“You better live every day like it’s your last, because one day you’re going to be right.” – Frank Sinatra
Actor George Clooney was deeply impacted several years ago by the death of his beloved uncle.
He said, “Uncle George was sitting in bed toward the end. He looked at me and said, ‘What a waste.’
‘To this day, I don’t know if he was talking about the smoking that destroyed his lungs and barely let him breathe, or if he was talking about his life in general, that he felt he hadn’t become the man he wanted to be.
But I came to the conclusion I was not going to wake up at 65 and say, ‘What a waste.’ I was going to grab as much out of this life as I could.”
Are you grabbing as much out of this life as you can?
Many of us fall into routines and life slides by while we operate on autopilot.
In fact, studies show we tend to stay in a self-imposed status quo untill we have a SEE (Significant Emotional Event).
Most SEEs are traumatic. We get down-sized, divorced or our house gets destroyed in a hurricane.
These dire situations disrupt our ordinary autopilot existence and force us to re-evaluate how we’re spending our days.
The resulting assessment (“This is not the life I want to lead”) is the incentive we need to make a radical change because we realize we’re leading a life that’s leading to regrets.
Are you acting as if you have all the time in the world?
What if you don’t?
What would you do differently if you knew you only had a short time to live?
I don’t think it’s morbid or melodramatic to consider our mortality.
Keeping the fragility of life top-of-mind inspires us to enjoy, appreciate and take advantage of each precious day. It brings us face-to-face with the perils of assuming we’ll have the freedom to focus on what really matters when we’re ready to – when we retire, aren’t so busy, have more money.
Joan Baez said, “We don’t get to choose how we’re going to die or when. We only get to choose how we’re going to live now.”
Want good news? You don’t have to have a painful SEE to trigger the wake-up call that motivates you to live a life more in alignment with your priorities. You can have a pretend SEE.
Take a few minutes to complete the following “Are You Grabbing As Much Out of Life as You Can?” exercise. Answering these questions can provide epiphanies about what you rather be doing . . . without the drama and trauma of a unwelcome, real-life SEE.
1. Get a piece of blank paper and a pen. Draw a box and divide it into four quadrants.
2. Number the boxes. Top left (1) Bottom left (2 ). Top right (3). Bottom right (4).
3. Put the words “Doing” to the left of box 1.
4. Put the words “Not Doing” to the left of box 2.
5. Put the words “Want To” on top of box 1.
6. Put the words “Don’t Want To” on top of box 3.
7. Have you ever played word-association games in which someone asks a question and you’re supposed to say the first thing that comes to mind?
That’s what you’re going to to do when I ask the following questions.
Please don’t second-guess your responses. Your first thought is usually your most honest thought. The goal here isn’t to be politically correct. The goal is to determine if you’re spending your time in harmony with your heart priorities. No one needs to see this but you. So, write down whatever pops into your mind even if it’s not appropriate, pretty or polite.
8. Square 1: What are you doing in your life that you want to?
For example, are you learning a new language? Dating someone you like? Working in your garden? Making a lot of money? Spending time on your hobby? Mentoring someone or volunteering for a favorite philanthrophy or non-profit? Coaching your son’s soccer team? Doing work you love that matters? In other words, what are you doing that’s satisfying?
9. Square 2 : What are you not doing in your life that you want to?
Are you not exercising? Not traveling? Not singing or dancing? Not spending quality time with your elderly parents? Not writing a book, starting your own business or going back to school to get your degree? Not meeting new people? In other words, what do you wish you were doing that you’re not?
10. Square 3: What are you doing in your life that you don’t want to?
Are you commuting two hours every day? Over-eating? Fighting with your spouse? Smoking? Spending too much time online? Working in a dead-end job or for a boss who doesn’t appreciate your contributions? Hanging out with people who aren’t good for you? Skipping church or meditation because you’re too busy? In other words, what is happening in your life you wish wasn’t?
11. Square 4: “What are you not doing in your life that you don’t want to?”
Yes, this is a double negative. It’s an important question, though, because it identifies things you rather not do and you’re successfully keeping them out of your life. Perhaps you don’t want to do drugs and you’re not doing that. Maybe you’re not battling with an in-law. Maybe you don’t want to live in a crime-ridden city or don’t want to work 60 hours a week in an exhausting, soul-sapping bureacratic job with lots of red tape. . . and you’re not.
12. Now, take a few extra minutes to go back and fill in additional responses. Initial responses can be enlightening, however secondary ones often dredge up something that’s been buried so long you don’t even let yourself think about it anymore.
13. Finished? Look at the answers in Squares 1 and 4. That’s what’s “right” with your life. That’s what’s giving you satisfaction. Continue those.
14. Now, circle the answers in Square 2 and 3. This is what’s “wrong” with your life – where you’re off path. These priorities are getting neglected for some reason. If you continue to ignore them, you’re on your way to regrets.
A (wiser) Gordon Gecko said, in the 2010 remake of Wall Street, “The prime asset of life is not money; it’s time.”
Don’t set yourself up for failure by tackling everything you don’t like about your life. It’s unreasonable and (overwhelming) to launch an overly-ambitious plan to completely overhaul your life. That’s not necessary or healthy.
You may be familiar with the Pareto Principle (commonly called the 80/20 Rule) which says that “80 % of the value comes from 20% of the items.”
For example, stores make 80% of their revenue from 20% of the items in their store (the staples). Airlines make 80% of their profits from 20% of their customers (business travelers.)
I’ve come to understand that a higher ROI ratio is closer to 95 – 5.
In fact, I call this The SerenDestiny 95-5 Rule. Instead of trying to change 20% of your life (which is daunting), it’s wiser to change 5% (which is do-able).
Identify one priority (your 5%) and focus on fixing that one behavior you want to STOP, START or DO DIFFERENTLY this week.
Doing one thing differently can be a pebble in the pond ofyour life that sets a chain of events in motion that make you feel better about yourself which generates the energy and incentive to keep changing things.
Are you thinking, “You make this sound so simple and straightforward. It’s not that easy. I can’t just tell all the people counting on me, ‘Sorry, I’m off to follow my dreams and do my own thing.’”
You’re right. The good news is, I’m not suggesting you abandon all your responsibilities and go off and focus only on what you want.
It’s just that many of us put everyone else first and ourselves last (there’ll be more that in my next SerenDestiny blogpost.)
As Oscar Wilde said though, “Selfishness is not living the way you wish to live; it is insisting everyone else live the way you wish to live.”
It’s not selfish to act on a heart priority that’s congruent with your raison d’etre (reason for being); it’s smart.
It’s fair to balance your life’s activities more evenly by honoring your needs and interests as much as you honor others.
So, what is one thing you’d love to do just for yourself?
Look over your answers in Square 2 and 3 again. What calls to you? What is something you used to enjoy, but haven’t had time for?
What is something you’ve always wanted to try, but someone told you it was silly and you let them talk you out of it?
What is something pulling you off path you’re not proud of – but haven’t had a compelling reason to change it . . . until now?
Your SerenDestiny could be a step away. Fixing your 5% – stopping, starting or doing one thing differently this week – is a way to create what you would like instead of regretting what you don’t like.
Step away from the computer (or put your digitial device down) and make it happen right now.
Pick up the phone and call a walking buddy. Sign up for that salsa lesson or photography class. Text a friend to meet you for lunch to discuss that small business you want to start. Register for the writers support group at your local bookstore.
You owe it to yourself to initiate something that feels “right” – something that fills you with the pride that comes from making your life more of what you want it to be now, not someday.
You’ll feel more in control, your soul will say, “Now this is more like it!” and you’ll be setting your SerenDestiny in motion.