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By Deirdre Maloney
Your life story matters more than anything. After all, it’s all you’ve got.
Far too often, people get to the end of their lives and realize in hindsight that it wasn’t as fulfilling or meaningful as it could have been. They realize that so much time was wasted on things that didn’t matter—things that weren’t worth it.
We hear from wise elders or those living with a terminal condition that our time and money and energy must be spent wisely. We believe this, and yet we forge ahead with the same life we’re living, even when the story isn’t what we want. We allow ourselves to believe that our future chapters are already written. That hindsight is the only way to know what matters.
Your life story is being written now, in every minute. While we certainly can’t predict everything that will happen in our future (or by the end of the day, for that matter), we can create a life that’s meaningful.
Of course, exactly what makes life meaningful will differ for each of us. Whether it’s exotic travel, getting into theatre or selling real estate, we’re our own unique characters. The point is, we can take steps now to create our own meaningful stories.
Behold, a few of these steps follow.
#1. Intention. Intention. Intention.
Sometimes situations we chose in the past no longer serve us. Jobs fail to stimulate. Volunteer opportunities grow boring. Relationships turn awkward or tired. Maybe toxic.
This isn’t the problem. It actually makes perfect sense, when you think about it. As we grow and change, so do our interests, needs and priorities. (Or it could be that the choice we made was just plain wrong for us in the first place.)
The problem is that, far too often, we don’t stop for a second and take note of what’s not working. We just plow through the pages of our story without thinking about whether or not they fulfill us anymore.
A meaningful life story happens with intention. Which means regularly assessing our current chapter and identifying what we do and don’t want to continue into the next one. It means taking note of patterns and acting accordingly—easing up/out the stuff that no longer works, doing more of the stuff that does, and finding new stuff to make it even better.
#2. Call Yourself Out
Sometimes we’re quite aware (perhaps painfully) of the things that aren’t working in our professional and personal lives, but we put off doing anything about them because it requires a big, scary word: change. Change is uncertain. It can be daunting. It might make people mad.
And so, instead of moving into the next chapter with intention, we just let time go by with the same plots and characters that suck the life out of your wonderful possible life.
How do we get away with this? We craft the perfect excuses as to why we can’t make change right now, even when that change would make our future chapters better. And then believing them with everything we’ve got.
The kids’ college funds become the perfect excuse for staying in a job we hate. Keeping the house becomes the perfect excuse to stay in a partnership that isn’t working. Aging parents become the perfect excuse to turn down that job overseas.
Since we’ve only got one story to live, we need to be diligent about noting our excuses and calling ourselves out on them. We must acknowledge that we have the power to make hard choices. That the point of life isn’t to avoid scary things, but to allow ourselves to go through the fear, get to the other side, and enjoy the chapter ahead.
#3. But Do it Nicely
Being tough on ourselves to live a happier life doesn’t mean trashing ourselves as people. It doesn’t mean treating the main character—ourselves—like the villain, the jester or the ancillary character who doesn’t matter.
Living the best story (and being our best when we’re included in the stories of others) means treating ourselves like the heroes we are. Cutting out the terrible self-talk about why we don’t deserve a happy life or why we don’t have what it takes to get there.
This kind of dialogue not only makes us miserable, but is a waste of energy. It’s debilitating. Trash.
We need to own our extraordinary selves. Treat ourselves with grace and love first, even when we mess up. And if we don’t believe ourselves to be a protagonist who deserves a plotline that’s as incredible as it can be, we need to do some character work on ourselves ASAP.
#4. Choose people wisely
Though we must take on the job of being the nicest person possible to ourselves, we must also surround ourselves with other characters who will love and support us, too.
And those characters who might be toxic, gossips, debbie-downers? No life story needs to keep them around. Ease them up or out.
Yes, it can be painful and unpleasant for everyone, but it’s necessary if you want to make your future chapters as meaningful and happy as possible. And why wouldn’t you want that, for crying out loud?
In The End Know This
In the end you have the power to craft a life story that matters. Don’t let your story be written in hindsight. Write it forward. Take that exotic trip. Get on that stage. Sell those houses.
Remember, in the end your story is all you’ve got. So make it count.
Deirdre Maloney helps leaders exceed their goals and sleep better at night. She’s published four business and happiness books and speaks around the world. More info is at makemomentum.com.
May 28, 2019 at 06:21AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs