Do more than just exist. We all exist. The question is: Do you live?
Throughout a decade of life, relationship, and small business coaching, Angel and I have 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 they do it? They insisted on making gradual progress in their lives.
Obviously though, it can take some time to get yourself into the right rhythm. And I am no exception. About 20 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. 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 demands, 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 awoke with dread at the thought of a new day, now I awake with excitement to begin — grateful to be doing what I’m doing with my life. I’m so grateful I did what I had to do, struggled forward through the tough times, and realigned my life with the activities and values that make me feel alive.
I tell you this because I know life can be crazy at times. Some seasons of our lives get so busy or stressful that we get stuck in a debilitating cycle of simply reacting to the people and circumstances around us. And in doing so we forget how important it is to listen to ourselves too. But I’m happy to tell you that things can change if you want them to, in any season and at any age.
Again, just as I’ve turned things around for myself, I also know dozens of other people who have done the same at various ages and stages of life. What we have in common is that each of us insisted on making ourselves a priority, we insisted that it wasn’t too late to start making positive changes, and we followed through one day at a time.
So what you need to remember most right now is that positive change in your life is dependent on what you do from this day forward, and that there are some things in life you have to insist on doing no matter what others say about it, or what they demand from you. For instance, you have to…
1. 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 and success 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.
As the weeks roll into years, nearly every day of our lives is designed and developed by other people’s demands or opinions. 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 impractical or beyond our reach. It’s time to unlearn these falsehoods 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.
2. Insist on subtracting what doesn’t belong in your life.
Every time you subtract negative from your life, you make room for more positive. Let that sink in. When things aren’t adding up in your life, begin subtracting. Life gets a lot simpler and more enjoyable when you clear the emotional and physical clutter that makes it unnecessarily complicated. And 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, rituals, 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.)
3. Insist on putting your heart and soul into the things you do.
Remember, there’s a big difference between empty fatigue and gratifying exhaustion. Life is too short. Invest daily in meaningful activities. Don’t wait around! Too often we wait because we think we need to “find” something new or different to be passionate about. But that’s not true. If you want more passion in your life right now, act accordingly right now. Put your whole heart and soul into the next thing you do. Not into tomorrow’s opportunities, but the opportunity right in front of you. Not into tomorrow’s tasks, but today’s tasks. Not into tomorrow’s run, but today’s run. Not into tomorrow’s conversations, but today’s conversations…
In the end, purpose is the reason you journey and passion is the fire that lights your way. So learn to believe in your heart that you’re meant to live each day full of purpose and passion — that each and every moment is worthy in its own way. I’m absolutely certain you have plenty in your life right now that’s worth your time, energy, and passionate focus. You have people and circumstances in your life that need you as much as you need them. You have a massive reservoir of passionate potential within you, just waiting. Stop waiting! There is no tomorrow. Put your heart and soul into what you’ve got right in front of you! Become it, let it become you, and great things will happen FOR you, TO you, and BECAUSE of you.
4. Insist on working hard and stretching yourself.
Many great things can be done in a day if you don’t always make that day tomorrow. Take positive action and plant the right seeds in your life right now. Nature herself does not distinguish between what seeds she receives. She grows whatever seeds are planted. This is the way life works. Be mindful of the seeds you plant today, as they will become the crop you harvest tomorrow.
Will it be easy? No. But remember that when you’re struggling to make progress, that’s when you actually are. You want to be stretched to the edge of your ability at least once a day; it needs to be hard and uncomfortable for a little while. Of course, most of us don’t want to be uncomfortable, so we subconsciously run from the possibility of discomfort. The obvious problem with this is that, by running from discomfort, we are constrained to partake in only the opportunities within our comfort zones. And since our comfort zones are relativity small, we miss out on most of life’s greatest and healthiest experiences, and we get stuck in a debilitating cycle. We keep doing what we’ve always done, and thus we keep getting the results we’ve always gotten. And our true potential falls by the wayside.
Choose differently starting today! Go to environments that expand your mind. Spend time with people who inspire you to stretch yourself. Read books. Grow. Get better. Your life is mostly your choice. (Note: Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the Success and Productivity chapters of “1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently”.)
5. Insist on leaving other people’s judgmental opinions alone.
If it happens, be sure to tune out the cheap shots people take at you. Don’t waste words on people who deserve your silence. Sometimes the most powerful thing you can say is nothing at all. So before you waste it on anger, spite, or frustration, think of how precious and irreplaceable your time is, and carry on with grace.
When Angel and 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.
What you need to remember is that you can’t control how other people feel, or how they receive your energy. Anything you do or say gets filtered through a mindset occupied by whatever they are going through at the moment, which likely has nothing to do with you. Just keep doing your thing with as much love and passion as possible.
6. Insist on embracing your humanness.
“Human” is the only real label we are born with, yet we forget so easily. To become attached to a loaded label of overweight, divorced, diseased, rejected, or poor, is to be like the rain, that doesn’t know it is also the clouds… or the ice, that forgets it is water. For we are far more than the shape we’re currently in. And we, like the wind, water, and sky, will change forms many times in our lives, while forever remaining beautifully human.
So forgive yourself for the bad decisions you made, for the times you lacked understanding, for the choices that accidentally hurt others and yourself. Forgive yourself, for being young and reckless. These are all vital lessons. And what matters most right now is your willingness to grow from them.
Once we forgive ourselves and fully embrace our humanness, it’s almost funny to see how seamlessly we can adapt to life’s transitions — how we outgrow what we once thought we couldn’t live without, and then we fall in love with what we didn’t even know we wanted. Take this to heart. And don’t forget to pause on a regular basis to appreciate how far you’ve come. You’ve been through a lot, and you’ve grown a lot too. Give yourself credit for the steps you’ve taken, so you can step forward again, and again.
7. Insist on reminding yourself that every step matters.
In the end, all the small things make a big difference. Every step is crucial. Life isn’t about a single moment of great triumph and attainment. It’s about the trials and errors that slowly get you there — the blood, sweat, tears, and the small, inconsequential things you do on a day-to-day basis. It all matters in the end — every step, every regret, every decision, every minor setback and minuscule win.
The seemingly useless happenings add up to something. The minimum-wage job you had in high school. The evenings you spent socializing with coworkers you never see anymore. The hours you spent writing thoughts on a personal blog that no one reads. Contemplations about elaborate future plans that never came to be. All those lonely nights spent reading novels and news columns and comic strips, questioning your own principles on life and sex and religion and whether or not you’re good enough just the way you are.
All of this has strengthened you. All of this has led you to every success you’ve ever had. All of this has made you who you are today. And all of this proves that you have the strength to deal with the challenges in front of you. So keep giving yourself grace, and carry on. (Note: “The Good Morning Journal: Powerful Prompts and Reflections to Start Every Day” is a great tool for this kind of self-reflection.)
Now, it’s your turn…
Yes, it’s your turn to insist on making yourself a priority today!
Start by admitting to yourself that you’ve spent a lot of your life subconsciously shrinking yourself. Thinking you’re not enough. Wishing to be someone different. Someone who fits in, who’s less sensitive, or unsure, or flawed. Someone who is less YOU. Because you felt kinda broken and didn’t want to scare people away. You wanted people to like you. You wanted to be seen as worthy so you could feel healed and whole. And for the longest time, behind a facade of fake smiles, you have inadvertently betrayed yourself for the purpose of pleasing everyone else. And for longest time, your heart has ached…
But you’re seeing things differently today, right?
Shrinking yourself just doesn’t make sense anymore. And more than that, you now realize no matter what you do or how you change, some people will never agree with you anyway, and some situations will never nurture your soul. You now realize you have to start doing things for the right reasons. Not because it’s what everyone else says it right, but because you now know yourself to be worthy of your own priorities and values.
You may have been beaten down by adversity, or sidetracked by past failures, but you are not broken. So don’t let anything or anyone else convince you otherwise. Heal yourself by refusing to shrink yourself…
Insist on embracing the reminders in this essay today.
Insist on getting out there and choosing yourself for all the right reasons!
And before you go, please leave Angel and me a comment below and let us know what you think of this essay. Your feedback is important to us. 🙂
Which one of the points above resonated the most today?
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Photo by: Elena