I’m not afraid of death, but…, I don’t want to be there when it happens. –Woody Allen
While the topic of death strikes each of us differently, I raise Allen’s sharp and poignant quote to bring the topic of your life’s Why to the fore.
Each of us has to go at some point, we can all agree. So, the question I like to ponder and I ask you to do the same is…
‘If I were to be looking back on my life at this moment, with the end nearby, how would I feel? Would I be satisfied with all I’ve done? Would I have any regrets? Are there things I wish I had done, places visited, foes forgiven, opportunities taken?’
I do this check-in to make sure that my actions are reflective of my values and mission in life. I also do this so that I live with as few regrets as possible. After all, we only have this one pass through, right? And while I actually have few wishes for a do-over, tucking that regret notion on a brain shelf or fast-forwarding [theoretically] to a ripe old age can be pretty useful.
Having no vision or plan for your life is like traveling without a compass or map.
As a board member of a not-for-profit, we often discuss the mission of our organization as it keeps us focused on the task of raising funds and spreading our word. It also makes our engagement richer and more productive because we can return to our Why motto if we get sidetracked or distracted by outside forces.
Similarly, we can apply this premise of our unique Why to our own lives. In order to define our Why, aka our purpose, we must define our mission in life. For some of us, it requires a long hard look ahead, putting yourself in your 80 or 90 year old shoes so that you can reflect back and think deeply about how you spend your time and whether your values and beliefs are reflected in your work, your free time, your planning for the future. Without this kind of planning, your life can take on the path of an aimless boat at sea, traveling this way or that, wherever the waves carry you and with the ramifications of whatever decisions have been made on your behalf. This easy way out can resemble a colorless existence. A lack of Why can also negatively impact your health.
Now, that I’m in the process of fulfilling my life long dream of launching my own business and helping others, my satisfaction factor has gone up. And though in retrospect every move I’ve made getting here makes perfect synchronistic sense, the path was far from linear. In fact, while my Why came to me in high school, it wasn’t until many [many!] years later that I was able to form my Why into an expressive, tangible and productive craft. In some cases, there is a connect-the-dots explanation. For example, when I took up meditation to cope with the news of my mom’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis. That spiritual undertaking was a by-product of my life circumstances. It then led me to my next steps which became more clear and focused as I determined where I wanted to end up. Somehow, when we have purpose on our side or in our corner, our actions are more clear, making our path easier to build and our ability to express that energetic positivity into the world sooner.
So, I ask you, what is your why?
What gives your day energy, momentum, a bounce in your step? What activity can you get lost in without the distraction of time? Often, we go through life, head down, aimless yet structured in our obligations, maybe in a job that brings us little satisfaction. So, while we have to pay our bills, raise our children [if that’s where you’re at] and be responsible citizens of our earth, we can also summon up the wherewithal to raise the bar on our life and claim our hold on joy.
Maybe it’s parenting your children, providing financial support to your loved ones or caring for your elderly parents. Maybe you’ve been searching for your Why and you’re still exploring. And if that’s where you’re at, that’s a good place to be. ‘Anything is possible’ can be overwhelming but if you continue to dig and search, you will find the thing that moves you to expand its presence in your life.
While I’m not proposing a radical shift in your life circumstances, I pose the following Q’s:
Are you happy with where you’re at? Do you enjoy how you spend your time during the day or in your free time? If you are unable to change your job or career, are you able to express your interests in a hobby, a spiritual mission or service-oriented activity?