I have learned this lesson the hard way. I’ve spent years in approximately the same place because I feared making a change. I’ve stayed in jobs, relationships, and in a place of safety and comfort for too long. I don’t think it was until I hit 40 that I realized that, statistically, I was halfway through my life. I realized I had so much I wanted to do, learn, and accomplish. And it lit a fire under me to figure out how to live a richer life. To use the hours and the days that I have on the earth for things that have more impact.
Now, day to day, I don’t live big. I live a normal life with kids, sports, a job, and all the other typical responsibilities. But I do seek out things that make me a little fearful. Because what I have realized over the years is that the things that create healthy fear in me are the things that I should walk toward, not away from. They typically are the things that make me feel alive while doing. So, I plan. I always have something on the calendar that’s the next experience, perspective shift, or all-around new experience. I plan because I know that each day is not guaranteed, my health will not always allow me to travel and do the things I can do now, and I know that if I don’t plan, it won’t happen. Life will happen to me instead of for me.
Here are a few insights I gained on the mountain that help remind me to truly live life.
- Take yourself off autopilot. It isn’t until we experience something new or something dramatic happens in our life that causes us to shift that we realize much of our days are running on autopilot. We go through the same routines and drive ourselves through life on autopilot, not noticing much of what is happening around us, seeing new opportunities present themselves or new people come into our lives that could have an impact.
- Take a different route. On the mountain, many routes exist to get to the top. Some are steep, and some take longer but are more picturesque. All the routes get to the same successful goal – the summit, but they all show us a different view of the mountain. Where do we need to take a different route in our own lives? What if you drove to the office tomorrow on a different route? I’ve done it before, and I swear that I got to the office and felt more awake and alert because I had to actually think and pay attention. What if you took a vacation that challenged your worldview? Maybe go to the Amazon Rainforest and learn about sustainable farming instead of lying on the beach in the Caribbean for your family vacation (although there’s nothing wrong with a beach, I’m actually writing this blog sitting by the ocean on vacation!). To change ourselves, we need to change our perspectives.
- Be grateful and unsatisfied – You can be both. You can be grateful for everything that you have in your life and also want more at the same time. It’s the way life works. I spent much of my adult years feeling bad for wanting more – more success, more life experience, more time to do things that charge me up. Shouldn’t I just be grateful for what I have? Yes. And I should also feel a healthy pang of desire for new and exciting things. I can be grateful for quiet Friday nights at home, and I can also want to take a cooking class that challenges me to learn a new type of cultural cuisine. I can love the people I work with and love my job and still desire to do something different that challenges me in a new way. I can love my time with my family and watching my kids grow up, and I can also decide to take a trip that will change my life. Yes… and – not Yes…but.
Here is a truth that I know. Life does not wait for you to decide to take the chance; it just keeps moving. And the older you get, the faster it moves. So, take the trip, eat the ice cream, and make the career change. Later is not the right time, now can always be right; you have to believe it and take action towards it.
Life is meant to happen for you and not to you. Take back your power and create a life that you want, not just a life you have. Because you never know how many tomorrows you have, so make all of your todays a little richer instead.