What Do I Want Out of Life?

I’m currently reading “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown (10/10 – Will read again) and, as I normally do, I have a running list of action items inspired by what I read. I’m usually shit at actually following through on these items but I think I actually will this time.

“Essentialism” is really the perfect self-help for me right now. The chapters are short, accessible, and easy to re-read when needed. In fact, my plan right now is to finish the book today or tomorrow and then read one chapter each morning for the foreseeable future. I’ve said similar things before but something about this book is sticking with me. Maybe it is the timing because I am kind of at a crossroads in my life and I’ve started receiving mental help. Or maybe the book is just that damn good.

Regardless, it has earned a permanent place on my desk next to my printer and each morning before work I will spend 15-minutes reading it until my neurons see the path of Essentialism as the path of least resistance.

The first action item on my list is to do a brain dump that responds to the simple question “what do I want to do with my life?”. Simple exercise, but not easy. This action item came from a story the author told about how he decided to drop out of law school. Basically, he did this exercise and realized that nowhere on the paper was anything to do with law school or to be a lawyer.

He was in law school because it was a “good” decision. It was a safe bet, it would provide options, and he was expected to. He realized that good doesn’t necessarily lead to great, particularly if the path isn’t one you are passionate about or feel truly drawn to. And I think we all have something we are drawn to. Just like Stephen Pressfield says in “The War of Art”:

Look in your own heart. Unless I’m crazy, right now a still small voice is piping up, telling you as it has ten thousand times, the calling that is yours and yours alone. You know it. No one has to tell you.

That calling we all have. Maybe it is to write a book or paint or travel the world or have children or invent a better solar panel or create board games or teach English abroad. If you are like me, the calling is difficult to articulate. Defining it as a task or interest doesn’t really seem to work, it is like describing a mountain based on a reflection in a lake. It shifts and changes and wobbles, the basic outline is there but it seems inaccurate, fragile.

Like a good Burner, I went into this exercise with as few conscious expectations as possible. I had no real goal, just dump my brain onto the paper and see what happened. After 15 minutes this was the result.

Questions: What do I want to do with my life? What brings out interest and passion?

Travel the world, have adventures, accomplish feats, struggle and challenge myself. Become a better person, major weakness is interpersonal and not feeling like I’m really doing anything of value. I enjoy discussing and reading about taboo stuff like sex, death, “fringe” politics. I want to understand. I miss my radio show from college. Maybe I should do podcasting? I love DIY stuff and figuring things out on my own, pushing forward until I hit the limit of my skill or my interest. The things I’ve maintained a long interest in don’t fit well with traditional jobs. Drugs, sex, death, altered states, I will need to either keep those as hobbies or forge a new path with them to make a profit. I think (hope) everyone actually cares about these things. One skill of mine is that I let my freak flag fly. But how can that be leveraged? And do I want to? Some sort of creation, contribution, art, talks, intellectual instead of a product. I keep mentally leaning towards a podcast and writing. And touch. Massage and touch. I think that is more my calling. It is going to require time and lost wages. I’m not sure how it is going to work but I think I can. So, podcast, writing, massage, my current job, a social life, personal growth, sleep… that’s a lot of logs on the fire. But it is better than the status quo. What would that look like?
0530 – Wake
0600 – Exercise
0800 – Shower, dress, prep
0900 – School
1630 – Home
1700 – Work
2100 – Downtime
2200 – Sleep

0530 – Wake
0600 – Exercise
0800 – Work
1700 – Podcast, Write, Neiger Consulting, End-of-Life doula, house stuff, other)
2100 – Downtime
2200 – Bed

0530 – Wake
0600 – Exercise
0800 – Work
1200 – Off

0530 – Wake
1015 – Church

That could work. I’d still make enough money to live and stuff. It would only be for the six months of school. Shit. That could work.


So, that was my brain dump. For those interested, here are the other action steps from the book so far. I’m not sure if I will blog about each of them or not. The first word in each item is the chapter name from the book so that I can reference easily.

  • Escape – Schedule thinking time with no books, phone, or work. Just sit down and think. Pen and paper are okay. Should this be daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly?
  • Escape – Schedule time to read “time-tested” classical works.
  • Look – Keep a daily journal, write “less but better”. Review the journal every quarter and look for patterns/themes.
  • Play – Figure out how to play! What brought me joy in the past as a child, teenager, later? How can I do that now.
  • Sleep – Get 8 hours daily and schedule 30 minute naps
  • Select – Be more selective. Ask myself three questions: What am I deeply passionate about? What taps my talent? What meets a significant need in the world?
  • Clarify – Create “essential intent” for my life and business
  • Buffer – Add 50% to all expectations
  • Subtract – What are my biggest constraints/Herbies? How can I remove them?
  • Progress – Create a progress visualization. Get started on projects immediately with at least a very small initial step, even 15-seconds of prep for a new project gets the ball rolling.
  • Flow – Develop a routine. Different for each day?

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a Snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

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