If we were to ask ten people to define a well-lived life we would probably get ten different answers.
Some people would measure success in money; others, by recognition of peers. For some it would be a well-designed and useful product; for others, a beautiful garden. Some would measure it in terms of good relationships, peace of mind or a contribution to saving the planet from ecological disaster. For most of us, it would be a combination of elements.
What combination do you envision when you picture yourself as a successful and worthy person? What do you see? What do you feel? What are the external circumstances by which you define a well-lived life? What are the internal qualities? Pick up a pencil and jot down a dozen words or a few sentences which describe this state of being.
Now think about this. What would you do if you could do anything you pleased with your life? What if you had all the money you needed, no relationship or geographical considerations, and your time belonged completely to you? How would you use your money? How would you spend your time? Just relax and let this fantasy blossom with no judgments or restrictions. Make some notes.
Is this the same picture that came into your mind when you visualized success or is it completely different? What does this tell you about your secret desires, about the ways in which you would seek pleasure and fulfillment if you were “free”? Is your “no restrictions” fantasy truly impossible? Or can you find ways to include some of its elements within the boundaries of what is practical and feasible in your life?
One of my clients, whose life path included taking care of a disabled child, said that if she had no restrictions she would go to China. “What’s in China?” I asked. “I don’t know,” she replied. “It just seems so exotic.” So we began to talk about ways she could incorporate some exotica into her life in San Francisco.
Now think about this. What are the things in your life you feel you should or ought to do? Are these shoulds and oughts based on an outdated or inherited value system? Do they belong to someone else? Can you release yourself from them? And how about the things you must do? Can you delegate some of them to someone else?
And lastly, what would you do with your time if you learned you had only a short time to live? Do you have unfinished business that needs to be taken care of?
In order to successfully direct our life force, we need to clarify and articulate our personal definition of a well-lived life. We need to examine our values and, based on what we find, decide what we really want to be up to in this lifetime. We need to eliminate, as much as possible, the things that have nothing to do with what is truly important to us.
And we should tidy up things that need tidying.
Most of all, we need to listen to the inner voice of the wise one within us. The one who, when given a choice, chooses what delights and satisfies; the one who chooses the path of the heart. The one for whom the work of the day is not a struggle but a joy.
Excerpted from An Invitation to An Extraordinary Life
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