“Life is so short.” How often do we hear that comment and treat it as a throw away line? Well this week, the comment came home to roost yet again, with the news that a great man in our local community passed away unexpectedly early in the week. He was a highly respected member of the community, actively involved in community activities, including the local junior football club, where he was a certified sports trainer, as well as the chief sponsorship manager. Leaving behind a loving wife and 2 wonderful children, it prompted me to yet again reflect and contemplate that life really is short, and that you actually do not know how much longer you have before the last grain of sand passes through the hourglass. And as I reflected, I was reminded of the wonderful poem written nearly 20 years ago by Linda Ellis, called “The Dash”, a poem that really challenges you to focus on the dash between birth and death, to identify and fulfil your purpose for being alive, and to make your life count.
It got me really thinking, am I living my life the way that I intended, or am I just cruising? Let me ask you the same question – are you living your life the way you intended, or are you simply making up the numbers? It is a very sobering question, and one that is very easy to gloss over and either ignore, or deflect, particularly if we are really ‘busy’. Well the fact is, we only have one life, and that life can be snuffed out so quickly, that life can be over before we start living it. It reminds me of the extensive research conducted in Aged Care facilities where people coming to the end of their lives are asked about their life philosophies and their perspectives on living a great life, including any regrets they have. Overwhelmingly, the feedback from the elderly generation is that they would take more risks, have more fun, seek out more opportunities, and not worry about what other people think! Very wise and sobering feedback for those of us who still have sand remaining in the hourglass!
So here is the question – are you living your life the way you intended? If not, then why not? What is stopping you from living the life you desire and more importantly, what are you waiting for? You do not know how many grains of sand remain in your hourglass, so isn’t it time to get on with it, and create the life you have always dreamed of, and deserve? Well, to help you out, here are some of the key areas to focus on, based on the extensive research conducted with the wise and elderly generation :
- Don’t take yourself so seriously – how many people do you see each day taking themselves so seriously, you would think that the success of their team or company rests entirely on their shoulders? They seem to have lost the ability to have fun, to channel their ‘inner 5 year old’ and look at the world through a child’s eyes, with childlike wonder. They are so serious that they block off their ability to look on the lighter side of situations and events. Now this is not to say that business is not serious business, but I do think that there is ample room and opportunity to bring childlike wonder to the table in any business situation, because through having fun and not taking yourself so seriously, it creates a space for creativity to be explored – and through creativity, innovation is possible.
- Be grateful for the people around you – as we go about our daily business, how easy is it to take those around us for granted, thinking that they will always be there? Well, the harsh reality is that they will not always be there, so do not wait until the ‘time is right’ to thank them for being part of your life and your journey. Thank them now, and let them know how important they are to you, and how grateful you are that they are on the journey with you. Gratitude is a super power – use it and pay it forward.
- Be grateful for the opportunities and the challenges – As well as being grateful for the people around you on your journey, it is critical that you are also grateful for both the opportunities presented to you, as well as for the challenges placed in your path. Nothing worth achieving is not worth fighting for, so if you are facing challenges right now, know that you are on the right track and that challenges are inevitable – in fact, overcoming challenges and obstacles is a pre-requisite for achieving success, so embrace it.
- Create that Bucket List, and start experiencing – one of the greatest regrets that elderly people have is that they did not do all the things they ‘wished for’, and if they had their time over again, they would create a ‘serious bucket list’, and start ticking off items immediately. Now bucket list items can be anything from extreme experiences like tandem skydiving or jet boat racing, through to life changing experiences like visiting the ‘Killing Fields’ in Cambodia. What ever it is to you, is fine – just ensure that you create a bucket list and commence ticking off the items. Remember, life is short, so what are you waiting for?
- Take more risks! – this is a huge one. As human beings, we seem to be conditioned to avoid pain, to avoid risk and to take the ‘easier road’. Well, if we are able to learn anything from the older generation, it is that we should condition ourselves to take more calculated risks. At the end of our life, we do not want to look back on our life and wish we had have taken the chances we could have, but didn’t, because of fear, or because we wanted to play it safe. As Jim Rohn said many times, ‘discipline weighs ounces, regret weighs tonnes’. Create the discipline to take calculated risks, and know that if it doesn’t work out, you have the ability and the resilience to bounce back, to learn, and to move forward. If you are able to handle the worst possible scenario, then there really isn’t any risk! What are you waiting for?
- Stop majoring in the minor things – how many people around you continue to focus on the small details, to the point where they can no longer see the big picture? As humans, we are world class experts on majoring on the minor things. Where does that get us? Nowhere really. So instead of focussing in on the minute details of things, take a couple of steps back, and ask yourself the question ,’what is the big picture here?’, or ‘for what purpose are we focussing on the details in this situation?’ – asking yourself these questions (and then answering them!) will allow you to move up the hierarchy to the bigger picture and therefore not be bogged down or distracted by the small details. And it may even allow you to create new approaches and new ideas, that could be the difference that makes the difference.
- Back yourself – this is somewhat linked to taking more risks, and is something that is quite difficult for many to implement, as it is more comfortable to go down the easy road, to seek permission first and step forward only when you know the outcome. Well, to be able to achieve what most others will not, you must be prepared to do what most others are not willing to do, and it starts with backing yourself. Move forward, take a chance, see what you are made of, and know that whatever happens, you will be able to handle it. Back yourself – what are you waiting for?
- Don’t wait for the time to be right – how often do we defer taking action, and justify it based on the time not being right? How do we know when the time will be right? The fact is, there will never be a right time, there will always be a reasonable reason as to why now is not the right time to take action. So don’t wait around waiting for the time to be right, make a decision, and get on with it – in taking action, it will be the right time, and you may be surprised with the results you achieve! What are you waiting for?
- Stop waiting for all of your ducks to line up! – ducks are absolutely amazing, and they are wonderful teachers. If you have been waiting for your ducks to line up before taking action and moving forward, then please go and research ducks. When a mother duck is looking after her ducklings, she does not wait for them to line up before taking action – she takes action first, and then the ducks line up and follow her. She is the leader, she leads by example, and her ducklings follow her, and model her. So if you are waiting for all of the ‘planets to align’ and for your ‘ducks to line up’, before taking action and moving forward, then stop. You are kidding yourself – if you keep waiting, the ducks will never line up – it requires you to take action and then move for the ducks to follow. So what are you waiting for – get going!
Life has a funny way of jolting you out of your comfort zone, and showing you just how short life is. As my mentor Sam Crowley often says ‘Everyday is a great day when you wake up on the right side of the ground’. When you wake up, that is the trigger for you to get up and get going. Make the most of the sand still in your hourglass, focus on the above points, and know that when you get to the twilight of your life, you will be able to answer a resounding ‘Yes’ to the following, highly powerful questions :
Did I live?
Did I love?
Did I make a difference?
Get going, build your legacy, and start living it – what are you waiting for?
To your continued success.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post – I greatly appreciate it, and welcome comments and feedback. Please feel free to comment below, to follow me on LinkedIn, or to connect via Twitter or Facebook.
About : Darren is an Executive Coach, Leadership Consultant, Trainer, Facilitator, Speaker. A passionate and driven individual specialising in personal development, strategic planning, coaching for advocacy & enhanced performance, situational and servant based leadership, executive coaching of people leaders, emerging leaders and ‘high potential’ individual contributors within the Enterprise & Government market, personal change management, and strategic workshop facilitation & training.