Most of us would agree that the world is changing faster than it’s ever changed before. We’re also affected by the personal transitions in our lives. The average person has six or seven careers. The divorce rate is high. Friendships change and people pass on. We all know about the aging process. At times we’re affected by many unforeseen forces that knock us for a loop. It takes us a while to recover. We have those moments when we feel overwhelmed.
When we catch our breath, we ask ourselves if we are living the life we really want. Very few of us can honestly say yes to that question. Yet we’re reluctant to make the changes we know we need to make. Most, if not all of us, settle for what we have. We make up a story with many variations that explains why our life is the way it is. You might recognize some of them. I am sure you have your own unique version.
“If it were meant to happen, it would have by now.
I’m too old.
I’m too young.
I’m not good enough.
I don’t know the right people.”
These beliefs are the filters through which we see the world. If we want to see life differently we need to change the filter on our lens. All of these stories limit what we think is possible. Rather than making the changes we need to make we play it safe and stay in our comfort zones. For many that is the dead-end career or the toxic relationship. For some it might even be both. Until it becomes too painful to continue on this familiar path, we’re reluctant to change the story about our life.
That voice is pervasive. We hear it all the time. We can’t get away from it. It affects everything we do and how we think of ourselves. We are so hard on ourselves and would never talk to a friend the way that we talk to ourselves.
Years ago when I was still a trial lawyer I participated in a workshop with the Actors institute that reminded of this truth. There were 12 of us. Comedians, politicians, musicians and myself were asked near the end of the workshop to give a 10-minute presentation. We were asked to critique our own performance and that of the other participants. Our critique of our own performance was much harsher than the group’s critique of our performance.
A lightbulb went on in my head when the instructor made a comment that I’ll never forget, ”If you had to hire yourself, you would never get a job.”
It’s not too late to change that voice. There is another voice that is calling us. It can inspire and encourage us and says, “Yes, we can. It’s not too late.” I call this voice our VIP–our voice of inspiration and praise. It encourages us to dream again. It encourages us to focus on the possibilities in our life, rather than the limitations. It encourages us to embrace change rather than avoid it. It encourages us to see change as opportunity, as adventure and as an exciting journey of discovery. We’re reminded that it’s not too late.
We begin to dream again. We ask ourselves, “What is that life that I really want?” And we ask, “Who is that person that I want to become?” We begin to explore what’s possible by allowing ourselves to imagine living that life and being that person. We even go further and ask ourselves, “What would our life be like if what concerns us turns out better than we could ever imagine?” Our new mantra becomes, “What’s possible?”
Many years ago, Mark Twain said it in this way:
“Twenty years from now
You will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do
Than the ones you did.
So throw off the bowlines
Sail Away from the Safe Harbor and
Catch the Trade winds in your Sail.
Dream Explore Discover
It’s not too late! What is that dream, that up to now, you haven’t acted upon? Imagine living it! When are you going to take that first step toward making that dream your reality. For me in this phase of my life it was writing letter #1. There will always be another step and from our vantage point we might not know what that is. That’s what makes the journey exciting. It’s exploring the unknown with all of it’s richness and possibilities.
Everytime I think about Samuel Coleridge’s poem, What if I Slept, I feel inspired.
“What if you slept,
And what if in your sleep you dreamed,
And what if in your dream
you went to heaven
And there plucked a strange and beautiful flower,
And what if when you awoke you dreamed
you had the flower in your hand?
Ah, What then?”
You do have the flower in your hand. Explore it. Enjoy it. Let it blossom.
You know I love to hear from you. Let me know what’s happening in your life. Feel free to pass this letter on to those in your circle.
Mark Susnow has lived a unique and interesting life involving multiple transitions. As a former trial attorney for 30 years, he was covered by The New York Times, Rolling Stone Magazine, The Boston Globe and The San Francisco Chronicle. In 2000 inspired by the new millennium, Mark became a life coach. He integrates what it takes to be successful in the world with the inner wisdom unfolded to him through years of yoga and meditation. He is the author of Dancing on the River: Navigating Life’s Changes.