We all only get 24 hours in each day. Most of us are so busy just living our lives — going to work, running errands, paying the bills, making dinner, mowing the lawn — that we don’t get the opportunity to figure out what truly matters to us and what we really want to do with our time. Our lives often seem to be dictated by outside forces and obligations, rather than by our own conscious choices.
Before I committed myself to writing a blog post every day this month, I read a post by James Clear that really made me think about my priorities and how to organize my time to better reflect them. “What are the core values that drive my life?” As I thought about this question, I realized that one of my professed core values — creativity — was sadly underrepresented in how I spend my time. I quickly set out to change that.
Another resource I always turn to for guidance in addressing these “big picture” questions is Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits blog. One post I found particularly helpful was “The Anti-Bucket List,” where he reminds us that “we can do meaningful work, right where we are.” And “if you don’t know what’s meaningful to you … isn’t that what you should be pursuing instead of a bucket list?”
So think about it. What really matters to you? And how are you going to incorporate those values into your daily life? Write your list, and revisit it often to add, subtract, and see if you’re still on track.
While some of us only dream of quitting our mundane jobs and moving to the Caribbean (or Europe, Alaska, wherever), some people actually do it.
Noelle Hancock went from feeling “stressed, uninspired, and disconnected” in NYC to living “on a tiny, rustic island of 4,100 people sharing a bathroom with poultry.” Check out her story on Esquire.com to learn why and how she did it:
Some of you are probably thinking that you couldn’t possibly do anything that radical. I can hear your objections:
- “But she was young.”
- “But she was single.”
- “But she didn’t have a mortgage.”
- “But she didn’t have kids.”
I know, I know. BUT, BUT, BUT, what can we learn from her? What is your dream? What do you want your life to look like? And what small steps (or BIG ones) can you take today to start moving closer to that dream life?
- Take a class?
- Put your house on the market?
- Look for a new job?
- Buy a one-way ticket to paradise?
It’s never too late. We all have choices. We aren’t as stuck as we think. According to Hancock:
“It was startlingly simple to dismantle the life I’d spent a decade building: I broke the lease on my apartment, sold my belongings, and bought a one-way plane ticket. The hardest part was convincing myself it was OK to do something for no other reason than to change the narrative of my life.”
We each only get one life to live. How will we change the narratives of our lives?
“The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.”
Last week, I stumbled across economist Larry Smith’s TEDx talk titled Why You Will Fail to Have a Great Career. I can’t seem to stop watching it. Not only is he hilariously engaging, but he raises a few very strong arguments for finding and pursuing our passions. Please watch it. I’ll wait…
I know, I know. We all believe in the concept, but…
I don’t know what my passion is!
I know what my passion is, but it’s impossible to make a living at it!
If I decide to do something I’m passionate about for a living, I might get sick of it!
I may not be passionate about my “day job,” but it pays the bills and lets me pursue my passion(s) in my spare time!
If it was fun, they wouldn’t call it work!
Pursuing my passion would be selfish!
I have a family, a mortgage!
Who do I think I am? I don’t deserve a great career!
Is passion really that important? Don’t some of us have legitimate reasons not to pursue passion in our careers? Isn’t compromise a necessary part of life? Or are these just the lies we tell ourselves, over and over, because we are afraid?
What do you think? Wherever you stand on the passion spectrum, please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!
Go for it, kid.
“There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.”
Last May, I made a conscious decision to take the summer off from this blog, and from writing in general. I worked at the post office as little as I could get away with. We took a few short road trips to coastal Maine and the White Mountains, walked and hiked with the dogs, and enjoyed time with friends and family. We made leisure a priority.
But as much as I enjoyed my endless summer vacation, I really missed writing. I forgot my own advice. Downshifting is all about BALANCE, making time for the things that are important to you. For me, writing is absolutely one of those things. Without it, I felt like my equilibrium was off. I carried a vague sense of dissatisfaction, like I was drifting aimlessly through my days. Another lesson learned.
In September, my second cousin passed away from ALS. She was 52 years old. Until now, I had foolishly operated under the assumption that I had unlimited time. I’m 44 now. I plan to live to be 100. Plenty of time to accomplish all the things I want to do, right? No sense of urgency. No need to rush.
My cousin’s death really made me think, what if I don’t have as much time as I thought? What if my life suddenly ended next week or next year? Would I be proud of all that I had accomplished, or regret all the things I never finished, or even started?
The term Downshifting means slowing down, but it also implies that we are still moving forward, just in a more mindful way. Even if I only write for 15 minutes a day, I still experience a deep sense of accomplishment. Making steady progress toward a goal (like writing a book, perhaps?) is a fundamental part of happiness. Striving to live up to our potential is key to the pursuit of personal fulfillment.
Don’t we all deserve that?