“Whatever receives your time and attention becomes
the focus of your life”
Have you ever felt there is something missing in your life? Perhaps noticed a niggle deep in the back of your mind? Or maybe you’ve reached a landmark birthday… 30, 40 or 50 and found yourself wondering, how did I get here? What am I doing with my life? Why aren’t I happy yet? Or perhaps you have everything you ever thought you wanted (house, car, job earning mega bucks), yet still feel somehow unsatisfied? Sound familiar? I hear this over and over again from clients.
But why is this? There is no doubt a range of reasons. In many cases it comes down to whether one is living in line with their true values.
In ancient Greece, they believed that everyone was born with two destinies – two paths from which each person may choose to follow. The first destiny includes all the things society expects. These days it would be schooling, building a career, buying a car, house, getting married and having kids. The second destiny however, has a higher purpose. It was said to be dictated by one’s own heart rather than society, religion or family. They believed that those who chose to follow their second destiny were actually following their true values, which may have had little or nothing to do with social values or societal expectations. The ancient Greeks believed that only those who followed their true destiny or higher purpose would ever be truly fulfilled (I’ve heard they thought they were true leaders too).
So I can hear what you are saying … that’s all good for ancient Greece … but I live in the West in 2011!! How can one possibly live authentically in this society?
It’s a good question. Life has become very busy for the modern person, with most of us struggling to fit in the basics (healthy food, exercise, time for family, friends and sleep). We are so caught up in life that it seems many of us forget to live. The sad truth is that most of us spend more time planning our yearly holiday than we do contemplating what we hope to achieve in our lifetime … the imprint we wish to leave on the world.
So how do you choose the path less traveled?
First ask yourself, what are your core values? Then ask yourself are these really your core values or what society dictates they should be? To be honest, it’s not that easy to work out your ‘true’ core values. We are not trained to listen to our intuition, our inner voice.
So here are some tools to help you on the path.
Begin by asking yourself some simple questions:
- What do you love?
- When do you feel passionate?
- When do you feel at peace?
- If you didn’t need to work for money what would you be doing?
- What has always felt natural to you?
- What are your strengths?
Another useful tool is to write your obituary:
Ok so I agree that this one sounds grim but trust me, it can be very eye opening.
1. Sit down and project yourself into the future … you are at your own funeral. Picture it, the people you love all around celebrating your life as much as they are morning your death.
2. Someone close to you, perhaps your son, daughter or close friend stands up to read your obituary. What do they say? Write it down, all that you want to be remembered for in this lifetime. Don’t let negative thinking get in the way. Just let it flow.
3. Once you have done this, read through it and identify any themes. These themes are an insight to your true values. List them.
4. Next, look at the life you are currently living. Are your actions in line with the values you identified?
To illustrate how this can work, I had a client who identified family as a major theme (loving father, husband and son etc). Yet this gentleman was working 10 to 14 hour days and as a result, saw very little of his family. He soon realized that in pursuit of trying to “provide”, he was compromising the most important thing in his life. He started making small changes so that he was living more in line with his values and in turn reported feeling happier and more fulfilled.
When you are surrounded by the things you love, and engaged in activities you love, you become more fulfilled. Unfortunately we tend to look for happiness and fulfillment in all the wrong places. Money and material possessions. Don’t get me wrong, we certainly need money and a place to live. But these things wont make you happy. Momentarily yes, but this will always be fleeting.
So what stops us?
FEAR … fear of: Rejection? Abandonment? Poverty? Ridicule? Can I do it? What if I fail? What if it’s a horrible mistake? The list goes on. You might be asking yourself, if I follow the path less travelled, how will I pay the bills and support my family? I can’t answer this for everyone but I can vouch for this from my own personal experience. I had considered a career change for years. Despite disliking my job (and direction), I stayed there. Because of fear, I rationalized all the reasons to stay. The job paid well, lots of flexibility and it was safe. Reliable. Predictable. But I was slowly dying inside. I was Bored. I was Unchallenged. So I made small steps, gradually edging closer to what I was ultimately striving for. As time passed, what was once a distant fuzzy vision had become an achievable goal. When I was ready, I took a leap of faith and have never looked back.
TRUST … Trust that those who matter to you will support you. Trust that the universe will provide the learning opportunities you need. But most importantly, trust yourself. If you are living in alignment with values, you will almost definitely be using your strengths and surrounding yourself with those who support you in doing what you love. In doing this, you will be aligning yourself with prosperity. I am not saying to throw everything you have worked for away. Far from that.
Our past learning shapes who we are in the now. Start slowly. Often only small changes are needed to start aligning with our values. You will find that even these small steps are filled with vitality and purpose.
So do you have the courage to live authentically?