In my last article, I banged on about how pursuing happiness is a terrible idea.
I implied that pursuing happiness was making you a moron. And then I failed to let you know what you could do instead.
So what do you do?
Nothing. You’ve just gotta suck it up and feel bad.
Well… I’m not entirely kidding. Life does suck sometimes, and there’s not much you can do about that.
But there is something you can do that can help guide you through the rough times.
I call it following your yellow brick road (Yes! Finally! We’ve reached that moment where you find out the meaning behind the name of the blog).
Originally, this was a massive article. But then I thought ‘this is ridiculous, even I wouldn’t do this’. So, I’ll be releasing this as a series. I’ll publish five articles over the course of two glorious weeks. Starting right now.
WHAT IS THE SERIES ABOUT?
This series is about connecting with who you are, and what’s important to you so you can use this information to live a more meaningful life. Sounds airy-fairy, but it’s not, I promise1.
Do you want to be yourself and do what matters? Sign up to my email newsletter to get all articles in this series delivered to your inbox as soon as they are published (and then my regular articles weekly after that).
THE DEEPER MEANING OF THE WIZARD OF OZ
This is what happens: Dorothy runs away from home because the shit has hit the fan and her dog is going to be murdered.
When she realises her family is the most important thing to her, she heads back home, only to be caught in some sort of windy event that I don’t know the name of (The book says it’s a cyclone but I’m not convinced).
Somehow, her house gets lifted off the ground, flies through the air and ends up in The Land of Oz.
Midgets live there, they sing songs, and are scared of green witches. Dorothy isn’t exactly happy about it and wants to find her way back to what matters most to her – Aunt Em, Uncle Henry and the three random men that work on the farm.
So Glinda, the good witch, gives her some sparkly red shoes and tells her to find her way to the Emerald City to ask the Wizard of Oz for help.
Like me when I’m trying to figure out how to get dressed in the morning, Dorothy has no idea how to begin and asks Glinda for advice.
Glinda replies with the best advice you will ever get on doing anything important—
Dorothy did everything she could to find her way back to what was most important to her, in spite of all the obstacles, simply by following the yellow brick road one step at a time.
Your yellow brick road represents your values. When you follow your yellow brick road, you are living a life guided by what is most important and meaningful for you. And when you do that, you can’t go wrong.
LET’S START AT THE BEGINNING
You’ll need to record your answers. Get a pen and paper, open a word document, or record yourself talking – whatever works for you.
WARNING: In the following exercise you’re going to do imagine you’re dead. So if that’s a problem for you, you might want to skip it. If not, hunker down, read the instructions below, and let’s get started
WHAT IS YOUR PURPOSE IN LIFE? (15 minutes)
Imagine you’re dead. Imagine you were really, really old when you died. You’ve lived an amazing life. Done all the things you’d ever dreamed of. You had that huge family you always wanted, an amazing career, fabulous friends. Whatever it is that you wanted out of life, imagine that it happened.
And here you are, hanging out at your funeral, watching what happens. No one knows you’re there, but you are and you’re pretty keen to hear what everyone had to say about you.
Now get some people up to talk. This is imaginary. So don’t worry about what people would say about you. Have them say what you want them to say.
What kinds of qualities did you have?
How did you make other people feel?
What kinds of things did you do with your time?
What was important to you in your life?
(You don’t have to answer these exact questions, just use them as a guide)
Run through these questions with a few different people who are important to you – maybe your partner, a friend, a boss, a colleague, a child. If someone important to you has died, has not been born yet, or isn’t in your life (e.g., a future husband), you can still write down what you want those people to say about you when you die.
Write for as long as you need. Don’t stop and critique yourself, just let it flow.
WHEN YOU’RE DONE
Your purpose in life is to be yourself, and do what matters most to you. Whatever you’ve written reflects who you want to be and what matters most to you.
When I first did this exercise, I was doing things that weren’t important to me. At that time, I wasn’t the kind of person I wanted to be, at least, not in practice. I spent a lot of time partying, and almost no time studying. Deep down, my health was really important to me, and having a lot of fun every single day was definitely not as important to me as getting good grades at university. I wanted people to remember me for my good work ethic, and my ability to persevere in difficult situations. I didn’t want people to remember me as that drunk girl who got naked and threw up in a shower.
Throughout the series, you’ll do brief activities exercises that will get specific about what brings meaning and purpose to your life, and how to to put what you’ve learnt into practice.
Keep whatever you’ve written. You’ll need it for Part II.
What did people say about you?
If you’re willing, leave a comment. I’d love to know.
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- This exercise and others to come in this series are taken from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. A therapeutic approach developed by Steven Hayes, Kirk Strosahl, Kelly Wilson, and Rob Zettle who are seriously amazing psychologists. I highly recommend setting up a shrine to them in your bedroom. Or you could just buy this book ↩