When was the last time you stopped to take stock of your life – to consider whether the direction your life is going is the direction you would like it to go? The speed of everyday living can sometimes pick us up and carry us down the river. We get so absorbed in the day-to-day that we don’t realise the current has taken us in a different direction than perhaps we intended.
As children and young adults, we tend to dream big for ourselves. Then, perhaps due to adult life having more responsibilities than we anticipate in our youth, we don’t end up pursuing the things we wanted for ourselves back then. Or maybe we grow out of wanting to drive trains or be a ballerina. Or perhaps as we flow along with the current we discover an interest in numbers that we didn’t have in school or we fall in love and start a family and this changes our perspective on what we want for ourselves.
All of this is to say that, so long as you are happy it doesn’t matter what kind of life you lead or how different it is from the one you intended for yourself. Yet, if you feel in your heart that where you find yourself now is not where you want to be, then see this as a sign that you would benefit immensely from some change.
In the words of Mary Oliver: what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
While most of us can’t drop everything and travel the world to satisfy our burning wanderlust, move our family to another city on a whim or quit working completely—we tend to forget that we don’t have to make drastic changes to be rewarded with more excitement, contentedness or fulfillment in our lives.
If you are feeling in your heart that you need a slight change in direction, here are three things that may help you to achieve the kind of life you want for yourself.
1. Get clear on what you want
To be able to make effective change you must first understand what is driving your disharmony. Whatever it is that is a source of discontent for you, take pen and paper, sit down and really get clear on what is at the heart of it for you. For example, if your job doesn’t light you up and the working week is uninspiring, try to dig deep as to why. For example, is it the workplace culture or the work itself?
If the life that you want for yourself feels so far from where you are now, it can seem completely unachievable. This may lead you to feel stuck and you may even find yourself resentful because you feel powerless to change anything. So once you’re clear on what it is exactly that you want to change, work out how you can take small incremental steps to get where you want to be. Small change is much more sustainable than major change and since it’s unlikely you’re going to be able to drop everything and start again from scratch, little steps will feel much more manageable.
2. Quieten comparison
As the saying goes, comparison is the thief of joy. If you are caught up in comparing your life to those around you, you will only lose touch with whatever it is you truly want for yourself. And likely make yourself miserable in the process. Remember that you are probably comparing your entire life—the good, bad and ugly—with someone else’s highlights reel.
Try also to quell any worries about what others might think of you. There’s nothing to say that you can’t take a complete change in direction at any stage in your life. Age is only a barrier if you allow it to be. Rather than think about how old you are, consider how many years you have left to live and what you want them to be filled with. One, two, or three short years of hardship may be a small price to pay for another ten to twenty of comparative bliss.
3. Consider your perception
It is also important to consider whether your perception may be interfering with your happiness. When you want a certain coloured car of a specific make and model, you suddenly see those cars everywhere, don’t you? It’s not that all of a sudden there are more of them though. They have always been there. It is simply that now a part of your brain, called the reticular activating system, is primed to notice them.
If you were given a piece of white paper with a small black dot in the centre of the page and asked to write about what you saw, most people focus on the black dot. And that’s what we do with our lives—focus on the challenges and the disappointments—when these things are very small when compared to everything else that we have. Start to focus instead on the white space on the page—the joys, the possibilities, the opportunities—and notice how your perception of everything changes with it.