What would you do if you had 6 months left to live? Would you do anything differently? Would you have any regrets?
There has been so much literature written about this and people I have asked in my own life usually say the following – they would quit their jobs, spend quality time with their family and loved ones, travel or do things that are more meaningful or that they’ve always wanted to do. I’ve also responded in the same way in the past. What makes people stay for years (sometimes even a lifetime) in less than happy and unfulfilling situations? What makes people not do the things they care about and value? Why don’t people pursue what they believe will truly fulfill them in work, relationships, and life, etc.
My question to myself and others is, why do we wait until the end of our lives to do what fulfills us and makes us happy?
The first hurdle to overcome is finding out what you truly want to do and what your life purpose is. I want to suggest that this is the easy part and I understand if you don’t feel this way, as trust me I’ve been there, but it’s simply a formula that starts with finding out what you care about. Determining what you value is not always easy to do on your own or as obvious as it sounds, but I know a great coach (wink) who will listen for your values – even for the ones that you are not articulating or even noticing. After finding out what your values are (and there are always some great surprises on the list), it’s about exploring career, relationship, and life choices where you can fully honour these values. However, often times even when we know what we truly want to do, it’s still very challenging to make a move. Once we know what we want, what keeps us from pursuing it? It’s funny, if you told your 5-year-old kid how much you hated what you were doing and how unhappy you were, they would probably ask why don’t you do something else? Why don’t we do something else?
Fear is hurdle number two. Merriam-Webster defines fear as, “an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger”. As much as each of us has a wonderful set of values, each time we contemplate stepping out of that job or unhealthy relationship, etc. that terrible feeling defined above seizes us accompanied by that loud voice in our head (you know the one) that says, “You’re not good enough”, “You’re not smart enough”, “You won’t be successful”, “People don’t take you seriously”, “Your ideas aren’t valuable” and of course, my personal favourite, “Who do you think you are?”. The worst part is that the feeling of fear and the accompanying “inner critic” is sometimes so close to us, and has been such a big part of our lives that we don’t even identify it as the negative voice in our head. We actually just see it as the truth. If we knew that someone we loved had this terrible voice in their head we would likely hug them and say it’s not true – don’t listen to it! What if we could do this for ourselves? In my experience, people around us are pretty empathetic and we are equally empathetic towards others, but why is it so difficult to be empathetic with ourselves? We end up perceiving that others are judging us as harshly as we are judging ourselves but what if they are not? I want to suggest that they are not and if people are not judging us, what would be different?
What if for now we just saw fear differently? I know it feels terrible but what if we started associating that feeling (tightness in your chest and shoulders, heart pounding, difficulty breathing, dizziness and maybe feeling like you have to go to the bathroom) and the negative voice in your head as just being an honest indicator and measure of what we really want? i.e. the stronger the fear and the louder the voice indicates the more we possibly want what is making us afraid.
Think about it now and tell me if I could snap my fingers and guarantee you success in any area of your life whether it be career, money, health, relationship, etc., what would you want to do? Why would this be important to you? What will you feel when you achieve it? Probably pretty great right? The best part is it’s easier to excel and achieve success in an area that you are naturally passionate about! Look how much you’ve already achieved in your life likely doing something that you don’t necessarily like let alone love. Sounds great right? What are you feeling right now? If it’s a combination of excitement and fear, it’s likely that you are on the right track. What would it be like to start today to find out what you truly love and fulfills you instead of waiting for the end of your life to start? You absolutely deserve this and this is my sincere hope for you!