Nowadays many people seem unhappy about the world and their place in it. Solving the world’s problems is beyond my abilities.
Instead, I will focus on one way to find contentment with your place in the world based on my own experience. The process I outline below is not complicated, but it may be challenging to execute.
Why? Because many days just keeping your head above water will require most, if not all, of the energy and inspiration that you possess.
Life is hard. I believe that making a better life for yourself requires even more.
You must go your own way which is both an exciting and scary proposition at the same time.
A potential process to go your own way
- Start with desire — to find contentment you must first figure out what it is you desire in this world. What makes you happy? What puts a smile on your face? Hopefully, it is something that is both good for you and legal. If it is not, you may want to reevaluate your desires before moving forward. If nothing makes you happy then you have even more work to do.
- Research expert advice — you can find experts in many places. Books, videos, and podcasts are a great place to start. Identify experts who have mastered what it is you like doing and learn from them. This step helps you avoid pitfalls and stupid mistakes.
- Identify a path forward — figure out what you need to move forward. It is not hugely important that you know all the steps you will take at this point. You only need to identify the path. Don’t spend too much time here. Many people waste time with complicated plans before taking the first step. I know. I made that mistake for many years.
- Start moving down the path — getting moving. Don’t worry if things do not go well. The purpose of this step is two-fold. First, you are confirming if this activity brings you contentment. If it doesn’t — you may want to stop here. Second, you are learning as you go. The best way to learn is by doing, not by planning, or talking about doing something.
- Make adjustments along the way — I cannot recall many things that I completed that went exactly as planned. Even my fondest memories include rough patches. You should expect some bumps and bruises. They are going to happen. Experiment with methods to figure out what works best for you. Make adjustments along the way as you learn to overcome obstacles, conquer challenges, and manage mishaps.
- Craft a master plan — once you have learned enough lessons I recommend that you craft a master plan. Write down what you hope to achieve and how you plan to get there. Creating a master plan helps you flesh out the big picture now that you know enough. Some people try to complete this step before steps 4 and 5. I have made this mistake more than once. I spent too much time planning not enough time doing. The reality is that you need to learn a lot before you can go your own way. Otherwise, you are likely to follow the way someone else designed which may not work well for you. I see this a lot in the business world.
- Get busy making it happen — now that you have a master plan it is time to move out. Don’t admire your plan and tell everyone how awesome it is going to be. No — get going. Move out, learn lessons, and make adjustments. The more you do, the more content you will become. Trust me on this step. It will be evident to others that you have a better life because you chose to go your own way. Remember — planning is easy. Making it happen is the hard part.
- Enjoy the journey — the last step may be the most important one. Make sure that you enjoy the journey. If you are miserable while moving down the path you chose, then you miss the point. I know people who are great at steps 1–7 but suck at this step. They are unhappy when doing something they love which kills contentment. Don’t be that person. For many years I was that guy. I did things that I really enjoy, like fishing, but was unhappy most of the time. If you want a better life you must learn to enjoy the journey.
I want to provide a personal example so that you better understand what I am trying to say. I was one miserable bastard while divorcing your mother. It was difficult and lasted over a year.
During that time I took inventory of my life to design something better than the one I had. I have described what I did in previous blog posts. I will not repeat that content here.
Rather I will simply mention that one element I analyzed was my passions — what I enjoyed doing. The activities that make me happy.
Below you see the list. It is not in priority order.
Step 1 — my desire to travel to Europe
I really enjoy traveling to Europe.
As both of you know I lived in Bavaria for four years while stationed in Germany as an Army Officer. During those years I traveled around Europe and loved it.
We took one trip to Europe in the early 2000s when Gavin was two and Riley was on the way but had not been back in over a decade.
I determined to rectify the situation by taking you boys on a trip to Bavaria in the summer of 2015.
Step 2 — expert advice for our trip
I am a Rick Steve’s fan. He is an expert in European travel. His guidebooks are excellent, his podcasts are educational, and his television shows are entertaining.
I leveraged knowledge from his travel books a lot touring around Europe for previous trips, so I figured it made sense to use his resources for this one.
I purchased his Germany book and watched videos like this one.
Step 3 — Bavaria or Bust, summer 2015
I designed a ten-day summer vacation for us to visit Bavaria. The plan was not sophisticated. You can see a summary of the plan below.
I intentionally chose for us to visit places that I had been before. Less stress for me when returning to sites I know versus new locations.
Everything was new for both of you.
We rented a car rather than take public transportation.
Our route was busy, but we did not spend many hours in the car. I kept the distances short.
We flew through New York since it was cheaper than flying direct.
I finished the plan, bought the plane tickets, got you updated passports, and off we went.
Step 4 — we went on our first adventure
We had a great trip. It was a lot of fun.
We saw superb sites and made many memories.
Both of you enjoyed Rothenburg, Salzburg, and Munich.
I was surprised by how much you liked Kehlsteinhaus (the Eagle’s Nest) in Obersalzburg. I forgot how interesting and odd that place is. The German people gave it to Hitler for his 50th birthday, and he hated it.
Not sure why. It is in such a beautiful location in the Alps — truly breathtaking.
Step 5 — making adjustments after every trip
I learned a few valuable lessons in 2015 like flying direct is the way to go.
Focusing on a region rather than a grand tour seemed to work well so I carried that approach forward as a best practice.
For the summer of 2016 Riley and I returned to Germany to see a different part of it. We focused on Baden Wurttemberg — the region next to Bavaria.
It is wonderful.
This time we flew direct into Frankfurt airport from Dulles which was much easier. Once again, I rented a car and kept the route short, although it included a side trip into Alsace, France.
We also visited several locations that were new to me like the university town of Tubingen, Kronenbourg Fortress, and Hohenzollern castle.
They were all excellent.
It was another awesome vacation full of fun and fond memories.
I learned even more lessons that I could apply to future summer adventures.
After that trip, I figured that I knew enough to come up with a grander vision.
Step 6 — my master plan for touring Europe
I printed out a map of Europe and got to work on a master plan for touring most of it. I segmented the major countries I want to visit like Germany, France, and England into regions that could be covered in a week, or two.
The photo below is what I drafted.
Do I actually have time to visit all of these locations?
Who knows? I hope so.
The main point is that I have a vision for going my own way which means Europe every summer, and probably every Spring Break moving forward.
This simple step led me to brainstorm all kinds of ideas for future adventures.
Step 7 — Making it happen one trip at a time
I have taken a few more trips to Europe since drafting the master plan.
We went with the Singers to France in the summer of 2017. It was one of our best trips to date. We spent several days in Paris, one of my favorite cities in the world, and then did a loop through Normandy.
We witnessed history firsthand while touring the Normandy D-Day beaches, and marveled at one of the most unique places we have ever visited — Mont St. Michel.
Just this past summer I spent a week in the Netherlands with Kim.
It was a great trip — better than expected.
We used the public train system to get around and were able to see many great Dutch places like Amsterdam, Haarlem, Leiden, Delft, and Rotterdam.
Step 8 — I have enjoyed every step of each journey
Every time I visit Europe I enjoy the journey. I am always excited to go.
Sure — each trip included obstacles and challenges. But, those struggles helped create memories that will last a lifetime.
I keep an electronic photo album in my living room that scrolls through the highlights from our adventures.
Some nights before I go to bed I watch the pictures for a few minutes as I remember all the awesome adventures we have completed, and contemplate where we will head next.
I have chosen to go my own way, and my life continues to get better and better.
I recommend that you try this approach and see if you can experience similar results.
I write a blog for my sons called Doug Keating Letter to Sons. I am sharing content from my blog here. I hope you enjoyed it. All feedback is welcome. Thanks for reading it.
Originally published at www.lettertosons.com on October 9, 2018.