Changing Your Career in 2021

4 Areas to Level Up Your Life

What Does It Mean to Level Up?

Illustration by Piya Willwerth

When did “leveling up” became part of the self-improvement lexicon? Was it a video game thing? I’m not mad at it — just curious. When people talk about “leveling up” or encourage each other to “level up,” what they really mean is doing the work to make their lives better.

It can be difficult to identify these areas, so let’s define them. By taking a holistic approach, you’ll see that each area bleeds into the other and supports the other.

Your Roots and Foundation

By “roots and foundation”, we are talking about not only your home base — your literal home — but also your background and family. While it’s not possible to change where you came from, you can come to terms with it, so you can move on and move forward.

  • Are you in control at home?
  • Regardless of who you live with, are you able to establish study times or working times — in other words, times when you’re able to complete your tasks with no one bothering you?
  • Do you have trouble with feeling that you deserve good things?
  • Similarly, are you afraid of what will happen if you do achieve success?

Your Relationships

Your relationships play a key role in your current and future happiness, but for some reason, people tend to discount them in their pursuit of a better life. Leaving aside your relationship with your mother, your father, and your family (the previous section), let’s examine your non-familial and romantic relationships.

  • Are there any relationships that are actively toxic or destructive to you?
  • Are your friends happy when you achieve an accomplishment, or do they find ways to sour the success or make it about them?
  • Do you feel drained after being around them? You may lack the drive to accomplish things if you’re too busy recovering after hanging out with them.
  • Does your partner support you in your activities and your profession? Do they come to your events (without complaining)? Or do they drag their feet and use the opportunity to look down on you and your accomplishments?

Your Career and Reputation

This is the big one, isn’t it? By leveling up your career, you’ll (often) be making more money, gaining more public status, and have more control over your professional autonomy. You’ll be able to establish a reputation that you’re proud of.

Alternately, if you’re not happy with this area, you can begin to formulate a plan to improve on these things.

  • Are you in the job you want to have?
  • If not, do you know which job (or career) you want to have?
  • Do you have the experience to get this job?
  • If not, how can you gain the experience or the education?
  • Are you happy with your position in society? Your reputation?
  • If you are not happy, what are the things that you think you need that will give you the respect that you want?

Your Personal Identity

Central to all of these factors is your identity and your physical self. How do you see yourself? And how closely does this resemble how you present yourself to the world? How do you want to be seen?

  • Would you call yourself a good person?
  • If you met yourself at a party, would you like yourself?
  • Going off of that — would you admire yourself? I understand that this sounds a little self-indulgent, but I think it’s important for self-respect. One of my favorite quotes is by the late David Foster Wallace, who, sadly, did not win against his demons:

“If you can think of times in your life that you’ve treated people with extraordinary decency and love, and pure uninterested concern, just because they were valuable as human beings. The ability to do that with ourselves. To treat ourselves the way we would treat a really good, precious friend. Or a tiny child of ours that we absolutely loved more than life itself. And I think it’s probably possible to achieve that. I think part of the job we’re here for is to learn how to do it.”

David Foster Wallace
  • How would you like other people to perceive you as an individual?
  • Alternately, would you rather that people perceive you as one of a tribe? What “tribe” is this?
  • Are you physically healthy?
  • How do you feel about your body? Some people feel really disconnected from theirs.
  • What can you do today that will help you move?

I’ve written these lists out here, to help you get started! It’s imperative to identify the things that you want to improve upon. Sometimes people get so fixated on one thing, they fail to realize that something entirely different is causing the issue. It’s like trying to buy a new couch while your house is on fire.

What part or parts of your life do you want to improve? I want to hear about it!

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