“No one’s yet explained to me exactly what’s so great, about slaving 50 years away at something that you hate.” — Frank Turner
So here you are, in the world, trying to decide what to do. Many people will be yelling at you of course, that you (and everyone else) should live the way they live. Many different ideologies prescribe top down approaches they think will fix society. This attitude is not unique to the left or the right. Religious conservatives and radical progressives alike share the idea that if only everyone adopted their particular mentality, everything would be ok.
This goes against human nature. People have very radically different personality types which predispose them to different lifestyles. Some people are more inclined to be travelling nomads sailing the seven seas in search of adventure. Others are far more inclined to stay at home and work the same job every day for 50 years, before finally dying in the same house they were born in.
This is abundantly clear to anyone who has spent more than five minutes around people.
Psychologists and other theorists have come up with various ways of categorizing these differences. The famous and popular Myers-Briggs test was developed after World War Two to help women entering the workforce find jobs which matched their personality types. It posits 16 character archetypes by combining four different trait scales into a four digit code. Myers-Briggs has been heavily criticized for the fact people can seemingly change categories over the course of their lives and for not being rigorous enough.
Most psychologists today assess people using the so-called “Big Five” model, along the axes of Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism and Openness.
None of these ways of measuring personality mean you have to follow along a certain track. Personalities may indicate some combination of interests and abilities, but the intersection of those two factors has a huge overlap.
So how do you find out what you’re meant to do?
Living intentionally is about lining your goals and activities up with what you actually want to do. The opposite is either living in line with someone else’s values and patterns in the hope of getting their approval or prestige, and perhaps then being able to do what you want. The opposite is also pretending to go along with what everyone else wants but sneakily getting what you need under the table.
The Japanese concept of ikigai is an idea of “reason for being.” It’s at the intersection of what you are good at, what you love, and what creates value for others. How to live in a way which orients yourself towards discovering or manifesting your ikigai is what we’re talking about here.
Living intentionally doesn’t mean just doing whatever the hell you want. It just means drawing a direct line between your goals and your current status and figuring out a way to walk that line.
Lunacy Now encourages this for people who may worry that their dreams are impractical or who may face a lot of pressure not to try and achieve them. Some things genuinely are impossible or extremely difficult. But lots of others are doable if you live intentionally and put the effort in.
Sadly, many don’t even know what the options might be. Often they are only shown a very small fraction of the available career paths and lifestyle choices. At other times they may see a lifestyle they want but not understand that it’s genuinely reachable. This can be for all kinds of reasons, from a sort of personal Overton Window of acceptable life courses of action, to fear and timidity, to a lack of awareness about the practicality of any given course of action.
Is living on a boat and sailing around the world really that much more expensive than commuting an hour each way to an office cubicle every day? Is starting your own business that much less possible than the 9-5? Is having an open polyamorous set up really out of the question?
All of these lifestyles require very significant trade offs. Often people like the idea of living a certain way more than the actual reality of that lifestyle. That’s ok. No one is saying that you have to burn down your house and take off a white charger.
We are saying that if you want to, and you might want to, then maybe it’s more possible than you thought it was.
This is based in a fundamentally anarchist or libertarian outlook – that you’re only responsible for yourself, that the surrounding culture into which you were born isn’t the only way to do things and you don’t owe the world your compliance with their systems. This doesn’t mean you should go around breaking the law or plotting to overthrow the state (most of the time those are bad courses of action). But it does mean you have to take responsibility for your own destiny and where you end up.
Living intentionally isn’t just about finding your ikigai and throwing caution to the wind in pursuit of it. It’s about breaking down your dreams into practical implementable steps and working out what sacrifices you really need to make to live that way.