When things get too busy and hectic, it would be natural to wonder if life has to be this way. If this thought has crossed your mind, great! It is a really important question. It means you are slowing down to notice that you are alive — and it won’t be that way forever. You also realize that you are allowing circumstances or others to dictate your life. Somewhere along the way, you forgot that you get to decide what you want.
I’ve Been There
My life has had its share of upheaval. In my hardest moments, I began to believe that Fate was in charge, and I was just along for the ride. I felt I did not have the power to apply the brakes or alter the course in front of me. Choices felt like luxuries. And yet, my life depended on making them!
I am a person who loves certainty, continuity and creativity in safe spaces. The fact that I had no idea how to go about changing things for the better felt scary. This was exactly the opportunity I needed for some deep learning.
The Benefits of Designing Your Life
Here is what I learned: When you take the time to design your life, you transform your own experience.
You find yourself inspired in your career, taking more vacations and enjoying happier relationships with your partner and children. You may be earning more, developing community around you and taking calculated risks to grow your skills. You notice inner peace and an abundance of possibility.
It’s a magical feeling to realize that your actions and values line up with who you are. It feels like coming home—to yourself!
Listen to Your Gut
Trust your intuition. You can rely on it to tell you the absolute truth about what is right for you. What is it saying to you as you read this? Are you prepared to act on that message?
Sometimes uncertainty stops us from making choices for ourselves. Instead, we let things happen to us—and find ourselves missing out on the best parts of life. We miss the joy and beauty in the faces of small children. We miss the softness of moss under our feet and the fresh scent of cedar. We miss the lessons that would develop our inner wisdom. We get to the end of our lives wondering, “Did I live the life that was most meaningful to me?”
So, how DO we create a better life?
Contrary to popular belief, it is not about making our lives easier — although there is nothing wrong with that! Designing your life simply means taking charge and paying attention to it all the way along. It requires a deeper knowing about what you value, who you are and what you want to remember at the end of your life. Once you know all this, choosing it consciously over and over again is the key to designing the life you want.
“It is a mistake to look too far ahead. Only one link of the chain of destiny can be handled at a time.”
– winston churchill
No Road Map Required
Designing your life does not mean you need a complete roadmap for the rest of your life. Our brains don’t work that way. For example, a 20-year-old’s brain cannot conceive of how the 40-year-old version will see the world.
When I was 20, I saw my life as a series of carefully thought-out steps: law school, then law practice. It was narrowly defined, prescriptive and safe. At 40, I recognized that a more authentic career choice would draw on all my strengths and interests: intellectual, emotional and spiritual. I realized there had been no wrong turns—just a series of best choices in any given moment.
Process is messy and powerfully helpful. Yours will be unique to you. However, there are some common guidelines that may help you find what you want for this next part of your well-lived life.
Invite Yourself to Sit with Your Discomfort
Don’t be afraid of discomfort. It holds a wealth of great information about what is true for you and what is not. Trust the struggle. Then ask yourself the following:
Dive into What Is Most Meaningful to You
Positive Psychology has identified certain benchmarks for a happy life. Chief among them is to work towards something bigger than yourself. “Use your signature strengths and virtues in the service of something much larger than you are.” – Martin Seligman (2002, p. 263)
Choose What You Pay Attention to
Decide to pay attention to what matters every single day.
To choose mindfully is to create the life you want. Ask yourself: “Am I doing what will lead me to my goal? Am I giving my attention to what matters most right now? Is there a decision I am not making?”
Take Action — Today Is the Best Day
People have a tendency to wait for just the right conditions before taking action. The truth is that the best time to act is right now. After all, now is all we have.
Action can mean changing your self-talk from “I don’t see how this is going to happen” to “I can and I will!”
It can also mean taking small actions when the larger goal seems overwhelming. For example, if you want to change your job, start with doing some research. At this point, all you have to do is explore and imagine. You’ll know when you’re ready for the next best action.
Be Open to Detours; Trust the Process
Engineers and designers trust their process; so do therapists and teachers. You can do this, too. You don’t have to make the perfect decision. You can always change your mind! Designing your life is about keeping the goal in mind but being flexible in how you get there.
Love, Love, Love
Designing your life is the act of learning, stretching and growing. Judgments about your progress will surface; this is what the brain does in the face of change. But that doesn’t mean these judgments are true! Heap as much love on yourself as your heart wants to bring.
Your Next Best Step
If you’re still not clear on your next best steps, or you know what they are but you’re not putting them into action, contact me. I’d like to offer you a complimentary session because I believe in your potential. No limits.
If you are hesitating to say “Yes!” to yourself, who is deciding for you?
“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson