Believe it or not YOU can have a life that is meaningful, fulfilling, and joyous.
Let’s be honest here, too many of us are spending time looking longingly through a window into someone else’s life. You hear stories of people following their dreams, creating thriving businesses, chasing passion projects, traveling the world and wonder, “How do they do that?” You convince yourself that their lives are the result of perfect timing, luck, fame, and trust funds, or all of the above. You also assume that anyone claiming to have a life filled with unbreakable bonds, love, support, wealth, purpose, bottle service, and joy must be broadcasting through a filtered façade.
It’s sometimes hard to admit that people are actually crushing it because it leaves us with an incessant nagging caused by our own unquenched desires. If we convince ourselves that the only reason “those people” have achieved is because of who they know or because they are stronger, smarter, more creative, more worthy, or more beautiful than us, than we don’t have to take any action or assume any accountability.
Why aren’t you living a more meaningful, fulfilling, and joyous life?
1. You don’t know what you want. Take some time to stop and figure out what it is that you really want. Sit in a quiet place, set a timer for 30-45 minutes and write without taking that pen off the paper. Think about the question: “What do I really want?” and just see what comes up for you. If you can’t seem to identify what you do want, this exercise may help you to identify what you don’t want. Maybe frustrations with relationships or career choices will surface. If so, keep pushing yourself to see if you can find the source of the disappointment you are feeling.
Once you have identified a few things that you do or do not want, use them to begin setting goals for yourself. Think of the steps you need to take to move forward and to make changes that lead to an improved situation. Break down your goal into small steps and start knocking those steps out one at a time.
You may also have to cut out some noise. It’s great to be open to the ideas and thoughts of other people and I believe that is one of the essential components to personal growth. However, there are times when we buy into and believe things that feel out of alignment with our intuition and our hearts. Before you know it, we slowly forget who we are and what we want and need to be happy. What excites you or forces you to become animated during a conversation? Learn to pay attention to how you feel. Take time to tune in to what your heart is yearning for.
2. You don’t know where to start. This one is easy. Start with something, anything and start right now. Just take one step, then another, and another. Just make one call, tell one friend, research one aspect of your business, take one walk, give one flirtatious smile, brainstorm, write one blog post, make one video, contact one agent, then do the next thing. The powerful act of actually doing something leads to more action. Cathy Heller, author, podcaster, and songwriter always speaks about how “clarity follows the action” and I have found that to be true. Everything is just something you think you want, until you actually do it and see how it feels. You might discover that you have to modify the thing that you originally thought you wanted. Or, during the act of doing one thing, you discover a new thing and open up a world of possibilities you never knew existed. All you have to do is just begin.
3. You think that your current circumstances prevent you from living with joy. First of all, learn to be grateful. Adopting a gratitude practice will change your life. A blanket of despair has an odd way of feeling comfortable and familiar. It is easy to get stuck in a repetitive cycle of poor me and believing that your situation will not improve. I hate to break it to you, but so, so, so many people would rather be in your shoes than theirs on any given day. Be intentional about identifying what is good and what is working in your life and do it every single day. Being grateful will help to penetrate and lift that fog that has been hovering over you. Which will allow you to see more clearly and lead to increased amounts of joy.
4. You are afraid. Are you one of those people that won’t allow themselves to be too happy? Do you think that by playing small or minimizing your joy it will somehow protect you from pain or disappointment? I heard a story once about a man who loved his wife, but did all he could to contain the joy they experienced and the risks they took. He believed that doing this would help them to be more prepared to navigate the trials of life. Unfortunately, his wife died suddenly and he had to come face to face with this tragedy. He soon realized that nothing he did actually prepared him for the pain of losing his wife. He did however, regret that he didn’t do more, see more, and love more when she was alive. Life is hard, but there is nothing you can do to prepare for the grief associated with loss and disappointment. Don’t waste the rest of your days preparing for doom. It isn’t going to make things hurt any less and you will just regret that you didn’t try to live your best life in those moments you now no longer have.
5. You think you don’t have the resources and you lack what it takes. You are what you seek. Successful people don’t wait around for the “dream fairy” to come by and grant their wishes. They ask questions, network, research, hustle, and grind. You see the end result and because they make it look easy, you believe they didn’t have to work hard for it. Also, you should know that successful people are notorious for being insecure, afraid, and nearly smothered in self-doubt. The difference: they go for what they want anyway.
Don’t Get Distracted
There are days when life totally exhausts us. It takes everything we can to get out of bed and the idea of facing the next thing is utterly overwhelming. There are also times when life is raw and painful. The type of pain that feels like a car is parked on your chest and you aren’t sure how you are going to produce your next breath. That stuff is real. When that stuff happens we need the help of the people we love and sometimes the professionals. It’s okay to cry, be angry, feel disappointed, and feel like you don’t know what to do, but friends, you can’t stay there forever.
Make a real effort to heal.
People are walking around dressed head to toe in their unresolved issues. They are covered in layers of anger, resentment, cynicism, sarcasm, and victimhood. It impacts their relationships, their careers, their health, and their capacity to feel joy. When life gets hard, you have to lean into the things that matter to you. Find the gift in the pain. Don’t just go on, really move on.
The Power of No
After I found myself in a few precarious situations, doing things I didn’t want to do anyway, I decided that I was going to learn how to say “no” a little more often. I discovered that there was something deep inside of me that made me feel instantly obligated to the requesting party. It didn’t even matter what my relationship was to the person. It also didn’t matter what I was doing, was planning to do, or didn’t have time to do. I was going to make in happen. A few years ago, I decided that I was going to learn how to say “no” more often.
Honestly, it was very, very difficult to do. Just the thought of saying “no” to someone caused a physical response resulting in a little palm sweat and rapid breathing followed by a barrage of unanswered questions with the appearance of catastrophic possibilities: What if I make them angry? What if they think I don’t care for them? What if they think I am mad? What if they think I am being selfish? What if they think I am a bad person? What if the stuff I want to do, isn’t important enough? What if they find out I said no to them and said yes to someone else? The whole idea of it sent me into a tailspin of worrying about things that hadn’t even happened.
Once I got myself together, I realized something deeper was going on. The root of those anxiety inducing thoughts, was the direct of result of four faulty beliefs:
- The belief that my time is not valuable. There are a lot of things that one must accomplish in a day. I would venture to guess that at least 66% of the time that you have in life is taken up by work and sleep (give or take a percent or two). So, if my math is right, that means that 34% of your life is left to manage. This is the precious amount of time that you have to dedicate to the things that are important to you. You get to decide what those things should be. You get to decide how much time you want to contribute to those things. You also are in charge of protecting the time that you use to dedicate to those things.
- The belief that my priorities aren’t important enough. Do you remember when I told you that you get to decide what things are important to you? That’s really all you need to know.
- The belief that I can actually do something to change the way that people think. If you are spending time trying changing to change people or what they think about you, you are wasting time. Use that time and energy to focus on something that will bring meaning to your life.
- The belief that doing things that are important to me is a selfish act. Be generous, be kind, be loving, and do what you want to do. What do you want your legacy to be?
The Potential of Yes
In Shonda Rimes memoir, “The Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person” she documents her journey of a year filled with saying “yes.” This idea was birthed after she had a conversation with her sister who pointed out that she never says “yes” to anything. After some reflection Shonda issued a challenge to herself. She established a few ground rules and started to say “yes” even in situations where her insecurities would have normally forced her to do otherwise. This little experiment resulted in clarity, discovery, increased confidence, and life-giving experiences. Some of you know exactly what you want out of life. Some of you are chasing someone else’s life. Some of you do not have the slightest clue. If you want to discover who you are, you have to start doing stuff. This includes: doing things you haven’t done before, doing things that are scary, doing things that stretch you, and following your curiosities. Just try stuff (make sure it’s legal) and pay attention to whether or not it lights you up.
Life is a complicated gift filled with bumps, bruises, triumphs, and breath taking sunrises. Take the time to figure out what you want and believe there is a way to get it. You only get one round in this ring and you better give it all you’ve got.