Do more than just exist. We all exist. The question is: Do you live?
About 15 years ago, I had an intervention with myself. I sat down at the local library on a Saturday morning and read through hundreds of archived entries in my journal. Specifically, I was looking for all the unfulfilled goals and visions for the future that I had jotted down over the years. And it didn’t take long before I realized that the entire course my life had taken up to that point had been the product of other people’s opinions and decisions. Every day I was just going through the motions, and doing what I was “supposed” to do, instead of what was right for ME.
Fast forward to today, and as I awoke this morning, I marveled at my life. Where once I woke with dread at the thought of a new day, now I wake with excitement to begin – grateful to be doing what I’m doing with my life. I’m so happy I did what I had to do, and struggled through the tough times and fears, and realigned my life with the activities and ideals that make me feel alive.
I tell you this because I know life can get pretty crazy at times. Sometimes it gets so busy that we forget how important it is to actually listen to ourselves, instead of others. But I’m happy to tell you that things can change if you want them to, at any age.
Just as I’ve turned things around for myself, I know hundreds of other people who have done the same. Through a decade of life, relationship, and small business coaching, I’ve witnessed people reinventing themselves at all ages – 48-year-olds starting families, 57-year-olds graduating from college for the first time, 71-year-olds starting successful businesses, and so forth.
How did we do it? We insisted upon making changes, and we followed through.
Above all, what you need to remember is happiness is dependent upon ourselves, and there are some things in life you have to insist on doing, no matter what others say about it. For instance, you have to…
- Insist on making your life your own. – Most of us are not raised to actively seek our calling. We may not even know that we have one. As kids, we are seldom told we have a place in life that is uniquely ours alone. Instead, we are encouraged to believe that our life should somehow fulfill the expectations of others – that we should find our happiness exactly as they have found theirs. Rather than being taught to ask ourselves who we are, we are trained to ask others for permission. We are, in effect, schooled to live other people’s versions of our lives. Every day is designed and developed as told to us by someone else! And then one day when we break free to survey our dreams, seeking to fulfill ourselves, we see that most of our dreams have gone unfulfilled because we believed, and those around us believed, that what we wanted for ourselves was somehow beyond our reach. It’s time to unlearn these lies and make changes. It takes courage to grow wiser and become who you really are. And today is the first day of the rest of your life.
- Insist on subtracting what doesn’t belong in your life. – There’s so much you can let go of in life without losing a thing. It’s called growth. Letting go of the old makes way for the new. Letting go of what isn’t working makes way for what will. When the pain of holding on is worse than the pain of letting go, it’s time to let go and grow. In other words, start subtracting… the habits, routines and circumstances that are holding you back. You cannot discover new oceans unless you build up enough courage to lose sight of the old, familiar shoreline. Be brave. Follow your values. Make changes. Dare to be different. And don’t be afraid to like it. (Read A New Earth.)
- Insist on making passion a priority. – Purpose is the reason you journey. Passion is the fire that lights your way. Without passion, it’s impossible to progress. The heart of human excellence begins to beat when you discover a pursuit that absorbs you, frees you, challenges you, and gives you a sense of meaning. Some resist this fact and think passion is just fluff. Well that’s nonsense! Honestly, the saddest people I’ve ever met in life are the ones who don’t have a deep passion about anything at all. Passion and satisfaction go hand in hand, and without them, any happiness is only temporary, because there’s nothing meaningful behind it to make it last. So remember, if you cannot put your heart in it, take yourself out of it. Only passions – great passions – can elevate the soul to great heights. If there was ever a moment to follow your heart and do something that matters to you, that moment is now.
- Insist on working hard for what you want most. – Sometimes you’ve got to create what you want to be a part of from the ground up – you’ve got to work harder than ever before to get more than you ever dreamed of. Be a dreamer. Be a doer. Know what is truly important to you and why. Then act on it with all your might. Dreams don’t just magically become realities; it takes a lot of determination, sweat, and hard work. And remember, tough circumstances don’t last; tough people do. Most obstacles melt away when we make up our minds to march boldly through them. If you have a strong commitment to your goals and dreams, and wake up every morning with a burning passion to work toward them, anything is possible. So dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams a working reality. (Read The War of Art.)
- Insist on saying what you need to say. – Dr. Seuss once said, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” There’s a lot of truth in that statement. Be cordial and reasonable, of course, but don’t tread carefully on every word you say. Push your concerns of what others might think aside and say what you need to say. Let the consequences of doing so unravel naturally. What you’ll find is that most of the time no one will be offended or irritated at all. And if they do get upset, it’s likely only because you’ve brought something important to their attention that forces them to think differently. Bottom line: When you don’t speak up, there’s a lot of important stuff that never gets said. And in the end, there’s no greater sadness than holding on to the words you never had the courage to speak.
- Insist on leaving other people’s judgmental opinions alone. – When I first started writing on this blog, I’d agonize over whether people would think what I was writing was good enough. I desperately hoped they’d like it, and oftentimes I’d catch myself imagining they didn’t. Then one day I realized how much energy I was wasting worrying about it. So I’ve gradually learned to relax with simply not knowing. Some problems in life, such as not knowing what others think of you, are not really meant to be resolved. How people perceive you may have more to do with them than you anyway. They may even like or dislike you simply because you’ve triggered an association in their minds by reminding them of someone they liked or disliked from their past, which has absolutely nothing to do with you. So here’s a new mantra for you – say it, and then say it again: “This is my life, my choices, my mistakes and my lessons. As long as I’m not hurting people, I need not worry what they think of me.” (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Self-Love” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
- Insist on being as weird as you are. – It’s human nature to attempt to mimic other humans we look up to – perhaps a parental figure or a celebrity – especially when we are feeling insecure in our own skin. But attempting to be someone else will always leave us feeling empty inside. Why? Because what we appreciate about the people we admire is their individuality – the qualities that make them unique. To really copy them, we need to develop our own individuality, and in that way, we would actually be less like them and more like our true selves. We all have quirks and a weirdness about us. The more relaxed you become with your own differences, the more comfortable you will start to feel just being YOU. Celebrate being different, off the beaten path, a little on the weird side… your own special creation. If you find yourself feeling like a fish out of water, by all means find a new river to swim in. But DO NOT change who you are; BE who you are.
How has the desire to “fit in” interfered with your life? What has it stopped you from doing or being? What do you need to start insisting on in your life? Leave a comment below and share your insights with us.
Photo by: Elena