Recently, a client complained that she felt like a bit-part player in her life. Everything great, she said, happened to her friends, but she felt life never delivered what she wanted. Life is something you do, not something that happens to you, I replied. The word ‘life’ is a nominalisation of the verb to live. It is an active word to describe every little thing you do. In that way, you create your life. Each and every day you make a million little choices about what to wear, where to go, what to do, to eat, when to sleep, and who to hang out with. They are all choices. Some are born out of necessity. You may have to go to work to pay the bills, but you choose to go in to this job each day. In the past you chose to apply for this job instead of another, and you choose now to go in rather than skive off or resign. Some choices are born out of proximity. For example, your friends may consist of the people with whom you work or went to school, but you could go out and find other people who share common interests, ideas or values.
You could choose something different
You could choose to do a different job or make new friends.
You may have responsibilities, like caring for someone. But you chose to accept the situation as a responsibility and to continue to fulfil it. You could be a prodigal son or daughter, or adopt a more profligate or outgoing lifestyle if you want.
You could choose something different.
Choices have consequences
Every choice has a consequence. The consequence may be both positive and negative. It might mean a safe, steady income but a boring job; friends with whom you feel comfortable but never inspire you to something more; or a feeling of duty fulfilled but also of burden. The pay-offs were often expedient at the time you first made the decision, but times change, and now continuing with that course of action may have a down-side too.
Decide what means more to you, and adjust your behaviour accordingly.
Living on autopilot
Many of your actions are made without conscious thought. It may be that you put on what is first to hand in the morning, and only think about selecting what clothes to wear on a special occasion. Wearing whatever is on top of the pile is still a choice you make, although you may not have thought about it that way before now. It will also have a consequence – you may get more time in bed in the morning, but perhaps your boss perceives you as someone who doesn’t want to progress!
Trouble occurs when you live on autopilot. When you forget that these are choices you made for a good reason in the past, you may be continuing a pattern of behaviour where the reason no longer exists. That doesn’t help you get what you want now.
Life is a performance – the performance of a million little acts every day that go to make up your three-score years and ten. Where do you want to be at the end? How do you want to be?
Switch off the autopilot for a day and make some conscious choices that will take you towards that. And keep making those choices for as long as they are right for you.
Don’t look back on your life at the end and bemoan how things didn’t work out as you would have liked, or that you never felt in control of your destiny. Your power lies in your ability to choose and do something new. The little things make a big difference when you add them up over the years – think of yourself as a pilot or sailor making a course correction to reach your desired destination. Noticing an opportunity and taking a little step towards your coveted goal, can be just as effective as taking a giant risk in the long run. But you will never get anywhere else if you don’t do something different.
It’s time to re-evaluate some of your actions. You have, knowingly, only one precious life. Put yourself back in charge of your performance. Be the star!