Dreams 2.0

 

“Find what you were made for.”

This is the slogan for To Write Love on Her Arms National Suicide Prevention Week 2017 campaign. For myself, this week provides additional meaning as it coincides with the birthday of my close friend who took his life in 2014, a sacrifice that has forever inspired me to find my happiness.


Two years ago I packed my life into my Altima and drove cross-country from Connecticut in pursuit of a California dream. When I arrived at the University of California, Riverside, everything and I mean everything was different. For starters, Connecticut has four very colorful seasons, cold winters and humid summers. Riverside is in the desert -it’s quite hot- and only varies between different shades of brown. Another striking difference- the demographics of Southern California compared to Connecticut. To illustrate, UC Riverside is known for its commitment to underrepresented, first-generation students, leading to a student body that is among the most diverse in the country. In my position on campus as an admissions counselor, many of my colleagues and students I worked with also identified as underrepresented, first-generation students. Through our interactions I became more familiar with their challenges, challenges much different from those at the University of Connecticut.

  • The transfer student who spent five years at community college paying class-by-class for the chance at a four year degree.
  • The commuter student battling the worst traffic in the country twice a day because living at home is the only way college would be realistic.
  • The daughter whose father took night classes while she was little to better help with her homework so she may graduate. A story you may already be familiar with.

“Happiness can only be found by identifying and striving to achieve meaningful purpose for one’s existence.”

-Jerry Hirsch (Lodestar Foundation), Barron’s list of high-impact givers.

Most impressive was that regardless of the individual circumstance or obstacle, these students were very happy. In most cases, I probably had more- money, experience, possessions- but they seemed to have the one thing I wanted, consistent happiness. As the months passed it became clear to me that the “what” – or adversity/obstacle – did not matter. The common theme I found with UCR students was the “why”- or purpose – and that made all the difference. Over the years I have worked with and observed all types of students from all types of backgrounds with all types of purposes. Though they are fighting an uphill battle, the students completing a degree with the motivation of creating a better life for their family are rich in purpose, and therefore, rich in happiness (generally speaking).

The unwavering commitment to education despite an uphill climb against the system invoked overwhelming feelings of guilt for a lack of effort into my own education, specifically the sacrifices I took for granted. Aside from education, at the crux of the issue was a recognition of a lack of accountability when I was at home- quick to place blame (usually on my family) instead of taking responsibility for my actions. This was certainly not part of the California dream I had envisioned, but the unexpected result from these realizations was that I stopped taking my life for granted. I stopped expecting a certain life to just happen to me and instead actively started creating the life I wanted for myself through a commitment to maintaining positive habits and accepting daily, incremental change as part of a long term goal. That goal? Treat others the way I would like to be treated. When I was finally honest with myself and identified my faults, change then became a commitment to correcting those faults hour-by-hour, day-by-day. Once I took the first step, my guilt transformed to motivation and happiness began to replace emptiness.

Nate

RIP Nate

Recently I was able to attract a nice girl into my life as a direct result of my commitment to change. She has introduced a simplicity that I seem to have lost touch with through years of solo journeying- a simplicity that revolves around family, a simplicity that I would like to return to. I have not been the best son, the best brother or the best friend, but I would like to change that and I finally know where to start.

“Find what you were made for.”

My purpose when I moved to California was strictly adventure. This purpose had little meaning as my worldview at that point was formed exclusively from experiences growing up on the East Coast- valuable experiences but only one side of the story. However, after two years on the other side, my interactions and experiences in California merged with those from Connecticut and blended into an updated worldview that is more reflective of who I am and what I am looking for, a worldview I will continue to refine.

After a summer of deliberation, I decided to resign from UCR and return home to spend September with my family. I want a re-engagement in what matters most- relationships with family and friends- and I will work at it hour-by-hour, day-by-day until I am satisfied. Thus far I have been able to see my dad’s side of the family at a reunion on the Cape, bring flowers to my grandparents grave and make dinner for my parents. Simplicity. Life is too short to waste time and there is no better time to begin.

Cape Cod Reunion 2017

Cape Cod Reunion 2017

Looking forward, I have long understood an underlying purpose of mine is to make others’ lives easier- whether it be through large scale innovation or individual interactions, that story is yet to unfold. What I do know is when I am able to live out that purpose in some way, shape or form, that is when I am most happy. I have a rejuvenated appreciation for the sacrifice and work ethic it will take to reach my goals. I am ready to put in the work and I know how to get the job done. The process translates. Effort, concentration and persistence combined with purpose will lead to success. I am committed to the process, no matter how long it may take.

I don’t know where this journey will end up, but I do know it was meant to start at home.

In the meantime, if anyone has any leads, suggestions or recommendations, either short or long-term, I would be more than happy to hear them. I am planning a return to Southern California in October to pursue experiences in the Los Angeles area that will continue to push me out of my comfort zone.

Matthew.Ouimette@gmail.com

https://www.linkedin.com/in/matthewouimette/

If the key to happiness is living a meaningful purpose, I will continue to re-purpose until I find what I am made for. For those out there who feel stuck in any aspect of life, I believe in you to always find the courage to do the same.

 

 

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Reach your goals in 2017

Colorful 2017 New Year date in sparklers

If you are like me, you probably have a lot you want to accomplish in 2017. The problem is, with so many resolutions and so little time, where do we start? Last year, I wrote to you about the importance of making New Year’s resolutions, now, I want you to reach them.

What is the purpose of taking the time to set thoughtful resolutions if we do not strategize a plan to reach them? When the goals we set are work-related, they can be measured by quantifiable performance indicators unique to each industry. Thus, our strategy can be evaluated based on these indicators- if performance improves, we know our strategy worked.

But what about personal goals? After all, these are typically the goals that dictate our sense of purpose/happiness. So, how do we strategize to achieve personal goals that are more difficult to quantify?

Analyzing the habits of successful people, both in my life and in the news, I have identified two major themes, focus and time management.

First, you will need to develop a sense of clarity. Picture the version of yourself you want to see at the end of the year. Now, which resolutions will help you to achieve that vision? Here is an exercise I use to help myself identify goals that are most essential to my progress:

Warren Buffet’s 5-25 rule

  1. List your 25 most important goals.
  2. Circle the 5 most crucial to your progress.
  3. Items that are not circled become your “DO NOT TOUCH” list. These items receive no attention until you have accomplished one of your top 5 goals.

For the particularly ambitious, identifying your top 5 goals can be difficult. If you are stuck, use the 5 AM rule to discover which goals are most important. The rule is simple- ask yourself, “would I wake up at 5 AM to work towards this goal?” As sleep is typically the most difficult sacrifice to make, the 5 AM rule will undoubtedly identify the goals that truly motivate you.

Now that you have developed a sense of clarity, time becomes your next challenge. In my opinion, the saying “there is not enough time in the day” is nothing more than a widely accepted excuse. There IS enough time in the day IF you use it efficiently. So how do we use time more efficiently?

 It all comes down to one word…

no

Time becomes more and more important as it becomes less and less available. There is a common misconception that saying “no” makes us selfish. We hesitate to decline social invitations from friends or colleagues to pursue our own interests out of fear we are causing irreparable harm to our reputation. This is a dangerous practice that clutters our calendars and reduces the amount of free time available to work toward our goals. You would not reach in your wallet and throw money away, but why do we fail to exercise the same discretion with our time?

If you are committed to reaching your goals in 2017, you will need to take advantage of every free hour, every day of the year.

Successful people use the word “no” as a tactic to both guard and manage their precious time. This is not easy. I will be the first to admit that it does make you feel guilty and your circle of friends could change. Ultimately, as I have to continually remind myself, the people who think you are selfish for wanting to improve yourself, are not the people you want in your life. This process will help identify those people, but also, the people who understand your drive and will support you even if you don’t go out for drinks every Friday night.

I cannot claim to have made this discovery myself, rather, it was learned through experience. Two years ago, my good friend Ryan returned home to study for his Step 1 Medical Licensing Exam. After 8 years of medical studies, the score he received on this exam would dictate his acceptance to a plastic surgery residency program. For 8 consecutive weeks, Ryan studied 14 hours a day. I saw him for an hour each morning at the gym- time he used to give himself a mental break- but that was the extent of our interaction during his stay. To every invitation that did not help him to become a plastic surgeon, he replied “no”. The approach was simple but it paid dividends.

Months later, after sitting for the exam, Ryan received a score that placed him in the top 2% in the country. He is now a plastic surgeon in Houston.

This experience inspired me to view time as a resource that I need to manage and protect as I would my bank account. If you do not begin to practice saying “no” now, it will become less likely you adopt the practice, which can lead to regrets later in life. If you know this will be a struggle for you, check out these tips from Wharton School professor Adam Grant.

The process is not always fun, and it won’t make you the most popular, but it will work.

Good luck…