On Living

We are alive, but are we living? Rephrased, are you LIVING, or merely existing? Certainly, your heart is beating, but are you truly living? Is your life by design, or happenstance? Does your day consist of waking up, blah, blah, blah, go to sleep? Or do you live each day with intent, excitement, the pursuit of new experiences, the pursuit of personal growth? Do you want to be more, or just be? Do you live with intention? Do you take risks? Do you take chances? Or do you live inside the cocoon of a routine that is tried, true, safe and predictable? Predictable in that it will provide you the exact same result you’ve had every day leading up to today. Isn’t one the definitions of insanity “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?” Or are you even expecting a different result? Do you truly want to exist in a lifestyle of complete safety and predictability? I suppose some do. Not me. I’d rather die. I’m not afraid of dying, I’m afraid of not living. When was the last time you said to yourself “My God, I feel so alive!” For me, yesterday. And today isn’t over, I still have time to feel that way today.

We all know we are given the gift of 86,400 seconds each day, famous people say that in inspirational speeches, the lyrics of a popular song remind us of this fact on the radio. That’s it, though, 86,400 seconds each day. We are all vaguely aware that once a second passes, you never get it back, it is gone forever. Ponder that for a moment. Let it really sink in. With each second that passes, your life is one second shorter. The time you have to accomplish your goals, to achieve your dreams, to complete your bucket list, becomes a second less with each passing second. Tick, tick, tick. Have you taken a second to consider how many seconds a day you waste on useless things? I’ll let you define your own list of useless things.

My list of useless things includes many things people hold near and dear, like watching television for hours on end with no real plan. You know, sitting there with a remote control, cruising through hundreds of channels looking for something remotely interesting. I can’t stand that. I will occasionally plan on watching a particular program or event on television, but certainly not daily, or even weekly. The playoff games last weekend, there is one example, I planned to watch them, I did, the television hasn’t been turned on since. I will likely watch the SuperBowl. There are programs on television I enjoy, but I will never plan my life around the network schedule. I can catch it on Hulu or Netflix later, if I really, really want to, but I’m sure to be doing something else of value while the show is on. Slouching on the couch in a vegetative state is not something I’m willing to waste my ambulatory years on, thank you. I’ll plan for that when I’m on life support in a nursing home, having lived a full, exciting and adventurous life.

Eleanor Roosevelt is quoted as saying “Do one thing every day that scares you”. Does breaking out of your cocoon of safe, predictable routine scare you? What if something unexpected happens? Well, yay! Whether the unexpected is good or bad, you’ll have grown and gained some courage from the experience, and fewer things will be scary from now on! Scary things are scary, why do them? If we don’t challenge ourselves, regularly, we fall into stagnate routines, we miss out on opportunities for learning, growth, adventure, excitement.

I had a job opportunity find me. I had a resume posted online, and though I wasn’t looking for a job actively, a recruiter found my resume and contacted me. The job he described involved significant domestic travel and public speaking. Both things scared me, I was a somewhat fearful flyer, and I hated standing in front of people and speaking. Out of economic enticement, I took a chance, figuring I’d stick it out for the three month probationary period, collect my pay along the way, and find something “safer”, more comfortable, more “my speed”, thereafter. That was five years ago.

Guess, what, the first few flights, I was nervous, but I got over it, and I have seen more of our country than most people I know. I have contacts and friends in every major city, I have seen famous attractions in person, not just on television. I have felt them, touched them, smelled them, tasted them, lived them. I will never forget them. I have enjoyed nearly every trip I’ve taken, because now I thirst for those experiences. People say to me “I don’t know how you can travel all the time like that.” And I reply, “I don’t know how you can stay in the same place all the time”.

The first time I had to speak in front of a group by myself, I was a bit shaky, but with time, I got the hang of it. Once I figured out that people looked to me for expertise and guidance, that they wanted to hear what I was telling them and that I could even make them laugh when I wanted to, I grew to love it. Talk about a self confidence boost! Two “things” that scared me became my passion and provide me an unbelievable amount of growth, experience and adventure. My life is forever changed in a very positive way. But I was scared. And I just did it. I overcame very quickly. Do not let fear limit you.

What do you want to do with your life? Really? Pretend you’re a little kid, again, and someone just asked you “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Well, what do you want to be? We don’t have to be satisfied with who we are, what we do, where we live, just because this is where we’ve wound up! Dream! Make a plan! Get moving! Seconds are slipping away! You truly can do anything you want, the only limitations are the ones you define for yourself. “Can’t” is a four letter word, so is “fear”, abolish them from your vocabulary.

Let’s try this; tell me what your day was like last Monday. Can you even remember it? How about three Saturdays ago? Is there anything momentous you remember in the past month? Past year? What was the last bucket list item you accomplished? Have you even attempted one? Wait, you haven’t even taken the time to make a bucket list? Too busy doing un-momentous things?

Try this out for size; take a few seconds RIGHT NOW and make a list of three things you want to do before you die. There. You have a bucket list. Add to it every time you think of something else. Now, pick one of the items you wrote down and do it. This week, this weekend. Do it. It will feel incredible. If your bucket list items require resources you don’t currently have, take one step towards obtaining one of the necessary items. Request the vacation time if time off is the issue. Open a savings account with $5 and set aside an amount each pay day until you have the money, if money is the issue. Commit. No excuses, the seconds are flying past! In the mean time, pick another bucket list item you CAN do right away, and do it. Now keep it up, for every item you complete, add one or two more. There is no such thing as a complete bucket list, keep at it.

How are you feeling about every second that slips away, now? Do you secretly mourn the time you wasted in the past? I do. I wish I could’ve banked it and saved it and could withdraw it for future use! I think life should be approached with a sense of urgency! I am often criticized for being too busy, never having any “free time”. What the hell is “free time”? To me, “free time” is the time I have to do something else I want to do! And I do! From the moment I wake up until I fall into bed at night, I am doing something worthwhile, constructive, amazing, fulfilling, rewarding, exciting, adventurous. Oh, sure, I do relax, but I relax with the people I want to relax with, doing something relaxing I want to do (a picnic, wine tasting, a leisurely meal, a nice walk, a hike, fishing, reading, writing, etc.).

You have the opportunity, every second, to redefine your life, to make it what you’ve always wanted. And ONLY YOU have that power. Your life is yours, it doesn’t belong to anyone else to shape, to dictate, to construct, control or live. Shed your cocoon, spread your wings. And live.

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