Breaking Conventions Lesson 1: Why do you think the way you think?

Until 19, I considered engineers as privileged peeps that have been bestowed stable and safe lives by some deity. And success to me meant getting an admit an elite engineering university. The notion was fuelled by my peers and educated adults around me (there’s a special name for this phenomenon that I’ll reveal later in the lesson).

I managed to get an admit to a university where I would get a decent software job with minimal efforts.

The problem?

I found the core engineering subjects mind-numbingly boring. I had imagined chilled out college years passing by quickly and leading to a settled job.

In the next 5 years, I mostly fucked around, deeming all engineering subjects as uninteresting. Those educated people that defined success as getting an engineering admit now stopped making sense to me.

But I also explored many vocations through internships, trying to keep myself productively occupied.

At the completion of my degree, I had made up my mind…

I was done listening to other peeps and orgasming over collecting so-called ‘prestigious degrees.’ I broke the conventional mindset and decided to go against a stable corporate job (to the dismay of my family and friends).

I chose to pursue writing.

Now, let’s talk about you now, shall we?

Many of you work a regular 9-5 job and consider it as your sole career prospect. You feel that you aren’t especially talented to make a switch to analytical, creative and risky professions.

Your beliefs on productivity, focus, and hard work are fixed. You believe that either a person is born disciplined and can work hard for extended periods, or he’s an unorganized mess.

Tell me how many times have you dismissed yourself as a piece of lazy shit with limited willpower?

Ah, the reasons we use for validating our choices…

Right now, your Smartphone might function as your extended limb. But do you know that you can train your brain to not give in to the check-Smartphone-screen-every-5th-minute-temptation and regain focus…

How?

You’ve to accumulate courage not to touch your Smartphone for an hour or more. Take it as a challenge and treat yourself with an ice-cream (or whatever floats your boat) on successful completion. Initially, you’ll find it hard to overcome instant gratification. But with time, you’ll gain control. We’ll see a strategy to overcome distraction in the next lesson.

Sure you can’t turn your life upside-down in a day. But your gigantic dreams and fantasies deserve a shot. It will only take a few tweaks in your everyday behavior to change your life course.

The point I’m trying to make is that you needn’t hold onto self-limiting beliefs imposed by certain external conditions.

But where do you start?

If you’ve followed so far, you’ll understand that I want you to start with your inner self:

Question your perceptions about life. Because they have led you to your life right now.

You’ll find that most jibber-jabber you subconsciously speak is a product of the people around you, your environment and the culture that you were brought up in (external conditions).

You’re influenced by your peers and are fearful of conflicting with your surroundings. So you let your inner voice drown and give in to the conditioning. Psychology has a fancy name for this phenomenon – Herd Instinct.

This instinct led me to choose an engineering degree. Here’s a fun video showing that it’s difficult to maintain your individuality. Anyway, let’s get back…

So will questioning your beliefs change your everyday life events?

Nope, not immediately.

But the quality of your life is dependent on your perceptions of events, not the actual events.

Get the hang of it?

Let me share a couple of examples to elaborate.

1. The society and the media compel you to believe that success results from a combination of luck and in-born talent. So you won’t give a shot to ‘the dream’ because you feel that you weren’t born with mystic superpowers.

2. You might see yourself as an unproductive person with limited attention span. Because your English teacher in high school told ya that you’re a ‘distracted, fickle-minded kid’ and you let that label seep into your life.

If you hold onto the above conventional beliefs, then you’ll accept the ordinary life.

But just for fun, let’s reverse the above perceptions — What if you also factor hard work, discipline and deliberate practice as important for success besides talent/luck? What if you view traits like focus and productivity as skills that you can cultivate with conscious effort?

If you’re open to changing your beliefs, you’ll be willing to put in the work. See, being rigid about your beliefs is a recipe to limit your life. Best practices and plain common sense rarely lead to a new, exciting path.

If you don’t put effort to research, experience, and form your original opinion on a subject, then you’re rehashing someone else’s thoughts.

Here’s a suggestion:

If the story you subvocalize every day isn’t serving your life, then change it. Anyway, it’s a perception that you’ve probably rehashed from someone to get accepted by the people around you.

The truth is you can live the dream. Many so-called ‘ordinary’ peeps excelled in life by putting massive efforts and overshadowing their mental barriers. Psychologist Carol Dweck at Stanford has performed research on this ability to believe that you can improve and calls it the ‘growth mindset.’

So take the first step today to shape your version of unconventional life by questioning your beliefs and life choices.

Don’t jump the gun. I am not a self-proclaimed life-guru that will give you the cliched advice to ‘quit your 9 to 5 job’ and:

  • Travel the world (to give your social media friends a visualgasm while you do deep shit…you know, like smoking up!)
  • Start-up (because “raising funds” gets fucking 231 million search results in Google)
  • Find your life purpose (as it gives a new meaning to your life?)
  • Pursue your passion (because Oprah says so…)

The above activities are typical life choices deemed as extraordinary. As if they are inherently pure, courageous and liberating ways to live life.

Guess what?

I don’t want you to arrive at any of these cliched unconventional life paths for the sake of it.

You don’t want to pursue a lifestyle because it makes you look “cool.” What’s cool today might go out of fashion in a year. Instead of continuously chasing trends, it’s better to ponder and establish your unique point of view.

Even working a full-time job is a great, fulfilling way to lead life – if you like the work you do.

I make a living from writing in spite on graduating as an engineer. Because I didn’t enjoy technical subjects at school, wanted a life free of 9 to 5 and location dependencies and I genuinely liked writing.

You may not say that out loud, but you hold certain beliefs that influence your everyday behavior.

In today’s exercise, you question your beliefs on important life aspects. I’ll get in touch if I feel you’re holding onto a limiting belief or impress me with your answer(s). Here it is:

Worksheet for Lesson 1: Questioning your beliefs.

I’ll meet you again tomorrow with a bonus resource that I recommend you to incorporate in your morning routine. It’s a tool to rewire your brain.

In the second lesson (arrives the day after tomorrow), we’ll look at a strategy to increase your focus and have a great day at work.