomfortable. It doesn’t make you famous, doesn’t make you rich. Your family and friends may rebuke you. And society may think you’re crazy. In spite of that, it’s still one of the best decisions I made in life.

The great essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

But this, couldn’t have happened had I not reinvented myself.

Back then, I used to think that the only way to succeed is to follow what others are doing — be ahead, be rich, and be someone all people will envy. Of course, it’s not.

After learning from different writers and thinkers, I realized I was misguided. “Is being ahead what I really want? Is success being rich? Will it make my life meaningful?” No, it’s not. That’s not the kind of life I want to live. I must detach from this old pattern. Here’s what happened next:

I started risking.

Quitting my 9 to 5 job and turned freelance was risky — unstable pay, no guarantee. In fact, I was in debt during the transition. But what’s the point if you’re always unhappy, stressed, and stuck? If it’s because of money, not bad. But if that’s the only reason, that could be a sign you’re afraid to risk finding a work that matters to you.

I’m lucky — I’m young when I realized this. If I didn’t risk going into the unknown, probably, I’m still following the same old pattern. Now I’m working full-time in a job I love.

I’m not encouraging you to quit your job and do what you love (unless you’re prepared to do that). We have different situations. Think differently. Examine yourself and ask questions like, “Am I ready? Is there an alternative? Is it worth it? Where would I find help? What about my family? Is there plan B?” Way to go. Keep going.

I continued educating myself.

I’ve always loved reading books, though I couldn’t remember anyone encouraging me to keep reading. What I do remember is the belief that reading books is a waste of time and not beneficial. That’s the old pattern.

Good thing, the writers I admired are voracious readers (all writers are readers, right?). They keep honing their crafts, reading anything that interests them, and learning throughout their lives. I owe them for encouraging me to read. A lot.

And I didn’t rely on books alone. I also devoured podcasts and educational videos and didactic speeches through YouTube. It’s the age of information. So why not educate ourselves?

Unlike the old pattern, I wasn’t encourage to keep learning subjects that excite me. What it dictates is to keep earning money, more money. More and more money (I know, money can help).

I stopped chasing money (I do tempted sometimes).

We all chase money at some point, but we should realize when to stop. I once chased money for two reasons: (1) I needed to survive; (2) I wanted more — I wanted financial security (Let’s be honest).

Sure, a high paying job is good. But if that’s the only reason, you won’t persevere. Sooner or later you’ll get bored and seek a new job that pays higher.

This happens because we are wired to look for comfort. We are wired to chase money so we can live better lives. And we are wired to compare each other — we envy our peers who have higher salaries.

When I stopped following the old pattern, my perception of high paying jobs changed. Why would I want a job not aligned with my passions? Why would I want a job that could deprive my creativity? And why would I want a job that would consume all my waking hours? — Because of the good salary?

The point is to realize whether our intention is for money, progress, or learning. Sad truth is that most of the time, we’re only money-motivated.

Here’s the new pattern I prefer:

(NOTE: Interchangeable and not for everyone)

Know your passion, calling, whatever you feel innate (if you can’t, at least identify the things you’re good at) → get a degree or not, as long as you’re educating yourself and doing what you love → self-education → pursue your dream(s) → your job, career, or business should be aligned with your passion, interests, or values → nurture virtues → get out from your comfort zone once in a while → help people (help them in any way)…

→ don’t chase money → buy stuff you only need → create something for humanity → marry because of love (though optional, but to love and being loved is inevitable) → be a responsible spouse and parent (spend more time with them) → don’t forget to pause and reflect from time to time, ask yourself, “Am I living a meaningful life?” If you feel you’re not, maybe it’s to time figure out what does it mean to live a meaningful life.

What about retirement? Retirement is for the old pattern. Why would you want to retire if you’re doing what you love? Why would you want to retire if what you’re doing makes you fulfilled? And why would you want to retire if you’re happy?

There may be other reasons. I don’t know. But maybe, just maybe, we’ll get tired and rearrange priorities as we get older. Perspectives and goals may change. The pattern, too, may change (the pattern is unstable). What’s important is to always pay attention to what’s going on in our lives. Is the life you’re experiencing the life you really want to live?

Wherever you are and whatever pattern you prefer, I suggest, don’t forget your values. Don’t forget you’re not alone. Don’t forget why you’re here.

Treat life as a journey, not a destination. Don’t stay stuck. Make your own choice.

As the bestselling author James Altucher said, “If you are not making the choices in your life, then someone else is gonna end up making that for you – and it won’t be good.” 

How about you? Are you following a life pattern that seems unworthy to pursue? Do you feel unhappy and stuck? Remember, you have a choice — we always have. Do something.