Does the life you are living today represent a path you’ve deliberately chosen for yourself?
Has your life experience been fashioned by decisions you’ve made about how you want to live each day? Or are you living in “default” … aware that some things are not working in your life and long for other things missing entirely but – for whatever reason – you’ve convinced yourself that change is not an option for you; you’re too young or too old; have too much responsibility or not enough control.
There are really only two ways to live your life. You can glide along and let things happen, reacting to whatever comes your way … good luck, bad luck, whatever the fates happen to serve up, or you can begin today to actively and intentionally direct the course of your life.
It’s Your Time Now is a guide for those who are serious about wanting to create meaningful change, and will help bring into focus the steps to guide you on your personal journey to mastering your life by design.
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I worked for over a decade as a life and small business coach and a great deal of my time was spent helping clients trying to sort out what they really wanted in life, what mattered most, and how to balance it all. This book was a natural extension of that work.
Choosing to Live Your Life by Design
Go be that starving artist you’re afraid to be. Open up that journal and get poetic finally. Volunteer. Suck it up and travel. You were not born here to work and pay taxes. You were put here to be part of a vast organism to explore and create. Stop putting it off. Be the change you want to see in the world.
As I began compiling research for this book I came across the file of a former client whose story is one that is unfortunately all too familiar. When I first met Sally she’d just returned to work after an extended absence and was feeling pretty discouraged about herself and life in general. She had taken the previous year off with the goal of spending more time with her children, and starting a home-based business to create a better quality of life for herself and her family. Sadly, her effort (in her own words) ended up a miserable failure.
“There was never a day I wasn’t busy, but I never spent any more time with my kids, and after a dozen false starts, never got a business off the ground. I finally went back to work at the end of the year feeling like a complete failure. Maybe I’m just not disciplined enough and need someone to structure my life for me.”
Sally’s dream was worthwhile, and while lack of discipline surely played some role in the outcome, her biggest mistake was making a major lifestyle change with no plan or preparation, assuming all the pieces would eventually fit together if she just worked hard enough, and was passionate enough about her goals.
Anyone can learn how to create a better quality of life but, like most things worthwhile, it takes planning and cultivating the right mindset and combination of skills. That process begins with an exercise in self awareness to understand who you are and what matters most to you now.
When was the last time you took an honest look at the life you are in today?
Does your life represent a path you’ve chosen for yourself? Is it based on your dreams and goals and created by decisions you’ve made about how you want to live each day … or did you simply happen into your current life as a result of circumstances?
Maybe you are living a good life, not all that you dreamed it would be, but it’s okay. After all a lot of other people have it tougher, right?
Perhaps you are aware of some things not working in your life, and long for other things missing entirely, but, for whatever reason, you believe change is not an option for you; you’re too young or too old; have too much responsibility and not enough control, or you feel you lack the right skills. Or possibly you’re recovering from an unexpected life change, and just want to find a way to recharge your life and get back on track.
There Are Two Ways to Live Your Life
You can glide along and let things happen, reacting to whatever (and whoever) comes your way, simply going with the natural flow of things. Not necessarily bad in and of itself, but in choosing to live this way you relinquish control of your life to serendipity … good luck, bad luck, whatever the fates happen to serve up; in other words, living life by default.
Life in default mode looks something like this … you get up in the morning and go through your daily routine, busily meeting the demands of work and family, going through the motions, but not really fully engaged or energized by what you’re doing.
Often we recognize something needs to change, and we want to change, we probably even know what we need to do. But we just never get around to doing it.
The days, months and years fly by, and while life is okay, occasionally in the back of our mind, we wonder if this is all there is; if there isn’t something more to life. Then one day we wake up and wonder, “How in the world did I end up in this life?!” But by this time we’re so deep into commitments, routines and habits that meaningful change feels impossible and overwhelming. So we just keep on because we simply don’t know what else to do.
It is your programming that created your choices in the past. It is the choices you make today that will create your future.
The second way to live is by choosing to be an active participant in creating your own life experience — making intentional choices and decisions, creating focus and direction and turning dreams into reality. Of course this requires more work, and no small amount of courage, but the rewards are also far greater.
Living life by design will look differently for each of us.
There is no one-size-fits-all formula for living life by design, after all the very nature of this life model is to follow your own unique path. So living intentionally will look different for everyone who does it, because people focus on different areas to bring intention to their lives.
For some, it is about faith; living intentionally in the traditions of their religion. For others, it is about activism – social, environmental, health, or any number of causes, supporting the initiatives and values and working towards furthering that cause. For many, it is about creating a particular quality or way of life.
While intentions will vary, the thread that holds all of these people together is their focus of living with purpose, and by design.
It’s about paying attention to what is and isn’t working in your life.
The interesting thing is that as you begin to pay closer attention to what is happening in your life, you’re going to make some surprising discoveries. You are going to find that there are things in your life that no longer serve you. You may have gone years – or even decades – without consciously realizing you were wasting time and energy on something that you no longer care about; things in your life that are just taking up space.
And it won’t just be physical objects or routines that you find cluttering up your life. You’re going to run into friendships, acquaintances, even romantic relationships that will be called into question, especially if – once you start actually paying attention to them – you find that neither of you is getting anything out of it; or realize the relationship is unbalanced. Just like physical objects and everyday routines, sometimes there are relationships that have run their course; that we hold onto out of habit, but that would serve everyone better if we simply let them go.
So, why are you still hanging on? What is keeping you from letting go of the things that no longer serve you so that you can make room in your life for something that actually makes a difference?
I’m sure that if you think hard enough you will find a reason to hang on to them; but the question is, is it really worth the time, effort and energy required to keep them in your life? Only you can answer that question, and that is part of the work that will be required of you in order to begin creating the life experience of your choice.
Again, it is important to emphasize that choosing to live with intention is not about turning your life upside down. Nor is it about manifesting change simply for the sake of change. It is about coming to a realization that there are things that you would really like to have more of in your life. Things you didn’t even realize were missing until you started paying attention.
Intentional living is also about doing everything you do with complete and total awareness of what it is that you are doing and why; while fully acknowledging that you are making these choices in order to become the person you are meant to be.
You must believe you have the power to create your best life experience.
Do you believe your past defines who you are as a person; that people are born a certain way and can’t change? Do you believe that only those who are lucky can lead successful lives or that you have to accept your life situation and shouldn’t hope for more?
Believing in yourself sounds like such a fundamental concept, and yet we all experience times in our lives when we suffer periods of self-doubt and uncertainty.
But here is why it’s so important to intentionally cultivate and strengthen self-belief.
Regardless of how well you plan to live your best life, or how confident you may appear to others, if you have pesky internal limiting beliefs (the faulty stories you tell to yourself about yourself) sending messages to your brain that the odds are against you (so why even bother trying), or that you are undeserving, you will surely find yourself hitting one stumbling block and detour after another.
As tempting as it may be to blame circumstances, bad luck or other people, if we’re truly honest with ourselves, in most cases our challenges and obstacles are a result of the enemy within, otherwise known as “self-sabotage.”
In order to succeed in whatever endeavors you undertake in life … you must learn to trust in your abilities and believe at your deepest level that you deserve to live your best life, and that you have the power and authority to create your own life experience.
Be prepared however, because some people are inclined to view self-belief as being all about ego; but believing in yourself isn’t about being arrogant or blind to your shortcomings – we all have them after all. It’s about believing you are worthy of achieving your goals and living your best life.
It takes courage…to endure the sharp pains of self discovery rather than choose to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives.
Life by design requires courage.
It is human nature to look for the short cuts, the easy answer, and the uncomplicated solution; so it is important to understand going in that choosing to live your life with intention takes courage.
It will require planning and becoming clear about who you are and what you want in life; you will continually push the boundaries of your comfort zone, and there will be periods of uncertainty and times when, in order to stay on the path you’ve chosen for yourself, you’ll be required to make tough choices.
What do you think of when you hear the word courage?
Perhaps you think of a firefighter or soldier, or possibly someone bravely fighting a battle with a life-threatening disease, or someone who’s rebuilt their life after a catastrophic accident.
But courage has many faces. For someone struggling with depression, getting out of bed in the morning is courage; for someone else leaving a successful career to strike out on their own takes great courage. If you’re painfully shy, learning to speak up at meetings or taking a public speaking course is courageous. In other words, true courage is being willing to risk being uncomfortable.
In fact, courage may actually be the single most important characteristic for creating positive life change because it provides the determination that you need to initiate change and the passion to adhere to your new path through periods of uncertainty. Courage enables you to change old habits, and to make difficult choices to do what is in your best interests however uncomfortable it might initially make you feel.
The good news is that courage can be developed over time, which means that even if you are not feeling particularly courageous right now, you can start small and grow from here.
So, what happened with Sally? I’m happy to share that she found the courage to try again. This time she did her research and once she settled on the right opportunity began building her business part-time while continuing to work at her day job. Later, with plenty of preparation, a solid plan and the support of her family she was able to leave her “regular” job. While it didn’t happen overnight, Sally has now achieved her dream of managing a thriving home-based business and is enjoying more quality time with her children.
Marquita Herald is a resilient living specialist, author, publisher, and creator of the Emotionally Resilient Living website. She tells stories to inspire readers to embrace the ability we each have to create our own life experience by developing greater capacity for emotional resilience.
Her professional experience includes 20 years traveling the world on behalf of the Hawaii tourism industry, followed by a decade as an award winning life and small business coach. She is the author of 6 books and 2 new books scheduled to be published in fall, 2014.
Have you read this book or others by this author? Tell us in the comments how you liked it!