“What do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Suppose a stranger stopped you on the street and asked you this question posed by psychologist and poet Mary Oliver. What a wonderful thing to be able to respond that you would spend your life exactly as you spent your day.
Your answer could be anything: doing work you love, find caring for and giving love to your family, shop contributing to your community or the world, creating art, building a business, climbing mountains, making music. Anything. The key is that how you lived today is how you would choose to live tomorrow and the next day and the next.
For some, the life they live day to day is not the life they would describe if they were asked Mary Oliver’s question. Instead, they might use phrases such as: “As soon as…” or “I’d like to…” or “I used to dream…” while explaining a daily life tangled up in too many demands and never enough time or energy to get to the things that matter most.
According to Jinny Ditzler, author of Your Best Year Yet, what drives most of us is the ambition to improve the quality of our lives while being true to ourselves and what’s really important to us. She writes that, “Although we may not be conscious of these basic motivations as we live day to day, these hidden drives are the strongest in our lives. The more conscious we are of them, the more we can empower ourselves to make the necessary changes in our lives.”
Values are personal principles or standards—those qualities that are most important to us. A life based on values rather than reacting to others’ needs and wants or the acquisition of material things enables us to live in integrity with ourselves. This is how to create a rich and fulfilling life.
Identifying your values can be as simple as asking yourself how you want to be remembered by others. As a person who cared about others, who made a difference in the world, who kept promises, who was self-actualized, honest, trustworthy. Think of the qualities you most admire in others; these may be the values you claim for yourself.
Once you become aware of your values, you can begin to restructure your life. With your values as your touchstone, you can create and live the life you really want, achieve your goals and realize your dreams.
Within the boundaries of your values:
- Become clear on what you really want. Be specific; vague and undefined goals are difficult if not impossible to achieve.
- Commit to give what it takes. Saying “yes” to one thing means saying “no” to another. Acknowledge and accept what you must give up to get what you want.
- Recommit to your goals every day. Begin your day by reminding yourself what your priorities are. Be mindful as you go through your day that you are making choices.
- Do something every day. No matter how small, take some action toward achieving your goals. Remind yourself that a book is written word by word, a marathon run step by step.
An old Chinese proverb goes “If we don’t change our direction we are likely to end up where we are going.” If you’re caught up in a lifestyle that’s not the one that you would choose, choose again.
Author’s content used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications