“Here is the test to find whether your mission on earth is finished. If you’re alive, it isn’t.” ~Richard Bach
*NOTE: This article is scheduled to appear in Ayo Olaniyan’s monthly online publication, Life Skills Magazine. Check it out at Discovering Purpose and subscribe for free to see what others are saying*
I have a question I want to ask you. It is important that you take a moment to answer truthfully: Are you fully living life? I mean, are you truly ALIVE?
If you’re not, you know what I’m talking about. There is a part of you that does not feel fully awake, that is shrinking little by little or is hiding or perhaps dying inside you.
Your life feels like it’s drifting aimlessly, as one day fades into the next, indistinct and inseparable from any other. You may not be able to put your finger on the pulse of what’s missing, but something is, in fact, missing. You can feel it.
Or maybe it’s even worse than that.
Perhaps you feel like your life is being sucked dry of passion and purpose. Like the medieval practice of blood-letting, you feel the vitality of your life slowly dripping, one self-defeating decision at a time, down the drain of daily numbness. It has left you with an indescribable ache in the pit of your gut.
But be assured, there is more happiness, greater joy, the possibility of deep and rewarding growth and a more abundant life waiting for you.
Most of life has at least two options, often mutually exclusive. And usually there is a clear cut difference between the two. There may be a personality or emotional pull toward one, but the better choice – the living choice – will almost always be the harder climb in your pursuit of happiness, personal growth and a more abundant life.
Below are just a few examples of what I mean …
1. Climb instead of Sit
Life isn’t lived at the summit; it is lived in the climb up to it. Human nature may seek the path of least resistance, but sitting idly in the valley or on a spiritual plateau for long periods of time, won’t cause growth. And stagnation cannot improve your happiness, skill set, or well-being either.
2. Learn instead of Cram
Resist the temptation to cut corners on things that matter. I’m a public school teacher by trade and see students cramming for tests all the time. Some even pull all-nighters, cramming as much information into their frazzled and over-loaded brains as possible. And, in truth, some do quite well on their tests and even in the class using this method.
But ask them a question just a few days later, and it’s clear that cramming is not the same as learning.
Life is the same way. As with learning, cramming just doesn’t work well with those things that matter most. You can’t cram a marriage, for instance. You can’t ignore your spouse for years on end and then, last minute, cram as much love and attention in as possible for a beautiful and fulfilling relationship. It just won’t work.
You can’t cram on friendship either. There is no cramming on spirituality or character development or on your happiness, for that matter. Some things in life simply require the leg work, a step by step process of learning and growing, of evolving, to make anything worthwhile out of it.
3. Laugh instead of Cry
Learn to find humor in life, to even laugh at yourself. Learn to laugh at mistakes and idiosyncrasies. Instead of crying over the milk because it was spilt, laugh about it. See the humor in it, the utter ridiculousness of the situation.
Learn to watch your life as if you were watching a Charley Chaplain or Jim Carey movie, even as it’s being lived. You’ll laugh about it later anyway, so you might as well laugh now and save yourself the stress and frustration of a more serious reaction to life’s many follies.
4. Swim instead of Tan
Have you ever gone to the beach, lake, or pool, rubbed oil all over your body, and instead of jumping in the water, you laid down, closed your eyes, and started cooking your skin? Sounds crazy worded that way, but isn’t that what we do?
Too many people are too caught up in “presenting themselves,” in creating a public image with shaved body parts, hair dye, nips and tucks and skin baked to a golden brown. And then they beat themselves up comparing themselves to a standard that doesn’t even matter.
Instead, forget all that silliness and stop caring what others think. Stop comparing yourself to a manufactured image meant to create unsatisfied customers who then buy bottles of beauty to enhance their “ugly” lives.
Instead, start thinking of beauty as the radiance that glows from the countenance of a person of character, who lives a life of love and goodness. That is the only beauty that matters anyway.
So stop your tanning and, instead, jump in the pool of life and start swimming and splashing about!
It’s a much better way to live.
5. Hear instead of Listen
How many times have you been listening to a friend or spouse or to your children without really hearing a single word they said?
Have you ever been listening to a friend tell you about their day when they abruptly stop talking and stare at you with that accusing glare? Trying to save face, you mutter something vague, hoping it is general enough to be relevant to whatever the heck they were just talking about as your brain scrambles to piece together words and sentence fragments you think you might have heard.
Many of us do this with our own internal conversations as well – not really hearing the dialogue going on inside our own heads.
Well, if you want to live life on purpose, filled to overflowing with amazing opportunities and experiences, with rich and close relationships, then turn down (or turn off!) the internal noise and start really hearing what you’re listening to. It will make a difference in what you choose to keep listening to and in how you interact with the world once you truly begin to hear it.
But be warned: You just may be surprised to hear what is really being said!
6. Throw instead of Catch
Be on the pitcher’s mound of life, pitching strikes … and pitching balls as well … but still pitching. Some choose to stay safe behind home plate, masked, padded, crouched, umpire right behind, catching and retrieving balls others throw at them.
Instead, take off the gear. Walk to the pitcher’s mound. Wind up. And start throwing!
Throw caution to the wind. Take a chance. Risk failure or humiliation. Just go, act, do. You will learn more from falling down and getting up than by walking unimpeded down a long stretch of good fortune.
Throw a curveball instead of doing everything the way it has always been done before. Look at the problem or issue or project from different vantage points. Turn it upside down and inside out and flip it backwards and see if new solutions to old problems don’t show themselves.
Throw a party as you celebrate being alive! Celebrate the simple and the daily as well as the awesome and spectacular. Choose to love life if for no other reason than for the climb it provides and the challenge it presents.
7. Create instead of Destroy
Create peace by loving and forgiving and accepting instead of destroying it by anger and frustration, judgment and criticism.
Create opportunity by being prepared and always learning, becoming the best at what you do instead of destroying opportunity with procrastination and the fear of change and negativity and pessimism.
Create happiness by seeking the good in others and seeking the positive amidst the negative by being grateful for all that fills life with amazement instead of destroying happiness by confusing it with temporary or conditional pursuits like pleasure or fun or fame or wealth.
8. Reach instead of Withdraw
Have you been seriously hurt before? Has life slapped you so many times that you find yourself flinching and pulling your hand away too quickly? Do your fingertips still burn from the flame of disappointment and failure?
Resist the urge to withdraw! Risk getting burned again. Risk challenge as you rock the boat of life’s sameness. And step up and keep going, persevere, reach higher and break through as you learn and develop and grow and become!
9. Rise instead of Shrink
Don’t shrink into the shadows. Don’t shrink in shame or guilt or embarrassment. Don’t shrink in cowardice.
Instead, rise to the occasion. Rise to full stature. Rise and be counted. Rise early and get started. Rise and act and do and become. Shake things up a bit. Learn something new. Do something you haven’t done before. And grow. And keep growing. And rise. And keep rising.
10. Run instead of Walk
Some do just enough to stay out of trouble or to just get by. Others are driven to do amazing things. Some meander half-heartedly through life. Others run as though to live life fully. Some waste their own and others’ time and procrastinate and delay and wait. Others don’t. Instead, they are full of energy and vitality and passion and excitement and life.
11. Walk instead of Run
And yet some never slow down enough to enjoy what they’re doing, what they’re creating or the people who stand at the sidelines of their lives hoping to be noticed once in a while. Be sure to slow to a walk sometimes too. It’s best to hold hands with someone you love while you walk and talk and simply enjoy the path you’re on and just be.
12. Live instead of Die
Don’t allow your heart to wither and die in the throws of anger and fear.
Don’t allow your mind to die on the trash heap of mindless filth and garbage.
Don’t allow your soul to die a death of neglect and apathy.
Live your dreams. Live your passion. Live with meaning and significance. Live your highest self. Live purely. Live simply. Live with love and compassion. Live life fully and on purpose, with joy and with more happiness than you know what to do with.
That, my friend, will be a life well lived.
I would truly love to hear from you!
- Do any of these resonate with you?
- What are you doing instead of something better?
- What “instead of” have you dropped for something better?
- Are there other “instead of” scenarios that cause problems in your life?
- Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below
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