The Life I’m Living vs. The Life I Want to Live
One day, circa 1986, (and not in response to this story by Nicolas Cole in 2018, although she’s grateful that he reminded her of it), she decided she was going to come up with an answer, once and for all. She pulled out a blank notebook, and on the left-hand side wrote, “The life I’m living,” and on the right-hand side wrote, “The life I want to live.” When she summed it up, it turned out the small town girl wanted Aerin Lauder’s life, or perhaps Gwenyth Paltrow’s, or even Drew Barrymore or Kate Hudson’s, someone gorgeous, with notable parents, with access to the best education, networks, addresses, and well, world.
It was pre-Instagram, but she built their accounts in her mind and she wanted what she thought they had, BIG, glamorous, gorgeous lives and incredible futures. It turns out, that she wasn’t quite so fortunate (or perhaps more accurately that her fortunes were different), but she couldn’t see her gifts yet. She knew she was good at being happy but didn’t yet realize that happiness was a life skill. She did know that she was incredibly smart, so decided to run with that.
You absolutely must know what you want to get what you want. It’s rarer than you think, knowing what you want, trusting yourself to pursue it, believing you’re worthy, having faith in the future. You don’t have to know how to get it though. Wait what?
No one can tell you how to get what you want because everyone wants what they want and has their own path of discovery and realization. You can long for someone else’s reality but please know it isn’t real. And, it’s always out of reach for you (and me and everyone else) because no matter how much you model yourself after someone else, there are simply too many variables for their formula or methodology to serve the same outcome in your life.
You, your situation, your family, your talents, your opportunities, your geography, your DNA, all of it, is uniquely yours. You will have to find your way. You will have to make choices relevant to your experience. And you will have to live this life. In this world. At this time. It’s your only chance.
Yes, there are many universal truths, actions you can implement that will undoubtedly benefit your journey — learn endlessly, be kind, integrate your path with others who have what you want, treat yourself well, treat others well, be intentional.
Beyond that, focus on the what and let the how (and the timing) take care of itself. You may have to hold the vision for longer than you think, but whether it’s drive, luck, divine intervention, visualization, subconscious manifestation, synchronicity, or your special mix of magic, when you are focused on what’s right for you, it will happen. It’s meant to be.
It may be as simple as defining success. What does success look and feel like to you? Is it having a clean house, organized home, bathed kids, and wholesome meals? Is it being able to jet set where and when you want to without restriction? Is it feeling fit, healthy, and spending hours outdoors each day hiking with the dog and tending to the garden? Is it a million dollars in the bank, no monthly payments, and an ability to give generously? Is it leading a team, running a business, addressing your colleagues with enviable executive presence? Is it playing with your kids, flirting with your spouse, and making meaningful connections in your community every day? Is it making a difference, drawing attention to a cause, and leading the charge? Is it cooking, baking, and DIY? Is it fame, fortune, and power? Is it looking flawless, stylish, and surrounded by luxury? Is it winning a race, pushing your body, thriving on adrenaline?
Really, what’s your thing, the thing you currently do or aspire to do that feels like a calling, an expression of your gifts, or an authentic representation of who you are? Your thing isn’t temporary, it’s not a role or a definition; it’s why you are here. What is your thing? The thing that might not be easy to actualize but is undeniably true, even when you ignore it?
And when you do it, when you be it, how does it feel? Exhilarating? Obvious? Limitless? Shameful? Empowering? Do you see yourself in your best moments? Do you recognize your passion, connection, and peace? Do you feel your energy and understand the inevitability of your success?
One day, 1998-ish, she re-evaluated her lists and realized she was not only off-track, she had lost sight of her vision and frankly, herself. She resisted the urge to judge herself and instead renewed her commitment. She decided she was going to come up with an answer, once and for all. She pulled out a blank notebook, and on the left-hand side wrote, “The life I’m living,” and on the right-hand side wrote, “The life I want to live.” She built a box (perhaps even before vision boards?) of what she wanted and she collected beautiful motivational reminders. Her vision grew and its possibility fueled her happiness.
What role(s) serve your soul? Is it your place in your family or your career or both? Something else? Can you feel yourself expanding in your role, learning, evolving, challenging your past, creating a bold future? Do you feel your potential? Or are you stuck, diminished, or resentful? Are you lost or wasting precious time? Are you hopeful? Are you full of initiative and drive or are you waiting to be told how to move forward, how to live your life? Who’s telling you? Are the consequences you experience day-to-day rewards or punishments? Do they validate your path or scream for you to make changes? Are you getting little signs and nudges that you are on the right path? Is it easy or hard to move throughout your day? Do you feel momentum or resistance? Does your self-awareness align with how the world responds?
Do you passionately engage in your present and eagerly anticipate your future? Do you know where to turn for inspiration, guidance, comfort, grace, a boost? Are you loved, in love, and loving?
Are you prioritizing the best things for yourself into your days, weeks, agenda, by design? Or are you squeezing them in haphazardly when everything else is taken care of? What is the everything else to take care of and why does it come first? What percentage of your time do you feel alive, connected, happy, energized, full of flow? What percentage of your time are you just going through the motions? Are you experiencing moments that feel so good you deliberately extend them to maximize joy? Or are neutral, waiting for something to change or happen before you fully feel? Are you resisting, denying, or ignorant? Are you ramping up or counting down?
When do you feel your best (not most productive)? Is it when you first wake up? When you stare at the mountains or the sunrise and contemplate your day before you pick up a device? Is it when you are snuggling your kids, or your pet, or your spouse? Creating art? Writing? Working on a project? Exploring a new city? Mentoring? Competing? Reading a book? Napping in the sun? Do you have an abundance of joy in your life? Does that matter?
Are you rested or caffeinated? Full or satiated? Hungry or desperate? Growing or declining? Are your needs met? What have you been ignoring that your body has been trying to tell you, that your consciousness has been whispering? How long will you wait? Why do you wait?
Happiness is easy. It’s doing what you want to do, when you want to do it, without obligation, and deeply enjoying it while it happens. It’s not limitless, but it’s always readily available. It’s yours alone or with your people. The more you share it, the easier others can recall it for themselves, for you, for others too. Happiness isn’t frivolous, secondary, or juvenile, it’s exponential and profound. It’s a game changer. Happiness is how to get what you want.
One day, she decided she was going to come up with an answer, once and for all. She pulled out a blank notebook, and on the left-hand side wrote, “The life I’m living,” and on the right-hand side wrote, “The life I want to live.”
“The left side is temporary, its safety an illusion, the longer you wait, the less comfortable it is. The right side is inevitable, its urgency an invitation, the longer you wait, the more of yourself you’ll have lost,” she thought.
It’s ok to be attracted to the left side. It’s ok to love what you have, to find comfort in the familiar, to validate and celebrate your choices. It’s also ok to strive, to change, to risk, to dream of the right side too. To want more isn’t greedy. It doesn’t minimize the gratitude you have for what you’ve already been given or insult those who shared your journey to date.
Choosing uncertainty isn’t reckless. No one knows. There are no guarantees. Stuff, patterns, rituals, and habits are tools and symbols. They aren’t you. Show up the way you want to be received. Let yourself out. If your mentor suggests you edit yourself, consider her motivations. If you are trusting someone else to lead, or even take the starring role in your life, ask yourself why you don’t claim it.
Have faith in your future. Have faith in your abilities. Have faith in your capability to create your life as you live it to best serve, honor, and celebrate…to do good, to shine so brightly. To have everything you ever imagined and even more.
One day, she decided she was going to come up with an answer, once and for all. She pulled out a blank notebook, and on the left-hand side wrote, “The life I’m living,” and on the right-hand side wrote, “The life I want to live.” The lists were more similar than she ever dared. In fact, they were the same. How did she get so lucky? Did she do that? Did she create that? Was she that powerful?
Maybe. Maybe she was just happy. It was her fortune after all, her life skill. Happy more days than not, happy more moments than not, happy with her choices, her relationships, her body. Ideal, perfect, and easy became less important, and at some point quietly slipped off the list altogether. The things that replaced it were tangible, delicious, and real. She loved her life and was happy.