Today’s post is a change of pace; it’s a more personal account of my life choices as well as a convenient way for you to check in with how you’re choosing to view and live your one life.
It’s a Matter of Choice
Living an fulfilling life is a personal and active choice. No one forces you to live a life that’s uninteresting, but, sadly, it’s the default mode for living. It’s what happens if you live on auto-pilot and spend your time reacting to what happens in life. In short, you become the victim of your circumstances.
I learned a long time ago that life is passive by nature. Passivity, over time, leads to a life lived on auto-pilot. I also learned that if I wanted something more, something better, a life that was fun and exciting, a career that brought me satisfaction, fulfillment, and the money I wanted… it was within my power to create.
It’s Not Necessarily About Money
There is a false and often automatic assumption made by some that to live a truly fulfilling life you need to be making a lot of money. While making a lot of money is a worthy goal, if it overshadows everything then it becomes an obsession and usually an unhealthy endeavor. Making money is always a worthy endeavor, but it isn’t a metric for living a more fulfilling life.
Living a fulfilling life is a proactive, goal-directed series of choices that nurtures the four life areas of career, connection, adventure, and character.
My current life serves as a good example of these choices. As I mention on the bio page, I currently live in my parents’ home taking care of my mother in her final years.
My father (pictured here) passed away in February of this year after battling Alzheimer’s Dementia and pulmonary fibrosis. Sadly, my mom isn’t far behind. My 21 year-old son lives with me also as he finds his way in the world.
As I do the work that my DNA codes me to do: write, teach, coach, and guide other readers and writers in the process of making a living from their writing, I am also engaged on a daily basis in helping these two individuals along their respective journeys. Neither has an easy path to walk, and my help is often seen as meddling or nagging. I get that. It comes with the territory.
But here’s the main point – had I not already done the work on my four life areas and turned them in the direction they are today, I’d be totally unhappy. Because I know what’s important, what type of work I won’t do any longer, how to connect with those who mean the most to me, and how to live each day as if it were a gift, I am content with my current life.
The Four Areas of Life
I wasn’t always concerned about these life areas. For decades I lived the auto-pilot life and knew all too well the stresses of being a full-time circumstantial victim. I blamed my employers, my family, my belief systems, even my education for what my life was like. It was a life that resulted from being reactive instead of proactive.
It was after my second divorce while faced with raising the last of my four children alone that I made the definitive decision to no longer live on auto-pilot and take charge of my life; to transform it from one of reactivity to one of proactive behavior; from an ordinary life to an fulfilling one.
The four life areas that seemed to bring everything together were:
- Career ~ Engaging in the work my DNA codes me to do better than anything else
- Connection ~ Going deep and nurturing the connections with those I care most about
- Adventure ~ Rejecting the auto-pilot mode of living and designing a life with multiple adventures each year
- Character ~ Devoting time to cultivate areas of interest so that my character is an example to my children
By conducting a review of each of these life areas, I was able to come to terms with how my own decisions led to my current reality. It was life karma plain and simple: cause and effect perfectly played out in front of me.
As I often do, I used my Zen-Journal to explore my feelings and thoughts about each of these four life areas. I wrote a page (sometime two or three) to explore what was going on.
As a writer I often process my life by journaling my thoughts and seeing where they take me. Such was the case for examining the four areas of my life that I knew needed some sort of change if I was going to stop living on auto-pilot.
As I conducted these written reviews of my life, a pattern emerged. That pattern repeated over and over throughout each area of my life: failing to make quality decisions -often by not making any decisions at all- and then complaining about the results that followed.
It was a classic description of a life on auto-pilot and as I looked at the pattern that was as plain as my fountain pen’s ink on the pages of my notebook, I knew that I had to change.
I knew that to from keep repeating this pattern, I needed to change my thinking and my behavior. I committed to change each of the four areas of my life, beginning with my career.
Career Decision Aren’t for Sissies
If you’ve ever changed careers or made a decision to not pursue a current career in order to find a better life, then you understand how difficult it can be.
By the way, none of this was easy for me…but when the pain of not changing became too great, change became a matter of urgency and priority.
At the time I made this decision, I’d become a single parent with full custody of my then 7 year-old son. I had some hard decisions to make and although it took a few years and many stops and starts along the way, I made better career decisions.
Eventually over a number of years, I came to the place of knowing exactly what kind of work I was compelled to do and what kind of work I never wanted to do again.
Again, it wasn’t a smooth, nor linear process, but I kept at it; I made better decisions and discovered what my most meaningful work actually was. When I came to this place of discovery, it was like I’d come home to a place I’d been searching for all my life. Today I only accept work assignments that are in line with my MMW and as a result, my career is my own once again.
Connections with the Right People
The late business philosopher, Jim Rohn, said that ‘[We each] are the average of the five people [we] spend the most time with.’ If that’s true, think about the five people you associate with the most. There is most likely a significant other, friend, coworker, boss or business partner, teacher, or student, in your immediate circle.
Do the people you hang around with most represent the average you want to be?
There was a time in my life when I took a hard look at the five people closest to me. I realized that a few people, and some members, were more toxic than I wanted around me. I didn’t need their negative energy.
It was a hard decision to make, but I distanced myself from these individuals. Some returned after a while when I possess better tools for dealing with them, but there are some who I will forever keep outside my own circle of influence.
By doing this I made room for those that would come to mean the most to me. It led me to associations with the best possible business associates, friends, and more recently the woman I was destined to spend my life with -at almost age 60, this is not a small nor insignificant event. 🙂
Seeing Life as an Adventure
There are two ways to view your life: as a dull routine that you’re destined to endure or a grand adventure that begs you to take part. Personally, I prefer the latter.
I didn’t always view life this way, but I do now and it has made all the difference. It helps me make quality decisions, search out and take part in fun activities and experiences, and associate with the people who also see life this way.
When we see life as an adventure, life itself takes on a playful quality and we become more carefree in our approach to it. It helps us become more childlike and that helps us destress.
In January of this year, I traveled alone to England and France. It was a way to reconnect with myself as well as with my view of life as an adventure. As I walked the streets of London, Oxford, and Paris I fully embraced life and was open to all who came my way. In a way, this grand solo adventure full of life helped prepare me for my father’s death just six days after I returned. It was the right decision to make and I’ll never regret it.
Taking on the Task of Building Character
Character is largely the result of the habits we choose. Habits define who we become as well as how we perceive the world so it makes total sense to choose the ones that serve rather than harm us.
I chose the following habits some time ago and each serve me in a different way to make me a better person:
- Meditation ~ the type of meditation I sit is called mindfulness meditation
- Mindfulness ~ checking in with my mind and body throughout the day and adjusting as necessary
- Compassionate-Kindness ~ kindness is the outward habit produced by feeling compassion
- Writing ~ it’s more of a compulsion really, but hey…it’s what I do 🙄
- Reading ~ books that help me become a better person, businessperson, and writer
- Serving ~ whether through actively volunteering, cooking for my mother and son, or simply opening the car door for my love
As an empath, I take on the energy of others whether I want to or not. It’s not often a pleasant experience and I call this the darker side of creativity. It can often lead to me into a funk that can last a few hours or a few days.
The habits I’ve chosen make a difference in these times. They remind me that there are other options at my disposal and that life doesn’t have to be lived on auto-pilot.
What About You?
Are there changes you can make that might help you to view life as a adventure instead of a boring routine? Can you brainstorm some possible habits to experiment with to make better choices and lead a more fulfilling life?
I’d love for you to leave a comment about how this post affected you. You can also use the social media buttons to share this post with those in your sphere. It might help someone know who is going through some challenges. Thanks for doing that for them!
You rock! 🙂