"What will you do with your precious life?"
Suppose I stopped you in the middle of your day to ask you this question posed by psychologist and poet Mary Oliver. What a beautiful opportunity to respond that you would spend your life exactly as you spent your day.
Your answer could be anything: doing work you love, caring for and giving love to your family, contributing to your community or the world, creating art, building a business, climbing mountains, making music. The key is that how you lived today is how you would choose to live tomorrow and the next day and the rest of your future.
For some, the life they live day to day is not the life they would describe if they were asked Mary Oliver's question. Instead, they might use phrases such as: "As soon as I can quit…" or "I'd like to lose…" or "I used to dream about…" while explaining a daily life tangled up in too many demands and never enough time or energy to achieve the experiences that matter most to us.
According to Jinny Ditzler, author of Your Best Year Yet, what drives most of us is the ambition to improve the quality of our lives while being true to ourselves and what's truly important to us. She writes, "Although we may not be conscious of our most basic motivations as we live day to day, these hidden drives are the strongest in our lives. The more conscious we are of them, the more we can empower ourselves to make the necessary changes in our lives."
Beliefs and Values are personal mental faiths and standards; the qualities that are most important to us. A life based on values rather than reacting to others' needs and wants or the acquisition of material things enables us to live in integrity with ourselves. This is how to create a rich and fulfilling life.
Identifying your values can be as simple as asking yourself how you want to be remembered by others. Would you like to be recognized as a person who cared about others, who made a difference in the world, who kept promises, who was self-actualized, honest, trustworthy? Think of the qualities you most admire in others; these may be the values you claim for yourself.
Once you become aware of your values, you can begin to restructure your life. With your values as your touchstone, you can create and live the life you genuinely want, achieve your goals and realize your dreams.
Within the boundaries of your values:
1. Gain clarity on what you really want. Be specific; vague and undefined goals are difficult if not impossible to achieve.
2. Commit to perseverance and recognize your opportunity costs. Saying "yes" to one thing means saying "no" to another. Acknowledge and accept what you must give up to get what you want.
3. Acknowledge your goals every day. Spark up your day by reminding yourself what your priorities are. Be mindful of the choices you are making as you go through your day. Remember that you are making choices at every moment.
4. Take action every day. No matter how small, apply determination and hustle toward achieving your goals. Continue to remind yourself that a book is written word by word, a marathon run step by step.
An old Chinese proverb goes "If we don't change our direction we are likely to end up where we are going." If you're caught up in a lifestyle that's not the one that you would choose, choose differently.
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