Is your life everything you want it to be? Is it exciting? Fun? Suspenceful? Are you making the most of every moment? Do you have things to look forward to?
Probably not. Face it, few of us do. In fact, most people just show up and let their schedules determine their reality. But if you’re lucky, you live your life in bursts of wonderful. You are aware enough of your own power to steer your life in the direction of your dreams that you add spice to it and appreciate when times are good.
A plot wouldn’t be exciting if there weren’t highs and lows and, like it or not, life provides us with plenty of both. How you react to them is what can determine your happiness and ultimately your success. Even in the darkest of times, there are lessons to be learned, even if it’s just to tell the people in your life that you love them.
What has been the plot in your life so far? The major twist and turns? Has there been a major, underlying motivation? Or have you just been on auto-pilot? It’s never to late to take control and steer your life in the right direction. So where do you start? Why in the future, of course.
Ask yourself this question: where do I want to be five years from now? In your ideal life, where would your current life story take you so that five years from now you would be absolutely thrilled with your life? Would you be doing something different? LIving someplace new? How would your life be better, happier, more in line with what makes you happy? Now…what can you be doing in the meantime to move toward that reality?
I didn’t start college until I was almost 23. My high school friends already had their diplomas just as I was getting started. Someone said to me, Wow you’re going to be 27 when you graduate! My answer: I’m going to be 27 anyway, might as well be 27 with a degree. And a dream…a direction to move toward that energizes me, instead of killing my soul. In fact, I was motivated by this goal I actually graduated a year early. Being a late bloomer paid off for me because I was a better student, a harder worker and one of the few in each class who actually cared about my grades. That wouldn’t have happened had I started college right after high school. I had to get knocked around first.
Best of all, over those three years, I learned a foreign language, starred in a community theater play, learned to paint pastel portraits, studied abroad and had the time of my life. I basically rewrote the script of my life. The one that said I lacked motivation, direction and focus. I re-imagined my life and made it so. It’s still one of my chapters in my life, opening my eyes to all the possibilities. It’s never too late to rewrite the plot of your life.
After all, your life is like a book and you are its author. Make it fascinating!
We all have characters in our lives. After all, every person you interact with on a regular basis is, in a sense, plays a role in your life story.
Some characters are just that…characters. They may be offbeat, funny or unusual. These people add the color to our lives. Some are supportive. Others…well, not so much. How large a role these people play in our lives can depend on fate (such as the family you’re born into or the co-workers at your job), while others are the result of relationships that you’ve built over time.
The question is: do the people in your life charge your battery or drain it? Do they support you, inspire you and help you to be your best self…or do they bring you down and undermine your success? While you can’t change the people around you, you can change whom you choose to be around.
Make a list of all the “golden” people in your life. The ones who you’re happiest around. Then make a separate list of toxic people: those who bring you down. If you work with toxic…or happen to be related to them, it’s time to change some things about that situation or make some important decisions about how you’re going to deal with it.
Is there anything you can do to take this relationship to a better place? Is it worth reviving? Or are you better off limiting your exposure to them? You may sit next to or live with someone you don’t like, but that doesn’t mean you have engage fully with them. In a work situation, it’s still possible to be friendly and professional without needing to be someone’s friend…or worse, doormat. If that doesn’t work, consider going to Human Resources or getting a new job altogether. Nothing is worth being miserable.
The same goes for family situations. If you can’t work it out with toxic relatives in your life, then try limiting how much you open yourself up to these people. In the meantime, work on yourself. You can never go wrong when it comes to personal growth. Read about boundaries and assertiveness, if needed. Honestly evaluate whether you might be playing a part in this negative relationship and own your responsibility in it. After all, things won’t change if you don’t change. Improve your communication skills by learning to speak up for yourself without being aggressive. You can’t control someone’s reaction to you asking for what you want or need, but you can make sure that you communicate it the kindest, clearest manner. Then you can release it, knowing that you took the high road and at least tried.
As for the golden people in your life, keep them close and let them know how much you care. Spend more time with them making wondering memories. These are the people you want to have at your side on your most important day and fill the chapters of your life with. If you don’t have such people around you now, go in search of them. The world is full of amazing characters who can add greatly to your life as friends, lovers and mentors. This is your story, after all, and you choose who will play these important roles. Cast them well.
Old-fashioned Romance at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria
One of my favorite mottos has always been “your life is like a book, and you are its author.” I believe the realization of this concept gives you the power to make your existence as exciting as you choose, knowing that when you look back on it, each chapter of your life will reflect the choices you made along the way. Sure, things will happen over which you have no control, but how you react to adversity will determine a lot of about where this new path will take you. Only you can choose your attitude and what lessons you take from even the most negative of circumstances. By taking ownership of your life story, you are suddenly empowered with choices. Exciting ones!
So let’s take that one step further and examine it from afar. Is this really the life you intended for yourself…or would you make new choices that would be more in line with your genuine self and what would really make you happy. We’ll start with the setting.
Setting is a broad term for where your story takes place. It can be as narrow as the room you spend most of your time in at home or the look and feel of your desk at work. It can also be as broad as the part of town in which you live or where you choose to vacation. Ideally, your setting in life brings you comfort and happiness. If it doesn’t, it’s time to play detective and determine what’s missing.
Organizer Peter Walsh suggests walking through each room of your home and asking yourself the purpose of that room and how you would ideally like to feel when you are there. Is your living space cozy? Does your kitchen inspire you to cook or get creative? Is your bedroom a sanctuary––a soothing place to unwind at the end of the day? If not, how can you create the look/mood/feeling that you desire?
What about the neighborhood in which you live? Did you choose it for practical reasons—perhaps it’s close to your work—or do you love it? Does it fit your lifestyle, aspirations and/or personality? Would you rather live in a big home in a so-so neighborhood or a small cottage in a place that brings that inspires you? Only you can decide whether your setting is the right one for you.
Finally, when it comes to vacations and planning time away, are you using that time to reward yourself? Give yourself something fun/exciting/memorable to look forward to and one day look back on? Or are you using it to do yard work, visit the folks or take a staycation. There’s nothing wrong with any of these options, IF that’s really what you want to do. Sometimes giving yourself something exciting to look forward to––something really great and even a little impractical––is all it takes to fire up the adrenaline in your life. Where have you always wanted to go? What have you always wanted to see or do? Come on, you’re writing the story of your life, don’t be afraid to think big!
When my husband and I were getting married, we weren’t sure where we wanted to go for our honeymoon. After all, most of our money was going to paying for the wedding. But then I picked up an issue of Victoria magazine that featured a breathtaking photo spread of a waltz ball that takes place in Vienna each year on New Year’s Eve. I couldn’t imagine anything more beautiful or romantic. I still had a year to save and, on a whim, I asked my fiancé’ whether—if I saved the money myself—he would want to go to Europe for our honeymoon and waltz the night away in a palace. Now I don’t think he would have ever come up with the idea on his own, but he agreed that it would definitely be an adventure.
His encouragement and my semi-sane waltz ball fantasies were enough to fire me up with determination. I began doing extra freelance writing jobs with the intention of turning my dream into a reality. When we walked into the palace that New Year’s Eve, dressed in our wedding clothes, it was beyond anything my wildest imagination could have created…an unforgettable night filled with warm wishes in every language around the globe. That was also the night I confirmed in my own mind that if you want to make something happen, no matter how unlikely, you must imagine it first.
What about the settings in your life? Just imagine the possibilities.
If you found out that you had just a few weeks to live, what would you suddenly notice in the world around you? The sounds of the birds? The feel of the breeze on your face? The taste of something sweet on your tongue? Wouldn’t everything take on a new importance?
What would you do with the time you have left? Travel? Or stay put?
Who would you surround yourself with? Your family and friends? Or would you take more time to appreciate everyone you met along the way, knowing that each person who comes into your life is an opportunity to share a smile with or learn something from another living being?
Would you pull in? Or expand your horizons?
If you’ve lost someone you love at any point in your life or had a brush with your own mortality, then you know that these are some of the first thoughts/observations that come to mind. How precious each moment is…and how in that precious moment you have so many personal decisions to make. Decisions that can maximize your experience. Bliss is truly yours for the asking.
But then the haze of everyday life sneaks back in, and you fall into a routine once again. It doesn’t have to be that way, you know.
Today, ask yourself: How do I want to be living this day? What would make it more memorable? Chances are, you would do things a little differently. Smile broader. Savor each bite. Hug a little harder.
Try it. While we’re here, we all owe ourselves that much.
Oh how I love to set goals! There’s nothing like writing down my resolutions on a clean sheet of paper––knowing that anything is possible. As Natasha Bedingfield would say, “The rest is still unwritten.” And like most people I usually get off to a good start too, fueled by the adrenaline high that usually accompanies exciting possibilities.
But as the year winds on, and April isn’t nearly as shiny and new as January, those great intentions become good intentions, before eventually getting downgraded to barely any intention at all. I lose momentum. I don’t get it. What is it that makes most of us so successful and consistent in some areas of our lives and “walking around with blinders on” in other, less-appealing areas?
What’s worse is that we act like this inconsistency in our actions is the direct result of something that was done to us, instead of something that’s missing within us. “Gee, I don’t know what happened. I planned to do it but time just got away from me.” or “I really wanted to make that happen, but life had other plans.”
REALLY? I ask myself, wanting to kick my own ass. Where, I wonder, is that switch in my brain? The one that will propel me forward without ever looking back? We all have it. It’s what makes someone decide to quit smoking or lose 100 pounds or break up with a toxic mate once and for all. And when they do, we look at them in awe, like “Wow, you really meant it this time. Good for you!”
Yep, I admit it. When it comes to things like exercise or eating right or doing a Mary Poppins number on my house, I tend to drag my size 8 heels. I’m like Scarlet O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. “I’ll think about it tomorrow.” Well, tomorrow…you’re here and I guess it’s time I stop talking and start walking…heels or no heels.
Fortunately, I have a fellow heel dragger to help keep me in line this time. She knows that I’ve got my eyes on her, and I know she’s ready to kick my butt if I don’t follow through. Hey, well, it’s a start!
Young children are amazing creatures. Their emotions are so pure and their needs so simple. They wake up filled with joy for no other reason than simply being alive. When you pick them up out of their crib first thing in the morning, that ear-to-ear smile isn’t there because someone paid them a compliment or because they made a good investment. They’re happy because it’s a new day, one they get to share with you.
The other day I heard a local DJ talk about his new baby. His daughter is just starting to smile, and he noticed she has a special one reserved just for him. He calls it that “hey, i know that guy” smile and nothing melts him more than to see it wash over her tiny little face.
It’s fun to watch a child taste something new…to experience life in every flavor: sweet, sour, salty. It’s so easy to take it all for granted. Then you read the eloquent words of Roger Ebert—who lost his ability to eat, drink and speak, due to cancer—in his blog entry, “Nil by Mouth”, and quickly appreciate all those little details that make life so delicious.
When you’re young and everything is new, it’s enough just to be. To feel. To discover. How sad that we often lose that joyfulness over time. We become jaded and instead of taking the time to watch the sun setting, ask our mate about their day or admire our own children’s small discoveries, we bury ourselves in our computers, cell phones and TVs (guilty as charged). What if we each looked at the world again in a new way…observing what we love most about it and what we will miss when our days are done. Every day is a gift. Open it slowly. Take the time admire its uniqueness and appreciate what makes this day, this moment, precious.
Perhaps the most grueling part of dealing with my son’s cancer was making the right decision about his treatment. There was no doubt that he needed radiation at the site of the cancer, but should he do chemo too? One doctor said no, it wasn’t necessary and would only cause harm. Another said absolutely yes, no question. I was fighting so hard to stay positive, yet having to make a life-and-death decision for my teenage son was terrifying.
Fortunately, I found the best adolescent/young adult sarcoma specialist in the nation at the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. Even though insurance didn’t pay for any of it, I used my air miles to fly Drake and I to Boston, where we stayed at the Ronald McDonald House. Despite the daunting reason for our trip, we tried to make it an adventure, taking time to see the Blue Man Group perform, visit the Science Museum and walk the campuses of Harvard and MIT, dreaming of all things possible. Finally it was time for us to meet with the doctor, who had been reviewing my son’s file and test results. Nothing…NOTHING…felt better than hearing her say that, based on everything he had done so far, she didn’t think chemo was necessary and thought Drake stood a 90 percent chance of the cancer never returning. That was all I needed to hear. First do no harm, Dr. Roberts, my son’s oncologist had told me, and he was right.
Talking about it now, it seems like all of this happened in a parallel universe (kind of like the current plot of LOST). There’s no way this could have happened in my perfect little world to my happy little family. This wasn’t in the plan. But it did happen and looking back, I know that it was our focus on creating a positive outcome and shielding our family from fear that helped us get through it.
Life is scary and unpredictable. Changing jobs, leaving relationships, going after your dreams can all be terrifying. But I believe that so much more is achieved when you spend your energy focusing on what you want to create in your life. You’ll not only prevent all the physical and emotional turmoil that comes from living in fear, chances are, you might just achieve what you set out to accomplish. (And I hope you do!!!)