The most enduring relationship you have, like it or not, is with yourself. The relationship is with you from the time you’re born, and no matter where you go…there you are. So when it comes time to make a life change, the one and only person who knows what’s best for you is you. Still, describing your own “best”—what it looks like and what it will take to get there—can seem as inscrutable as the Buddha’s smile. Engaging in the right decision making for afruitful life change may not be intuitive, but it definitely isn’t impossible.
Karan Bajaj, a best-selling author in India, knows a lot about the search for a meaningful life. An engineer and marketing executive, Bajaj spent a year meditating in the Himalayas and studied yoga at an ashram in southern India. The protagonist of his newest novel, The Yoga of Max’s Discontent, does the same. Happily for the rest of us, Bajaj says there are less extreme ways to start the process of reinventing yourself than meditating in a cave on a snow-swept mountain.
Every time you find yourself at a fork in the road, make your decision based on growth, not out of fear of a bad outcome, or what people will think.
Check the origins of your decisions. “Every time you find yourself at a fork in the road, make your decision based on growth, not out of fear of a bad outcome, or what people will think,” Bajaj tells Life Reimagined. When Bajaj left his lucrative career to take a year off in the Himalayas to “learn meditation and yoga in a deep way,” people thought he was crazy. His sabbatical was something he truly wanted to do, not something that would be good resume fodder. “You’ll know when you’re making the right decision. Everyone’s journey is very different, and your definition of success is your own.”
Count the conversations you have with yourself. “Your growth is proportional to the number of difficult conversations you’re having with yourself,” says Bajaj—conversations around work satisfaction, relationship happiness, and personal fulfillment, for example. Is this the right job for me? Could this relationship be more rewarding? Am I living up to my potential? If you’re not having any of those internal tete-a-tetes, “you’re not pushing the boundaries of experience very much.”
Do not surrender to inertia. “Stasis, whether physical or emotional, is the antithesis of life,” says Bajaj. “Any kind of growth is a better choice than stasis.” So how do you bust out of your rut when you’re not sure where you’ll land? It goes back to the first principle, says Bajaj. “Experience has taught me that decisions of growth will always lead to a higher point [and bring you] closer to your soul.”
Check the five people you’re closest with. “There’s a saying that your life is the average of the five people you’re spending your time with, and those people evolve you…or not.” Choose your friends wisely and then help each other grow.
Honor your creative side. One of the most meaningful changes for Bajaj was “going from consumer to creator. It was a subtle and organic shift, but just the simple act of writing and creating my stories on the side [while he was still working a day job] was transformational. I was in the cycle of working, earning money and spending it, but the act of creation opened up a whole new window to me. It made me deeper as a person and more curious. All of us have some urge to express and create, and everyone should experience that. Just the act of creation deepens your well.”
Use your vacations wisely. Bajaj is passionate about meaningful getaways. “The typical goal on vacation is giving rest to your physical self,” he says. “But I want vacation to truly dissolve the mind. We don’t need physical rest as much as we need complete mental rest, because your chattering mind never takes a break, not by the conventional vacation as we know it.” Bajaj says anything that challenges you physically, or sets you on a pilgrimage, or allows you space to create, will stop the incessant whirring of your brain, making you more aware of what’s meaningful to you. “You’ll come back a different person,” he promises.
Can creating rewarding life change really be that simple? “There are only two real questions you need to ask as you begin your journey to reinvention,” says Bajaj. “Are you choosing creation, and are you choosing growth?”