While it’s still fresh, I move on to step 2. Notice step 1.
There’s a story of two men who lead separate lives but whose stories intertwine closely.
There was one man, completely healthy and fully functional, who woke up one morning, mid way through life, and realized he had nothing to life for. He had no desire to end his life, but he also had no desire to live. And although he never set his intention to die, he began dying much faster than he had been.
Another man, across town, woke up one morning, coughing, sputtering, vomiting, and generally feeling very terrible. The doctor came and pronounced him with a degenerative disease that would kill him within the year and even his last year would be progressively more miserable until he at last dropped into a final fitful sleep.
So he decided that every day, until the day he died, he would wake up feeling better than he had the day before, taking deep fresh breaths, feeling better and better until he died. He didn’t mind the dying, just the being miserable part seemed awful.
And guess which of these two men lived the longest?
Well of course the first man did, by seven years in fact. He wasn’t pronounced with a terminal illness, was he?
However, time spent without purpose is filled with only a small fraction of life whereas a purpose filled life is one much greater than itself. So who really lived more?
The second man began to live with purpose. He woke every morning reminding himself that he felt better this morning than yesterday morning (and a helluva lot better than last week) and that that night when he lay down he’d feel better than he did at that moment. He went through his day looking for opportunities to feel good: rolling his wheelchair into the sunlight and feeling the warmth spread across his body, he breathed deeply until the sputtering in his chest seemed to almost disappear, and he felt sick no longer. He imagined it was just the progression of the disease.
But on this man’s death-bed, twenty-five years later, he remarked to the many people crammed into his home, the place he’d decided he would take his last breath, that the single most important moment of his life was the one in which he decided he would live.
The first man was in the house, listening. He had been dragging on, living day by day, always wistfully thinking of what might be better or might have been. He was old now and didn’t mind the idea of dying. He never had. But he heard the old man’s last words and wandered home in a haze of the first bit of anxiety he’d felt in years.
“Did I ever decide to live?”
I won’t tell the whole story, though it is a good one. My purpose in writing this is to tell you that we all must decide to live. Life happens in one of three ways: to us, through us, or for us. Either way, we aren’t born L-I-V-I-N (the way Wooderson was in Dazed and Confused), but we are born with the inherent responsibility of waking up every day and choosing to live the life we see in our dreams.
So, as I mentioned in Step 1, your mantra goes on the wall. It’s your dream life, the core feelings that would describe you if life was everything you wanted it to be.
Next, rehearsal. Dreaming is not just for the sleeping. It’s a creative activity that a waking person does. We are painters of our own imaginations, we create as we see and taste and touch and smell and hear, and we can use our full range of senses in our imagined dreams as well as the present moment of perception. And, from ancient mythology to modern psychology, we know the mind cannot perceive the difference in what is happening currently and something imagined.
I believe there’s so much potentially holding us back. But it’s our choice to be held back or set ourselves and others free. Practicing forgiveness sets you and others free from any beliefs or scars that are making someone or some event mean something it doesn’t have to. So practice it. A good guided forgiveness video (start at the 6 minute mark) is an easy way to truly know through experience.
Gratitude is as important as forgiveness, for how can our minds, hearts and spirits create more good fortune for us if we don’t dwell on the wonderful things we want more of.
“Think only of the best things which you desire for yourselves and others and you will be considered a blessed man by many.”
So take the time to write down 3-10 things you are glad to have in your life. It can be about your personal life (this amazing cup of Bulletproof coffee, my friend Ilene, this new computer), your work/creative life (a have a new client that I feel good about, today’s Friday, tomorrow’s Friday), and something your proud of about yourself. This is self-love which is the fuel by which you will transform the world around you. (I’m proud I’ve gotten so strong, I eat well, I treated Allen with compassion yesterday).
Expression. You have to express yourself. Whether it’s journaling, doodling, playing music, or self-talk. Let it out or it isn’t real. Everything we bottle up becomes like the bottle itself, independent of the world and preserved. Even if it’s just writing it down for your eyes only, that process is what gives life to your deepest desires, passions and dreams. Do not keep them inside or they’ll wither away. You don’t have to tell the world (in fact I recommend keeping some of your dreams and goals to yourself) but you have to express it. Self-talk is my favorite version of this.
Nah, that’s nothing like what I do, but it is fairly funny and I appreciate Larry David for his contributions to the universal sense of humor.
Write it down: Spend 5 minutes every day dumping your heart and mind onto a piece of paper. It matters naught what it says (unless you want to analyze it when you’re done, I have no interest in that) but the process is everything. You are cleansing all of the nooks and corners of your mind-heart and you’re doing it with a direct connection, your hand(s). Let it all out. I write the date on all of mine and keep them in a book just so I can look back if I’m writing a story or trying to remember something. You’re welcome to burn them or make confetti with them, it doesn’t matter. Just get it out of you and onto something else.
This has been a long post so I’ll wrap it up.
We are all beautiful and amazing.
You have more potential to be the greatest version of yourself than anyone else in the world. Makes sense, doesn’t it? So imagine yourself in detail as the absolute whole version of yourself: write it down, say it out loud, and allow yourself to dream about it.
Then get to L-I-V-I-N, one day and one decision at a time.