When you decide to reevaluate your life, remember: you are not looking for easy answers. At this stage you are only trying to ask the right questions.
- What’s my dream life? If you could have anything, no holds bared, what would you be doing, day in and day out? It’s fine to have a big goal (climb Everest) but try to drill it down to a 24 hour picture. Dream lives still involve many of the things you are already doing — so what’s different? Imagine being excited to get to work — where do you work? What does your house look like? Who are you married to, if anyone?
- What do you want (do you really, really want)? Dreams and fantasies are often funded by the unbelievable. “I’d fly off to Paris in my private jet.” “I’d be married to Tom Hiddleston.” We think getting a great life is so impossible that we literally make it so; you might as well say you want to live on Jupiter and marry Errol Flynn — it’s as likely to happen. So instead, take time to get to the heart of your dream — past the money and movie stars — and figure out what you really desire. Maybe you’ve never been to Paris — but if you saved up all your ‘fast food’ money for two years you could do it (and be much healthier). And maybe you long to meet intelligent, joyful people and have become discouraged by the potential romantic partners in your job or social circle. Ask what makes your dream great. Most times it’s not just having more money in your hand.
- What’s making you unhappy now? Think about the last week or month — what were your most unhappy moments? Who/where/what did they involve? It’s hard to admit, but if you don’t come away happy from seeing someone, then that’s someone you need less of in your world. Life is short, and unless you birthed them or adopted them, you don’t owe anyone your happiness upon this Earth. We’ve all had friendships and relationships we’ve tried to ‘make’ work. Well, today you found your get-out-of-jail-free card; I’m officially telling you it’s okay to let things that don’t work GO. Believe me, you’ll be making room in your life for much better things. If debt or your weight are making you unhappy then even a tiny step toward a better life will improve your mood. And if your job is the problem, hang on . . .
- Do I hate my job? I just saw a Pin that said something like ‘When asked what they would reevaluate after winning the lottery, 51% of people said ‘their job’. Now, I don’t know if that’s true, but it feels right. To me that also says that, in addition to not liking their job, most people are afraid to leave because of finances. This is a tough one — we need money. But how much of it? Could you get by (and be happier) with less? Instead of imaging winning the lottery — imagine you already have. According to one estimate, the worldwide median household income is less than $10,000. So if you’re household makes more than that, you are already living the high life. So maybe a different job (even if it paid less) would be something to think about. And know there are people out there who are paid well to do your dream job; the first step to joining them is acknowledging you’re unhappy where you are.
- Am I filling my life with ‘time-wasters’? Everyone deserves ‘down time’, ‘fun time’, or a break but everything in moderation. Playing video games can be amazing but 6 hours a day for five years may not lead to a fulfilling life — unless you’re a game designer. The same way, the amount of human time spent on Facebook is astounding (and I can be as guilty as anyone, though more often it’s Pinterest for me). Just try to imagine the world, the power, and the individual lives we could build with that excess time.
- Why am I sad? You may not be sad, but if you are know that a few small changes can make life great again. You don’t need to throw out everything, you just need to realign your life with your heart’s desire. And if you have a problem that seems very hopeless — know that there’s probably a group, meeting, hotline, or program for people battling the same troubles as you. Reach out and get help.
- What am I impatient about? For me, it’s becoming a full-time writer and then traveling the world. And I know I’ll get there. But when progress feels slow, I wonder if I need to go get a college degree, move jobs, move cities, SOMETHING to prove I’m not stagnant and not going to be standing here in one place forever. If this is you, and you are doing something that should have the payoff you’re looking for (a breakthrough in job, becoming your perfect weight through a diet) then I suggest you give yourself a place in the future to re-reevaluate that one goal and decide if these small steps aren’t adding up to something big. For example, I’ve decided to write three new amazing things then look at whether I need a different day job, education, what-have-you. Until I have those three novels or plays in front of me, I won’t worry about how long I’ve been at my day job while ‘planning’ to become a full time writer.
- What’s on my ‘bucket list’? One of the things about this year is I’ve talked to some older people I know who never have done the items on their bucket list and now wonder if they’re too old. While I’m a total believer in doing as much as you can as long as you can, it is easier to climb a mountain in your 30s or 40s than your 70s. Whatever your age, part of the un-fulfillment you might be feeling is because the big things just sit on a distant horizon and never get any closer. You need to pick a before-I-die goal, pick a date (even if it’s a year or two out) and start planning, saving, and/or training for it NOW. Our lives are short and precious, leave nothing important undone.
- Why am I asking this question now? You Google-searched for this question (or are just a fan or friend of mine) — why? Are you fed up with the way things are going? Have you been trying to make changes but still feel far from your goals? The important thing is to feel empowered — this is a great moment. As soon as you start really looking at your life, you may get depressed, scared, and feel hopelessness. But the important thing to know is that this is an important first step that some people never take. You are now officially on the road to your dreams.
- Am I ready to be bold? There’s a saying, “Are you really happy or just really comfortable?” You have come to this place by your choices; some parts of your life work great and some need to be switched or fixed. But if you are at the point of knowing you need a change, then realize you really have nothing to lose. Start by cleaning your house and giving some things away, then make that bucket list plan, then start seeing what parts of your life make you happy and what things need to go. Envision your dream and walk toward it.
June 2015 update: Please visit my site ‘How To Come Alive‘ if you’d like to learn the 25 things that have helped me most in achieving my dreams.