What do I desire?
Do you ever wonder -- Is this all there is? Am I living my best life? Do I have goals that I am not fulfilling?
We have become so busy with living that we've forgotten how to live. Our minds are busy worrying, trying to fit it all in -- the kids, work, church, parents, "leisure" activities. We work hard to climb the corporate ladder and make more money, only to spend more to keep up.
I follow several writers and speakers who have created great lives for themselves, businesses that can sustain healthier, happier lives. Most of them have suffered great losses. Some have lost it all - their lives to horrible illnesses. They all made lifestyle changes, all in time to enjoy parts of their lives. For some, it was short-lived but wonderful.
We can learn from these lessons and make our lives better now. What gives your life purpose? What fulfills you? What makes you happy? Do you even know?
I am not very sick, yet. I have pre-hypertension, am overweight and stressed at work. I decided I did not want to wait to get cancer or some other disease to learn how to live. I realized I wasn't living. I was worried all the time, stressed, running from one commitment to another.
I ate and spent to get pleasure because everything else was a commitment. I even rushed at events and occasions with friends. I had learned to rush through everything.
But I decided I didn't want to keep living this way. I'd made it out of poverty and a dangerous ghetto only to feel trapped by a middle-class existence that lulled me into believing that this was a good life. But no more. I knew I didn’t have to. I didn't want to die with regrets.
This video really spoke to me. I wanted to live a life with intent. I wanted to get up every morning and know myself and focus on the things that were important to me. I was lucky enough to earn a good living and I worked hard for that. Now I deserved a good life. I didn’t want to work for 65 years to pay bills and then be too old or too ill to enjoy anything.
So I set off to a better life. For me, it started with calming my anxieties through meditation. It's been an amazing journey so far. But I had lost any sense of what made me happy. I knew I liked to travel but that was it. That's it. I had no idea what I wanted to do or how I wanted to live. So it was time to find out…
You don't have to live through terrible illness or loss to find yourself. You just need to open your mind to what's possible.
Most of us have so much clutter in our heads that we can't even think about what a fulfilling life looks like. We're already programmed to do what we're supposed to do. To have the perfect job, perfect kids, perfect house but our lives aren't even close to being perfect or even happy.
How do you even think about this when you have so much going on?
Clear Your Mind
Before we can come up with goals, we need room to think. We need space for creativity. That creativity that we lost somewhere between college and careers. You need to give yourself permission to stop being perfect. I had to learn how to breathe again.
Are you taking full breath? I started noticing that I was gasping for air. I was going so fast that I wasn't even breathing deeply. I couldn't believe it but I needed to learn to breathe! I started meditating and through meditation, I learned about something called Pranayama.
As yogis have known for centuries—and as medical science is beginning to discover—the breath has amazing recuperative powers. By controlling the breath (a practice called Pranayama), the yogis found, they could alter their state of mind.
I've used Pranayama at times when I am really nervous to calm my nerves. At times when I could not meditate because I was too nervous, like before having to speak publically, I practiced pranayama to calm down. The deep breaths help calm your entire body and clear your mind. Most times, it allows me to center myself again. Learn more about Pranayama here.
A Practical Guide to Getting Started
So you've cleared time and you are ready to start dreaming about your future life. But where do you start? I thought I was "ready" and I sat down to start writing down my goals. …But nothing came out. I kept trying to think about the things that I thought I'd want to do but I wasn't inspired. I kept thinking about the things within my current box. It was hard to think outside of that box.
So I turned to mind mapping. I never thought I would do a mind map, I hated them. Mind-maps in the Information Technology world is this giant messy maze of connections that never seemed to make any sense to me. But I saw this video (1.03 minutes) by a former Google career coach who talks through using a mind map to brainstorm on what you want to do. She talks about breaking out of linear thinking, which is where I was stuck.
What I found was that it allowed me to think freely about things, just things that were circulating in my head. It was amazing. At first I was a little blocked, thinking about the things that I thought were right. But I heard what the coach said about experimenting. And I remembered one of the tenets of agile and the frameworks that I train and coach on - I am referencing a software development framework called Scrum that is defined as an empirical process based on inspection and adaption. Stay with me here.
Innovation is based on experimenting - trying things, observing results and adapting. So I decided to do the same. What I didn't know, I left open to experiment. I opened myself to try things.
I used the mind map to identify some areas that I knew I wanted to work on, finances, health, etc. But I left open some of the areas of work and how I wanted to work and play. I didn't know how I liked to play. Meaning that I didn't know what I enjoyed doing. So one spoke said Fun. And I put some ideas but left it open to see what that might become for me.
A few things that I learned doing mind maps.
- It's great to put it down on paper. My thoughts were just random things in my head but I was able to dump those thoughts onto paper and then put a plan around them.
- There were things that I wasn't conscious about that manifested themselves once I started writing. I did know some things, I just wasn't aware. I believe that we know in our hearts and mind, it's just that our brains are so cluttered, we can't see clearly.
- I started using mind maps any time I was stuck. I even did it at work for a project I had that I didn't know how to put my thoughts together for. It immediately provided clarity and I was able to plan out the themes of the project.
So now what? I know this is a lot. And when you are feeling overwhelmed, it's impossible to think that you can just start thinking about the future.
A few words of caution
I will warn you that you'll need some patience. You'll need patience with yourself and with the time it takes. It's slow moving at times. Sometimes clarity of mind takes time. Connecting the dots takes time.
All of this requires a mindset shift if you have been programmed to go, go, go. If you are like me, you adapted to the speed of life and just became more efficient at managing it all. You might even claim to be a good multi-tasker and you are proud of it. Maybe being busy is a badge of honor. You'll have to move away from some of these behaviors that are validated with things of value.
The hardest part of giving yourself permission to slow down is to take back time for yourself. You may have grown to accept that this is the life you deserve. If you are like me and believe that you are lucky and should be grateful to be where you are, it's particularly hard to give yourself permission to slow down and let the unessential fall by the wayside. But you know why you are here reading this. You already know that this can't be all there is.
And while technology threatens to invade our spaces, our relationships, and our sanity, we're also living during amazing times. We have more options than ever to create things or connect to people and places. There's a world out there where your life can become what you want and it's all at your fingertips.
Try your mind map today. Watch the videos or check out my mind map. Take a few moments to breathe deeply and let yourself imagine again. Dream a little.
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If you need help figuring out how to get the clarity of mind to even get started or if you would like some resources to help you find your interests, how to open up to creativity, or even how to declutter your brain, join me on Patreon. Once you join, you can read my first extended post with some resources to get started when you are lost.
Patreon allows supporters to donate to creators for content produced. I will be making extended content available to Patrons that will contain additional techniques, templates, references and tools.