Does anyone else feel like they are sometimes sleepwalking through life? Moving from activity to activity in a kind of haze? The feeling as though you are waiting for your real life to begin.
I am a dreamer, always have been. I live in a kind of alternate world. Where my mind is constantly taking me to an array of possible futures. Like that movie Walter Mitty, only before he went to Iceland and got the girl.
It is possible that I learned this habit as a defense mechanism growing up. To disappear into my dreamland whenever the inevitable “next conflict” arose. Or maybe I was just born dreaming. All I know is that as an adult it just doesn’t seem to be working for me.
But, this week I went to a conference called Storyline. It was created by one of my favorite authors Donald Miller. Don writes about something that I have thought and dreamed about for as long as I can remember. My life, telling a good story. Meaning, if my life were formed into a novel or feature film, would it be good. Would it be the kind you hold your breath on and can’t put down? Or would it be dry, boring, or even worse just plain confusing? Is it a story I could love?
During the conference I listened with rapt attention to try to figure out…honestly I wasn’t even sure yet what I was trying to figure out. And then I realized why all 1,700 of us were there. We want our life to mean something. To be more than what it is right now. So I took an abundance of notes. Here is some of what I came up with.
First, I have to have conflict within my story. I don’t know about you but that seemed like a no brainer. My life is full of that. Second, the character had to want something. Again that’s easy. I want to feel that my life has a purpose bigger than me behind it. That I am doing something that I was created to do that I can help others by doing. So I suppose my conflict then is that I haven’t found it yet. Or at least I don’t think I found it. Unless it is like that good friend right in front of your face, that you love but just haven’t realized it yet? But I couldn’t really know, because I have been living in the clouds.
I think having dreams is wonderful, but what does my life look like in reality? What are the dreams bringing me to? This is where the practical advice at the conference came in handy.
Number one, get up early. Really Don, do I have to? I already get up early for work and commute an hour on two trains AND a bus to get from Queens to Manhattan. I am exhausted and hell bent by the time I get to work most days as it is. But ok, I’ll take note.
Second. Write down your plan for this day. Not every day, but THIS day. Write down your three biggest goals for this day. And also the little things you need to get done just so you can get them on paper and out of your head. But no more than three big goals. Then get the biggest one done during that new early hour. Make sure to plan a reward for when you get it done. Mine is simple, coffee of course. I will need that if I am getting up at that ungodly hour.
Also, write down what you would have done differently if you could do this day over. But wait, I haven’t done the day yet. Exactly Jess. Decide what you would regret having done, and then don’t do that. Do the opposite. So if I would regret giving that little old lady that pushed me on the 7 train the evil eye, don’t do it. Instead offer her a smile and maybe even a wink just to confuse her. I think one of my daily bullet points will be “I would have wished that I lived today in each moment.”
Six days ago I came home from the conference. Extremely nervous about trying to set goals. I’ve always said, “I’m not a goal type of person. I don’t like being put into a box.” But now I am thinking was that fear of failure speaking? What if I set goals and I can’t accomplish them? What if I do finish them but they don’t lead me anywhere? But then Don got me thinking. What if I can? What if they do? What would a great life of great meaning look like?! I got excited!
And I set my alarm for an hour early. Every day this week. Each morning when my alarm rang, my excuses started arising through my sleepy haze. “I don’t have to do EVERY morning, maybe just some mornings. I went to bed too late.” But then something extraordinary happened. I got up anyway. I sat down to work on my first big goal and my inner critic raged, “You can’t do this. You have no idea what you’re doing.” I worked on it anyway.
And I woke up. My life woke up. I am living this day so that at the end of it I might have less regrets than yesterday. Less regrets that I try to stuff down with the latest episode of “Scandal”. I have intentional purpose for today.
Will that happen every day for the rest of my life? I don’t know. But it happened yesterday. And this morning as I sit down to write this, it is happening now. Maybe that’s what it is all about, living with intent and love for each day. And letting that love and intent be with you as you are with others. Maybe that really is what makes a life you can’t put down.