The last decade of my life has gone by incredibly fast. If you’re over 40 I know you can relate. Suddenly time seems to slip into some parallel universe where a year feels like a month.
What stresses me most about this is not the rapid discovery of yet another wrinkle (although I can’t say I’m loving those). No, it’s the fact that I can look back in my journal and see a list of goals I made a decade ago with no check marks beside a single item. Why? Because it feels as though I only wrote them yesterday and I have all the time in the world.
Watching a decade go by and seeing most of my goals left unattained makes me want to grab my 30-year-old self by the shoulders, give her a good shake and tell her to stop messing around, “because you don’t have all day here, Lady!”
So, here I am with you today. I have your attention for likely less than a minute (if you’ve made it this far I’m impressed) and I want to know this:
Are you letting your life happen to you, or are you actively designing what that life looks like every single day?
Big question. Which of the following most applies to you?
a. Yes, I make a conscious effort to move in a direction that will make me happy.
b. I never stop to think about how I’m doing or what makes me happy.
c. What I have is my “lot” and I feel powerless to change it
When pain forces change
Over the last couple of years I’ve gone through a major upheaval in my life, as I’ve talked about a few times here. Before my husband and I separated I flip-flopped between all three of the above responses. For the most part I felt like I had the dream—the family, the career I wanted, great friendships and good health. At least that’s what it looked like from the outside. Come a little closer and you would have found a woman that was hungry for change. But for the most part I felt powerless and like I had no right to want more. After all, I had more than probably 90% of the rest of the women of the world.
But the storm came nonetheless, and the result is that I’m re-evaluating everything. It’s hard but I’m grateful for the opportunity. I don’t love the circumstances, or the pain, but if there’s one thing pain does for us it makes us into stronger individuals who no longer take crap in their lives. Pain is the alarm that wakes us from a dozing life (tweet that!)
If my life hadn’t been “interrupted” so to speak, I wouldn’t now be in a position where I’m considering exactly what makes me feel fulfilled, what I need from my relationships and am able to give, and what my purpose is in the time I have left on this earth.
But what if nothings happens to wake us up? What if there’s no call to action, no big aha moment? And another decade slips by?
This is why I personally believe that self-awareness and continually striving towards change and growth is essential. The irony for all of us is that we find comfort and security in the status quo and predictability of life, yet we are always seeking something new and different.
The whisper within
Sometimes we can sail through life with very little happening to make us question who we are or what we’re doing. We become used to a certain pace, comfortable with an acquired lifestyle and, as creatures of habit, we don’t want anything to rock the boat. But for most people the boat will eventually be rocked, whether it’s with the gentle nudge of a wave or the almighty roar of a storm.
The question is, will you wait for the storm, as I did, before you live life to the fullest? Or will you awaken to the gentle nudge of the wave calling you to fresh waters long before that storm ever comes?
Before the storm there is always the nudge—the gentle whisper we try to ignore. And the longer we ignore the whisper within telling us something isn’t quite right, the louder that voice will become. That’s when the storm hits and we begin to flail.
I’ve been through the storm and it wasn’t pretty. If I had listened to the whisper within things may have been very different.
There’s a fine balance between listening to what you really want and need, and simply being grateful for what you already have. I am a huge proponent of the argument that we can always find joy right where we are. But that doesn’t mean we should make do. It doesn’t mean that if something is wrong and we’re just drifting we shouldn’t try to change it.
We need to be awake to what we are truly hungry for but we also need to find the blessing in where we are right now (tweet that!)
No amount of change will bring joy to your life if you don’t choose joy. There comes a point when you must decide that what you have is enough and you are going to be happy with it no matter what. At that point what you have really becomes irrelevant.
Writing challenge (part one)
Next time we’ll be exploring what taking charge of your life realistically looks like. I’ll be breaking it down into seven areas: relationships, career & finances, spiritual life, giving, passions, health, and personal growth. There may be some areas where you feel like you’re knocking it out of the park, and others that feel like an impossible mountain to climb.
For now I’d like you to take each area and write about where you feel you are with each one. Here are some prompts to help:
- What is one thing I would like to change in this area of my life?
- Overall, do I feel fulfilled in this area of my life?
- How important is _____ (health, spirituality, giving…etc) to me?
Stay tuned for the next post when we’ll go deeper into topic. In the meantime, share in the comments what your writing reveals…
Creative Commons image by Lila Check | Flickr