Truth is Temporary: How Life Changes with your Changing Perspective

I was recently contacted by a LifeReboot reader who pointed out an inconsistency in two of my articles:

Shaun,

I found a large contradiction in your advice. FYI, I’m not pointing it out to be a jerk, but rather to ask which advice you’d stand by. In your Perfect Timing Doesn’t Exist article you say, “Seriously. You can quit your dead-end job today. Just walk straight up to your boss and say ‘I quit.’ Leave and don’t come back.”

In your 10 Things I Wish Someone Told Me article you say that people should NOT abruptly leave their jobs, and that you should give two weeks notice.

I’m curious, why the change of heart, AND which advice would you recommend taking?

I admitted that it was a good catch, and I felt flattered that someone was paying this much attention to the things that I write. I offered a quick explanation:

Jay,

It’s a good catch, well done. One of the things that’s interesting about writing is that as your perspective changes as a person, you may come to disagree with older things that you wrote. I find this true in journaling and blogging.

When I encouraged people to quit in my Perfect Timing Doesn’t Exist article, I was emphasizing how you have more control over your life than you realize. There are a bunch of things that you have the capacity to do, even if you may not give in to the temptation to do them. The tone of the article is meant to be shocking, and encourage you to leave a dead-end job if you must.

That said, I’ve done the “I quit” routine before. Then when I needed to get back into the working world, I found that I regretted not being able to list my former employer as a reference. If you wanted my opinion today, I would give the advice that you should always leave on good terms without burning bridges. Like I mentioned in my 10 things I wish I knew 10 years ago article, you should do your best to make the transition as easy as possible, smile and say thanks for the opportunity.

My conversation with Jay got me thinking. The notion of “truth” becomes warped when I realize how I strongly agreed with one mindset when I first wrote it four years ago, but I look back on it now and disagree. I remember the insistence that I had for my beliefs when I first left my “safe” job to be a full-time blogger, and I consider this less experienced version of myself to be naive.

I’ve talked about this subject of changing perspectives before, but I want to touch on it again here. David Hume’s “Bundle Theory of the Self” suggests that we don’t live a single life, but instead live multiple smaller, individually packaged lives with different perspectives and priorities. What you did as a child was many lifetimes ago, and now that you’ve grown up you’re a different person completely. The concept can be used for any two time periods in your life in which your goals, interests, and priorities differ.

Anyone who has ever picked up and read their old diary or journal entries knows what I’m talking about. You read your old, forgotten thoughts and feel surprised: I can’t believe I wrote that!

You can’t believe you wrote that because it’s not you anymore. Your experiences have caused you to change, and your older “truths” have been replaced with new ones.

To offer some examples, I’m going list a bunch of different goals in my life from various time periods. My apologies in advance, as they’re all over the map:

  • I used to want to be a pilot.
  • I used to think that getting straight A’s was the most important thing ever.
  • I used to have an incessant curiosity about computers and how they worked.
  • At one point, it was my life’s ambition to score over 200 lines in Tetris.
  • At one point, I was obsessed with the AMC Pacer. I desperately needed it to be the first car that I owned.
  • I used to think that working in tech support would make me rich.
  • At one point, I thought Michaelangelo was the best Ninja Turtle, and that he was my hero.
  • I used to think that I needed a job so bad, I would do ANY JOB AT ALL.
  • I used to think that “work” and “play” were mutually exclusive.
  • I used to think that I was too old, and that it was too late to learn a musical instrument.
  • I used to describe myself as “the most unathletic person you’ll ever meet — so if you see me at the gym, that’s not me.”
  • At one point (and this is really difficult to admit), I thought that I was smarter than all of my peers, and that I would consequently grow up to lead a more enriched and enjoyable life than them.

When I look back upon these older thoughts, I’m aware of how much my life has changed. Some of these older goals were things that I achieved and moved on from, others have disappeared completely, but all of them have changed.

When I revisit each goal and rewrite them, my current life’s “truths” reveal just how different my current perspective is:

  • I don’t want to be a pilot. I want to be a writer.
  • Sacrificing a social life in order to get straight A’s in high school and college is something I regret. Now, the thing I consider most important is doing work that I love.
  • I am hardly curious about computers anymore, and am more often frustrated by them. My technical curiosity has moved to how my car works, and how to restore vintage arcade and pinball machines.
  • I scored over 200 lines in Tetris once while I was pooping. It wasn’t that awesome. My new life’s ambition is to add something to the world — ideally, I’d like to publish a popular book.
  • My first car was a Pacer, and although it looked cool, it gave me nothing but problems. (Thanks for helping with all of the repairs, Dad.)
  • Tech support never made me rich; it made me unhappy. Furthermore, it taught me that if you’re choosing a career path because of the money, you’re making the wrong choice. Now I choose my career based on happiness.
  • The Ninja Turtles are a distant memory. My new heroes are Stephen King, Rocky, and The Angry Video Game Nerd.
  • When it comes to job searching, I’ve learned that the biggest turn off for employers is an interviewee that seems desperate. Saying you’ll “take any job” is like admitting you’re worthless. Now I aim to find jobs that match well with my interests.
  • Many people work jobs they don’t enjoy, and then “play” on the weekends. There are a privileged few who love their day jobs, and it is important to me to successfully join that group.
  • Although early starters may have the advantage, it’s never too late to learn something new. I can play piano like a champ, as long as I practice.
  • My muscles used to stay toned without exercise. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten fatter. I’ve come to view working out at the gym as a necessary evil: Though I don’t always want to do it, I always feel great after I have.
  • And finally, I’ve come to an understanding that I was never smarter than my peers — I was more egotistical! The way that I once thought college would guarantee me a great job and enormous wealth now makes me sick. After getting older and witnessing the success of people that I used to think were “below me,” I’ve learned that I’m not entitled to anything! Life is what you make it, and I am the only person responsible for the life that I’m living. Nobody is going to give me a free pass because I worked hard in school, I still must earn the life that I want by working hard every day.

My point is that truth is temporary. Your life and the “truths” that define it are subject to change, and they’ll change often.

The thing is, I’d actually be disappointed if I didn’t disagree with some of the things I used to believe. That would mean that I’m not opening my mind to new ideas, and that I’m not growing as a person.

When I look back on my past ideas, I may find some that I no longer agree with — and that’s okay. My perspective is changing as I live my life, and continue to learn from it. I haven’t figured everything out yet, and most likely never will — but right now in this moment, I’m confident that I’m on the right track. I wonder if my future self will agree…

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3 Responses to “Truth is Temporary: How Life Changes with your Changing Perspective”

#1 Dawn on 08, Sep, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Great post Shaun. Good to see you writing more regularly.
Dawn

#2 Lauren on 10, Sep, 2011 at 3:43 pm

Michelangelo IS the best Ninja Turtle, and he is my hero.

#3 Shaun Boyd on 10, Sep, 2011 at 3:52 pm

@Dawn
Thanks, I’m glad that I’m writing more regularly too.

@Lauren
Although I enjoyed Mikey in the cartoon and the movies as a kid, as I grew up my loyalty shifted to Donatello.

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