Today I’m going to go somewhere. I think I’ll go to a town, but I don’t know which town and I don’t have a map. I will know when I get to it because I’ll be there. When I get there, it’s going to be awesome and I will be a success because I got there.
This is generally how I’ve directed my life for the last 12 years. Prior to that, when I was a young, single, professional, I always had goals and a plan to achieve them. Due to this, I lived a varied, active and incredibly fun life. Since getting married, having children and living with a mental illness however, things haven’t been as effective or productive.
So, where am I now? Well, I’m here, but is here where I want to be? I honestly don’t know.
Have I put thought into where I want to be? Yes, plenty of it over the years. I have thought about it, dreamed and ruminated over it, but I’ve never succeeded in gaining a clear picture of what I want.
There are some things I’m very clear about – my husband and children for example. I’m clear that my purpose is to help others live a full and purposeful life despite living with mental health issues. I’m clear that I want to coach, to write, to speak and to connect.
As for the rest of it, who knows? Part of the problem isn’t that I don’t want to be anything, it’s that I want to be everything. I want to climb mountains, hike country trails, travel the world, build a house, live in luxury, live in simplicity, build my business, build wells in Africa, stay in first class hotels, camp in the middle of nowhere. This is not a great way to be, because whilst ever I want to do everything, I actually do nothing (or very little).
Sometimes I get scared about how old I am – I turn 46 in May. Now, whilst I know that in the big scheme of things this is far from old, it is also far from young. In my late twenties and early thirties, I felt in my prime – I was single, had a good job, my own house, some truly great friends, an active and fun social life and I did pretty much what I wanted with no-one to answer to. Sometimes I grieve for that person, not because I’m unhappy, but because I wish I’d known then what I know now and I will never be that person again. I wish I’d known to savour every moment, every event, every relationship, every experience and to live them fully with wild abandon, with self-confidence and self-acceptance and truly living in each moment. Instead I spent all my time worrying about what I looked like, what people thought of me, if I’d ever find a life partner and a heap of other stuff that I couldn’t control – I rarely spent the moment in the here and now. Truth be told, whilst I now don’t really worry about what others think of me and I have a truly incredible life partner and children, I still am not always present, I am not here and not now – I’m somewhere in the future where I’ll be happy when……
When what? The trouble is, I don’t know and how the hell do I find out?
I think that for me, the first step is to list what I do know:
- I want to spend time with my friends and family
- I want to help others
- I want to speak, write and coach in the field of mental health
- I want to travel
- I want to live an active, productive and connected life
That’s it (okay, I’m sure there are other things, but these are the primary ones). I have to ask myself if I really care if the method of helping others is to coach and mentor or to build wells in Africa? Isn’t the main point that I’m helping others? Do I really want to climb the tallest mountains? In reality, the answer is no – I have neither the time, money or energy to be scaling the highest summits (plus heights terrify me). So all these pipe dreams about my life in alternate realities is pretty pointless and a waste of the time and ability I do have available left to me, unless of course I manage to clone myself (if anyone knows how to do this, please let me know).
I am aware that my bipolar brain tends to flit from one idea to another, never really succeeding in anything I choose to do. Or perhaps I’m just blaming it on that and not the fact that I’m afraid – afraid to fail and afraid to succeed. Wait……. what…….? How can I be afraid to both fail and succeed at the same time? Isn’t that one of life’s little conundrums?
Whilst ever I am only thinking about doing something, the possibility that it will be a huge success is always there, in the future, where it remains like a carrot on an unending stick. But what happens if I put my all into the thing? What happens if I focus my time, my energy, my creativity on the thing and it’s a big, fat, flop? Where do I go from there? What does that mean? What does that say about me? Am I indeed who I thought I was or could be?
On the flip side, what if the thing is actually a huge success? What if I’m inundated with work? What if I’m suddenly in huge demand and busy? How will I cope with that whilst maintaining a personal life, a home, a family? Will success change me?
So, 2016 is about truly knowing what I want and what is possible.
Here’s how I’m going to work that out:
- List everything I am already sure of – family, friends, location, purpose.
- List everything else I’d like to do, be and have.
- Put them in order of importance and preference.
- Cross off everything that can only be achieved in an alternative universe
- Categorise them into 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, 10 years and bucket list.
- Look at what I want to achieve in 1 year. Each goal will need to be clear, not wishy washy. For example, “lose weight” is not a goal, but “lose 5kgs by 31st March” is.
- Once I have clarified each of the goals, I need to write a step by step list of tasks needed to reach that goal, eg. “Swim three times a week for half an hour” or “Consume no more than 1200 calories per day”. These are things that I can evaluate at the end of each week and adjust accordingly should I need to.
- Diarise when each of these steps will occur. If I do not plan these into my schedule, they are unlikely to happen. I need to work out which days I am going to swim, or write a blog post, or engage in a hobby and write these days and times in my diary.
Of course, the things I have listed above are easy. What is really hard (and sometimes feels bloody impossible) is actually working the plan. Getting started is only the first step in the long journey of life, and I for one, want to get as much out of this short life as possible. No longer can I delay my life and not fulfil my potential because I want to watch season 3 of Game of Thrones, or because I want to ignore those things on my list, scared that I will either accomplish them…. or not. I spend a lot of time in avoidance mode, but unless I am careful I will end up avoiding my whole life.
So this year, I commit to finding some clarity on what I want and who I want to be. I commit to ensuring that I (in the wise words of Henry David Thoreau) “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life” and I commit to living more presently, relishing each up and down (okay, so maybe not the downs so much) and laughing as often as possible.
What have you committed to this year? Are you clear about what you want? Have you made a plan? I’d love to know what you are planning or if I can help.
Love Sharon. xx