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How to Live Life on Your Terms

And stop living it on someone else’s

If I asked you whether you live life on your terms, you’d probably say yes.

But do you? Are they YOUR terms? Or are they your family’s, and/or society’s terms?

As an independent soul and a bit of a rebel, I used to think that I lived on my own terms. I was wrong. I did a lot of things that were expected of me, things that weren’t me at all. As a child, I’d tried so hard to fit in that I’d started doing what others wanted me to do. Even if it wasn’t what I’d have done myself.

At first, it wasn’t a big deal. Giving in a little here, a little there. But after years of this behaviour going unchecked, my own terms for living had been eroded away. Not that I was aware they had. The terms on which I was living had become so familiar, they felt like mine.

The fit became less comfortable as the years went by. I still wasn’t aware that this was behind the unsettled feeling I had. But I couldn’t escape the fact that I did feel unsettled. Something didn’t feel right inside. The best way to describe what I felt is that there was a void inside. A certain emptiness.

It was decades later that I finally understood why I felt that void. I was missing from my own life. Through not living life on my terms, I had lost myself, bit by bit, along the way.

30 years spent rediscovering myself taught me much. About me. About others. About what it means to be fully alive. Today, I live life on my terms. How do I know? Because I dance to the beat of a very different drum. Different from the beat I used to dance to. And different from the beat I see everyone around me dancing to. I’m told I’m an outlier with such frequency that I know people experience me as different. People I know very well, and people I’ve just met.

I love being an outlier, being different. You know why? Because I AM different. I’m unique, the only me in town. You’re unique, too.

How to rediscover yourself

Rediscovering yourself requires you to answer two simple questions. “Who are you?” and “Why are you here?”. The questions may be simple. But answering them isn’t.

Who are you? Who is beneath all those layers of conditioning?

And if you think you have no layers of conditioning, think again. We ALL emerge from our families and school with conditioning. Remember those rules you had to follow? Do you still follow them, even though you don’t have to? That’s conditioning. Don’t get me wrong, not all conditioning is bad for you. It’s only bad for you if it goes against your own conditioning.

Your own conditioning is your belief system.

Your belief system is one part of what you have to figure out to rediscover yourself. The other part is to understand what lights you up. What lights you up is a combination of what you love doing and what you’re naturally good at.

One way to get at all this information is to answer these three questions.

  • What’s important to you?
  • What do you love doing?
  • What are you truly good at?

What’s important to you? is all about the principles upon which you wish to build your life. Which personal qualities do you want to be known for? You know, things like honesty, kindness, resilience, openness, respect. If you find this hard to answer, think about the qualities you see in people you admire. Which types of behaviour are you not prepared to engage in? Are you prepared to use fear to get what you want? Are you prepared to be dishonest? Are you prepared to harm others through what you’re doing/buying? Which causes or issues are closest to your heart? Do you care about the environment? Human rights? Child labour? Income inequality?

To answer What do you love doing? properly, you’re going to need to go back in time to when you were a young child. From your earliest memories till when you were about eight years old. It’s best to stop at eight, because that’s when you started being moulded by others. With the best will in the world, your parents and those close to you started to direct you. To be a certain way. To go down a certain path. The trouble with this is that you are not them. Either as an individual. Or as part of your generation. So, the life for which you were groomed may not fit the real you. Mine didn’t at all. To answer this question, close your eyes and think about the young child version of you. What did you spend your time doing, when it was up to you? Think about this in detail. Note how you liked to play — alone or with others. Whether you were more introverted or extraverted. Whether you tended to lead, or follow. That kind of detail.

What are you truly good at? If you’re like me, you may not have a great sense of this any more. You may be accomplished at a lot of things, which is great. Some, you’ve learned to do well, and some, you’re naturally good at. All these things will serve you well, but you’ll get more joy from what comes naturally. Get a little outside help with this one, from people who know you well. Make sure you choose people who are impartial. This may rule out your immediate family as there can often be a lot of baggage in those relationships! Sift through their responses and note down those that resonate most with you.

Putting yourself back in your life

You now have the raw material you need to get clear on who you are, and why you’re here. The next step is to start to make sense of it.

From your answers, craft a short paragraph that captures your essence. It should talk about your values, your beliefs, and your skills. It’s your personal statement. Think about it as an elegant paragraph containing your personal keywords. Anyone reading it should be clear about who you are as a person.

Next comes what you plan to do with your life. I call this your Life Vision. Take your essence — the real you. Add what you love doing, and then the unique contribution you want to make in the world. This combination forms your Life Vision.

Living on your terms

You know who you are. You know why you’re here. Now it’s time to start living it. To start living on your terms.

Dreaming about your personal statement and Life Vision won’t make them come to life. It takes planning and action to move you from where you are to where you want to be. First, you need to break your journey down into steps. Make sure the steps are large enough to be interesting, and small enough to be achievable. Then, you need to plan how you’re going to take action. Plan no more than 90 days out, and then get more granular. Into months, weeks, and days. Don’t get into the daily detail too far ahead, or it won’t be relevant. I lay out next week’s daily plan at the end of the previous week.

Every action in your plans should take you one step closer to your Life Vision. It’s that simple. This level of focus is what it takes to live on your own terms. You may think it’s a lot of effort, that your current life is easier on you. You’re right about the first part, but wrong about the second.

Living on your terms feels better than any other way of living, and is worth every scrap of effort it takes to get there. You feel more alive than ever before. You feel more clarity than ever before. You feel more fulfilled than ever before. You feel happier than ever before.

And you’re worth every scrap of effort it takes to get there.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

life-is-waiting-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

Hey, your life is waiting!

You think things are pretty good. Your life is pretty good. Your work is pretty good. Your relationships are pretty good. You know where you’re at and what’s going on. In fact you know this so well, that you hardly have to think about it any longer. Day in, day out, you go through the motions, doing what needs to be done, saying what needs to be said, thinking what needs to be thought, feeling what needs to be felt, seeing what needs to be seen.

You do what’s expected of you. You’ve always done what’s expected of you, that’s your way. You’d rather fit in than stand out. You’d rather do things for others than do things for yourself. You’d rather admire others than admire yourself. People know what to expect from you – your behaviour, your beliefs, your values, your rules – and they like this about you. Your life is predictable – everything that’s within your control is, anyway.

From the outside, your life looks great. You’ve got it all – the job, the home, the car, the relationship, the family. You’re the archetypical success story!! From the inside, your life looks good enough. But is ‘good enough’ good enough?

If you’re living a life that’s good enough, you’re existing, not living. When you’re existing, you’ve limited yourself – it’s as if you’ve created a box for yourself and live inside that. It can be perfectly OK inside your box, but you’re playing it small in there. You’re not living to your full potential. You started living in your box the minute you started wanting to fit in. And you started wanting to fit in when being yourself – your true self – was rejected in some way. Fitting in meant you had to become the person others wanted you to be – the person who does what’s expected, who has a predictable life.

You’re not meant to have a predictable life. Machines are meant to be predictable. Humans are not. Humans are wonderfully unpredictable – that’s our essence. You’re not meant to have a predictable life. You’re meant to have a wonderfully unpredictable one.

Having a wonderfully unpredictable life doesn’t mean it’s completely chaotic. It’s actually the opposite. When you decide to stop existing and start living, your life is on your terms. This means that you have to establish what your terms are. Once you have your own terms for living anchoring you, there is nothing you can’t do.

So, how do you go from merely existing to living fully? You grab your life with both hands and redesign it, that’s how!! Here are nine steps to help you do just that.

  1. Acknowledge and accept that right now all you’re doing is existing. You cannot make changes in your life if you don’t acknowledge and accept that something is wrong. The impetus to change comes from knowing that the way things are now isn’t right.
  2. Give yourself permission to put yourself first and do this work. You’re not used to doing this, you’ve been putting others first forever. Now it’s YOUR TIME.
  3. Get clarity on yourself and your life. Discover who you are and why you’re here (this post can help). Discover what you believe in, what your values are and what your personal rules are. Then create your life vision. It’s much easier to do this with the end in mind, asking yourself how you want to have lived your life by the time you die. So write your obituary of your well-lived life – that’s your life vision.
  4. Get passionate about your true self and your life vision. You’re going to need to generate some serious energy and excitement about these to get you started on your new path. And energy and excitement haven’t been in demand in your life for a while, so here’s how you can generate it. Close your eyes and picture your new, meaningful life. Picture yourself living to the max – feel the excitement and energy rising in you and boost it even higher with your mind. Sit with this energy for a couple of minutes and allow it to fill you up. Repeat this exercise every time you need an energy boost.
  5. Summon up your courage – you’re going to need it. Living life to the max will have its scary moments – they’re how you know you’re really going for it. Before you say you’re not courageous, that you were born without the courage gene, stop. You are – everyone is. You just have to summon it up by tapping into how passionate you are about your true self and your life vision. Are you really going to let ANYTHING get between you and that wonderful life? It’s natural to feel scared when you’re doing something you’ve never done before. But don’t get paralysed into inaction by that fear. Use your passion energy to keep you moving forward, to move past what scares you. Summon up your courage.
  6. Plan how you’re going to move forward towards your life vision. You know where you’re going, now you need to know how you’re going to get there. Plan out your action in MANAGEABLE chunks. Each step should be challenging enough to keep you interested, but not so challenging that you can’t achieve it. If you fail at any of your steps, it will kill your momentum – and you need this to keep you on your path.
  7. Act on your plan. All the vision and planning in the world isn’t going to get you living your new, meaningful life – only action is. JUST DO IT!!!
  8. Hold yourself accountable. In order to keep moving forward, you need to inspire yourself to do so – it’s human nature to get distracted from what we’re doing and start something else. By holding yourself accountable, you’ll keep connected to your vision and your plans. Here are a couple of tactics to help you with that, both are courtesy of world-renowned high performance coach, Brendon Burchard. For the first one, take your vision and break it down into three questions that, when asked, will keep you true to your vision. Ask yourself these three questions at the end of every day. My three, based on MY vision, are: 1) Did I live fully today? 2) Did I love fearlessly today? 3) Did I make a difference in someone’s life today? For the second tactic, take your values and choose the three words that best reflect who you are and how you want to live. Create a reminder on your phone so that these three words flash at you three times every day. I’ve created three repeating calendar entries for mine. Using these two tactics to check in with yourself daily will help keep you accountable and moving forward.
  9. Celebrate your successes as you go along. Don’t wait till the end – celebrating each success as it happens keeps your momentum going. I high-five myself every time I finish a step – this both entertains and energizes me. Find what works for you!

If you take all of these steps, you’ll understand something important. That you’re responsible for your own happiness and life. No one else can make you happy, or your life, fulfilled. Only YOU can do that.

So grab your life with both hands and don’t keep it waiting for a moment longer.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).