“That’s just how it is.”
How many times have you said this? It’s easy to accept life as it is. It’s hard to challenge the opinions of others and the status quo that you’ve come to see as “normal.” The thing is, it’s even harder to accept what you need to do in order to change your circumstances. When you ask questions, you challenge those long-believed opinions and are quickly faced with what you need to change.
So instead of asking the questions and responding with a powerful Challenge accepted! you choose the easy route, utter those words of surrender, that’s just how it is, and let a little bit of your power escape. In choosing to accept life as it is, you’re affirming to yourself—and those around you—I can’t change this. There’s no point in trying.
This tricky little habit of accepting our circumstances keeps us in jobs we hate, stories that hold us back, relationships that hurt, and places that don’t feel like home. The problem is we do it for so long that one day, we look around and feel a nagging sense of dissatisfaction. We’re not fulfilled with our lives, or worse, we don’t recognize it—despite having played an active role in creating it.
For the majority of my life, I accepted what others told me and acted accordingly. In grade school, teachers told me, You’re too bossy, so I kept my hand down in class. In college, people told me, You’re rude, so I got quiet. Slowly but surely, the “norm” was being created for me. Be quiet. Keep your opinions to yourself.
After college, I found a renewed sense of who I am. Suddenly, I felt like I could say: I like who I am. If you don’t, deal with it. Yet I was still unsatisfied. I was living in my hometown of Burlington, Vermont, selling cellphones, and going to the same places every weekend. I realized my life looked a lot like the one I had in college. Except now, I wasn’t living the carefree life of a college student; I was working to pay bills, getting familiar with my newfound student debt, and the prospect of finding a well-paying job as a writer looked grim after submitting dozens of applications.
I wasn’t excited or energized about my future, so I asked a life-changing question: Where do I want to live? I don’t have to stay in this place if I don’t want to.
College was over. We rented on a month-to-month lease. My now-husband and I were no longer tied to any location. In a moment of sheer courage, we found our answer: San Diego. A place that was a lot different from home, but with friends in Los Angeles it felt like a leap we were willing to take.
After that, we asked: What do we have to do to make this happen?
And like an intricately placed maze of dominoes, the next step simply followed the last—allowing me to carve a path to my dream life even though I didn’t quite know what that dream life looked like. Just one year after asking that first question, I found myself in San Diego—24 years old, living in paradise, getting paid to write full-time, and making new friends who were quickly becoming family.
Asking questions played a pivotal role in my life then, and it continues to be a powerful habit for me now. Asking the right questions at the right time has helped me understand what I truly want—not what others want for me. It’s helped me get out of jobs I hate, find a home where I could thrive, and shift from dreaming about traveling the world to actually doing it.
The more curious you are, the more deeply you can examine what you want, what matters, and what’s holding you back from living a life you’re proud to call your own.
Jessica Thiefels is the author of 10 Questions That Answer Life’s Biggest Questions, podcast host of Mindset Reset Radio, and founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting, an organic content marketing agency. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect on LinkedIn.
This is an excerpt of the book and has been reprinted with permission.