So many of us are caught in the hamster-wheel. Every morning we wake up, do our thing, meet people, relax if we can, and then go to sleep. The next day brings the same pattern, and maybe we occasionally do something fun on weekends. What I have learned is that without a clear vision for your life, the days become mundane, and those questions start creeping in. You know the ones I mean, right? The questions are usually some variation of:
- Why am I here?
- What does this all mean?
- What is the point?
- Does my life/opinion/existence/input even matter?
When you have a clear vision for your life, the answers come more easily. Or at least the questions do not seem so overwhelming. And when I say vision, I mean not only the kind of life you want to live, but how you want to feel while living that life. When I ask clients what they want most, their answers are usually in one of three themes: more money, a happier relationship, or a better job. The funny thing is that when they achieve those goals, they often still don’t feel fulfilled. That is because what they really want is what they think those “things” will bring them, namely freedom, belonging, and happiness. What is is that you want? What are you striving for by working harder at your job and family life? Is it a sense of peace or passion? Is it more simplicity in your life or a greater capacity to help others? If you pay attention, you will find that your life is moving in a particular direction already. Your choice then is to either re-direct the course or move forward with a higher level of commitment.
1. Just get Started
Pema Chodron, spiritual teacher and philosopher, wrote a book called Start Where you Are. You need to know where you are right now in order to determine where you want to be. And you have to accept where you are. Sure, you may still have a ways to go, but at least you have decided to start. I remember a hike I took in sixth grade, at a time where I was learning that boys seemed to better at this outdoor stuff than I was, and I never felt like I could really keep up. I was somewhere in the middle of the pack, while the budding athletes raced ahead and the plus-sized asthmatics brought up the rear. I remember what our teacher, Mr. Kraft, said to us before we climbed that mountain on that hot day in June. He said, “Just start walking, and take a break when you need to.” This has been my philosophy with all things sports-related since then – just get started, and stop when you need to. The same wisdom can be applied to creating a vision for your life. Just start. Take one small step, and take a break when it gets to be too much. The breaks are just as important as the movement, as you get to survey your surroundings, see how far you have come, and fuel up for the next leg of the journey. Starting is half the battle.
2. Get a Guide
Another thing I learned about the wilderness as a young girl is there are some people who were born to be outside. I am not one of those people. I love the smell of the forest and the clean air pounding through my lungs as much as the next guy, but I am not the natural forest ranger that my brother is. When we would go on excursions, I knew enough to let him be my guide. He always found the most direct routes up the hills we climbed, and didn’t flinch when rocks came tumbling down. He would be the one to spot the black bear only a hundred feet away or be still enough that squirrels would come closer to inspect us. In the wilderness of your life, there will be someone around you who seems to know the terrain a little better than you. Look around, and you will see that there a handful of people who seem to already have what you are seeking. Let them be your guides. They are not around by accident, and if you learn from them, they will be able to help you make your life work for you in a way that you could not have done alone.
3. Welcome the Unexpected
Anyone who has been camping will tell you that one of the best parts of the whole affair is when the unexpected happens. Whether it’s getting the tent up just before a torrential downpour or a full moon lighting your way to the outhouse when your flashlight ran out of batteries, there is something comforting about the unexpected. In our day to day lives, we try to prepare for the unexpected. We have alarms, and locks, and reminders, and passwords, all set up so we can be one step ahead of things at all times. When the unexpected happens in “the real world”, we try to manage it, tame it, and essentially, kill it. No wonder we feel stuck on the hamster-wheel! The real lessons and the real tests of character happen in the unexpected moments, when all our planning falls away and we live in the pulse of life’s heartbeat. Some call it coincidence, others say it’s synchronicity. Whatever you label it, the more you allow the unexpected, and even welcome it, the less boring, routine, and predictable your life will feel. I’m just saying…
You have the capacity to have a completely new life. All it takes is your belief that it is possible and your willingness to change. When you are ready to have a new vision for your life, the life circumstances you find yourself in will start to shift. It’s as simple as that.