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When it comes to major life decisions, I think a lot of us (myself included) view our options as a choice between sticking to our current path or embarking on a new one. We tend to believe that every fork in the road stems from the starting point of our past selves.
I was recently introduced to an alternative theory that has shaken up the way I think about how we should approach decisions like, “Should I have a baby?” or “Should I switch careers?” or any question that starts with the words, “Is this the right time to…?”
Through my work as a freelance journalist, I had the opportunity to meet and interview Rich Karlgaard, a Los Altos-based author, public speaker and longtime publisher of Forbes magazine. His new book is Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement. Written first and foremost with parents in mind, the book uses psychology, neuroscience, and powerful real-world examples to argue in favor of a slow approach to finding one’s passion and purpose, and Karlgaard tries to chip away at the stigma surrounding “quitting” and “self-doubt.”
As a mom of three, I expected to seize on the parts of the book that could be applied to how I might best support and nurture my children. Instead, though, what I can’t stop thinking about is something Karlgaard said toward the end of our interview. Using the example of a woman who left the workforce after having children and is now considering diving back in (an example that applies to quite a few of my mom friends), he stressed the importance of making personal and professional choices based on the “you” you are today, as opposed to the “you” you were at the start of your career or before you had kids.
Karlgaard raises this issue in a chapter of his book that advises people who are “slow to grow” to “repot [themselves] in a better garden.” To quote him directly:
Another belief that plagues many late bloomers springs from the limiting stories we tell ourselves. We hold these stories—I was shy in high school, and I’ll always be shy—in our heads as if they’re immutable facts. But these stories stem from the old us, the nonblooming us. They imply that we possess certain fixed behavioral traits and always will. Such a fixed belief about ourselves prevents us from repotting and trying alternative paths.
The relevance of this statement to Karlgaard’s book is obvious, but I believe this belief system extends beyond late bloomers. How many of us have felt anxious about a decision that would mark a radical departure from our personal status quo—as though we are losing something of ourselves rather than simply embracing a new facet of ourselves? I would imagine almost everyone has.
While I believe my fundamental personality has been fixed for a long time—for better or for worse!—I can certainly acknowledge how much my priorities and worldview have shifted at each new stage of my life. (Prime example: Things I said I would NEVER do as a mom…guess how long that lasted??)
So it makes perfect sense that my future decisions need to be guided by what’s most important to me now, even if the early-20s me would stare in utter disbelief. It’s freeing to accept the idea that life doesn’t have to move in a logical, linked progression—sometimes we start a new chapter, and sometimes we start an entirely new book.
Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement, by Rich Karlgaard, was published in April 2019 by Currency.