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7 steps to quit your life and reboot

Priya Parker is the founder of Thrive Labs, a company that helps leaders and organizations connect with their vision and purpose. She combines the tools of business and conflict resolution to help create products, services and cultures that reflect the things that people care more about. Follow her @PriyaParker.

I recently had the crazy experience of giving a TED talk in the middle of Flanders. What did I talk about? How to quit your life (and reboot). I spent my 18 allotted minutes talking about why it’s important for young people with lots of talent to step out and address problems they’re passionate about, and why it’s a public problem (and not just a private failing) when we don’t. I also share 7 ways to help you get there.

I run a company called Thrive Labs that works with individuals and companies to define and integrate their sense of purpose into their work. With individuals, one of the biggest things that prevent us from “escaping” is fear. In the talk, I share 7 examples of tools I find effective at helping people connect with their own sense of purpose and get up the nerve to do something about it. Here are two of the most popular ones:

The Obituary Test

TOOL #1: Take the obituary test and make sure you pass. This first exercise is to actually write down your own 600-word obituary in the style of your favorite newspaper.

In a recent interview in the New York Times, a guy named Jonathan Butler who used to be a banker and now runs a very popular flea market in Brooklyn, put it this way:

“I am ambitious about making a lot of money, but none of that stuff passed the obituary test. I didn’t want [my obituary] to read that I had been a vice president of Merrill Lynch for 40 years.”

If you want to figure out what to do with your life, work back from your death.

Rather than building your life around the career you want to get, work backwards and start with asking what kind of life do I want to have lived?

The Backward Elevator Test

TOOL #2: Get comfortable with discomfort. Quitting your life and rebooting is not only incredibly scary, it can also be extremely awkward, for you and for those around you. As you get ready to quit your life and reboot, build your discomfort muscles.

You can build your discomfort muscles in all sorts of ways:

• Sing when you’re waiting in line at the grocery store. It can be quiet, but make it slightly audible.
• Go out to a restaurant by yourself and order dinner for one, without your phone or any reading material.
• Or one of my personal favorites, borrowed from Olivia Fox Cabane: walk into an elevator and, rather than turning back around to face the door as is typically expected, stay facing the back of the elevator.

In my experience, the people who have been able to quit their life and reboot, don’t get rid of their anxiety or their fears, they learn to build a tolerance for them.

You can check out the 5 other tools here:

I am running a series of Public Visioning Lab in New York this coming January 16 & 23rd and March 4 & 11 to allow folks to test some of these tools out themselves and see what exploring a “life sentence” might look like. You can sign up here. I’d love to have you there!