November 22, 2011

Are You Remodeling the Kitchen on a Sinking Ship?

Here's what I think a lot of us are doing with our lives: many of us are remodeling the kitchen on a sinking ship. The ship isn't taking us where we want to go -- it can't, but as far as we can tell it is the only ship we have. Instead of building a new ship, we try to turn our sinking ship into the vehicle we need to get us where we want to go.

Why do we do this?

I think we do it because we don't believe (that's a key word) two things:

1. That the ship we are on is actually sinking and cannot take us where we want to go

2. That we could build a new ship that could take us where we want to go

So if there are two things we don't believe that we need to believe, then we have a two-step process to pursue:

1. Realize the ship you are on might not be able to take you where you really want to go -- splash some cold water on your face (figuratively and, maybe, literally) and realize you don't see your kids as much as you'd like or you don't get to do all you'd like as a family, etc.

2. Identify what type of ship could take you where you want to go, and then believe you can build it

By the way, if you don't yet know where you want to go, then you have to figure that out before taking on step #1.

I wrote to a friend today who is looking for a new job/career and said this:

"I know you will have a number of options. The key, therefore, is to really determine not so much what you want to do, but where you want to end up. And, once again, I encourage you not to think of your end point in terms of a position at a company or in any "career" light, but more in terms of lifestyle and what you want your career to enable you to be able to do."

You can make small adjustments (remodel the kitchen) for the next 20 years, and you will still be on the same ship...sinking. If instead of ripping out the old kitchen, you blew up the entire ship, then you would actually be closer to your destination.  

You can try to convince yourself that it's too late or too difficult to build a new ship. There are too many responsibilities at home, there's not enough time, and, actually, you tell yourself, you are really very satisfied (yuck, hate that word) with your current situation. You are tired and building a new ship is a big mountain to climb. 

So if we don't want to go through the trouble of building a new ship (or we don't believe we can build one), then why do we even bother putting in the effort to remodel the kitchen? It's because we value hope, even if a new kitchen on a sinking ship isn't much hope, at least it's something. It's because we like to work hard, even if we aren't directing all that hard work toward building something that could actually take us where we want to go.  

I recently wrote a post entitled: "Focus on Dream-Producing Activities". Remodeling the kitchen on our sinking ship is not the right focus. Building a new ship -- and possibly living on the sinking one until the new one is done -- is the right focus. 

I understand that not everyone is on a sinking ship, and this post would not be for you. But I think there are a lot of people who are on a sinking ship and they either don't know it or won't admit it. It's really scary to admit the ship you are on is sinking -- it's scary to say out loud: "What I am doing will not get me where I want to be for me and my family." That's scary, but it's a great first step. I've often found that the best first steps are the scariest first steps. 

So for those of you who keep remodeling your kitchen year after year in hopes that this time the result will be different, this time the ship will start taking you where you want to go...maybe it's time to stop remodeling and instead it's time to start building a new ship.  

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