“I don’t want to waste any more time.”
I hear that over and over from the clients I coach. They don’t want to waste their time. Their talents. Their happiness.
In other words: They don’t want to waste their life.
All that makes perfect sense.
Here’s what doesn’t make sense to lots of the folks around them: My clients do not look like they’re wasting their life. They’re successful in their work; they’ve got people who love and admire them. Many of them have families. They are accomplished and often exceptionally capable. They hold high standards for themselves, so what they deem “wasting” of time might look like a pretty successful life to the outside observer.
And yet, we work together because they’ve reached a point where they can no longer tolerate any more wasting of time. This is what fascinates me—how we each define “wasting” time.
We all have different ways of finding fulfillment in life. And no amount of accomplishment, achievement, or acquiring will satisfy if you’re seeking fulfillment in a way that’s not aligned with what really matters to you.
What’s a dream come true to one person is a nightmare to another. For example, most people dream of having children; their life would not be complete were they not able to do so. For me, it’s the opposite. I don’t want to birth children; I want to birth ideas. This often confuses people who do want kids. Many a well meaning person has assured me with great sincerity, “Don’t worry, you still have time.”
As humans, we have this habit of assuming that others want the same things we want. We view people who have what we want as being successful. Without realizing, we often judge others who aren’t pursuing a path we value and we envy those who are doing the things we really want to do, but are too afraid to admit to ourselves.
Why? Because we’re human people and that’s what humans do.
The good news is that we get to choose how we navigate it all.
Impractically speaking: How to not waste your life
Before we dive into the practical/tactical of how-not-to-waste-your-life-ness, we need to talk about the impractical, as it often gets in the way first.
In my experience, we often end up pursuing paths that don’t fulfill us because the path that would fulfill us seems impractical. How would we be successful? How would we make a living? How would we [insert any number of very practical questions]? These relentless questions that fill us with doubt come from our Clever Brain, what I call the internal source of all our perceived fear. Not real fear, like the kind that protects our physical survival. It’s all about perceived fear, the kind that is all in your head, but feels just as real.
One of Clever Brain’s favorite tactics is to get us stuck in the how. Then we get discouraged and choose a more practical path instead.
Which may seem fine for a while. Or 20 years.
We keep busy. We get tired. We know there’s more, but Clever Brain does it’s best to keep us distracted, rushing through a slow death, every day that we don’t honor what matters to us. Every day that we forsake our truth because it’s just not practical.
We don’t carry on like this because we love the practical.
We stay the course because we’re terrified of our impractical dreams.
And we misinterpret that fear as a sign to stop or turn away from that which scares us most.
That’s where we waste our time—being afraid of who we are and what we want.
That’s also where we waste our superpowers—our brilliance that we talk ourselves out of sharing with the world.
And that, my Dears, is a waste for everyone.
No one wins but your fear. More accurately, your Clever Brain.
Please don’t let it get the best of you.
The world needs your best more.
Practically speaking: How not to waste your life
OK, so now let’s talk about the practical/tactical. If you’ve read this far and know in the core of your being that this applies to you, let’s talk next right steps.
1 // Get curious about what makes you feel most alive
Try to remember the last time you felt truly alive. Where you where exactly where you wanted to be, doing exactly the thing you want to be doing, with exactly the people you were meant to be with. What was happening?
Before your Clever Brain dismisses it as an impractical thing to incorporate into your daily life or the way you make a living, write it down. Do not should or how all over it.
2 // Think about what you most want to give
Consider what you nerd out about. What you love to talk about. What you wish someone would ask you to give of yourself. Five years ago, I just wanted to share my obsession with all matters commonly referred to as self-improvement. I wanted to have a book club about self-help books (P/S still do). I want people to ask me for advice and recommendations. I wanted them to want to read what I had to say about it. And I wanted it to mean something to them.
But five years ago, that shit terrified me and seems woefully impractical. I hadn’t yet caught on to my Clever Brain’s tactics. That was OK. Because it was an important first-ish step in moving toward that which scared me most.
3 // Get clear on what you’d regret most
Is it having children and creating a family of your own? Is it not expressing your truth and being your true self? Is it not making a big difference in the world? Is it not exploring the unknown and traveling the world?
There may be multiple things you’d regret, but challenge yourself to dig down to the one that, without having done it, would feel like your life was incomplete.
P/S If this is hurting your brain, I actually made a quiz that will help.
4 // Talk to someone you can trust with your truth
This is key, my Dear. Do not talk this through with someone who isn’t ready to hear it and listen with an open mind. This may mean that you don’t initially share details with your spouse or your best friend or your family. Not right away. It may mean that you seek out a professional.
The important thing is that you don’t try to work this all out yourself. You have blind spots. Because you’re a human person and that’s a thing we all have. You also have a limited view point. Again, because you’re human. So it’s really important that you share your truth, get different perspectives, and be reminded that you’re not alone, you’re not crazy, and you get to choose.
5 // Give yourself permission to be curious and not know what’s going to happen
When you admit to yourself that you’re not on a fulfilling path and that there’s something you really want to do that also terrifies you, your Clever Brain will kick it into high gear. It will flood your mind with all-or-nothing kinds of thoughts, like, “Oh, does this mean I have to quit my job? Will I need to move? Will the people I love hate me?” Fret not, my Dear. Let those thoughts come up. Let them be.
Focus on giving yourself permission to follow your curiosity and to not have the answers. Enjoy exploring. Go nuts with Google. Let your imagination run. Sketch. Write. Have conversations with yourself. Try on ideas and possibilities.
Remember that you are the Captain of your ship; you get to decide what’s right for you, when it’s right for you. You get to choose.
What’s never wasted
I don’t think any path we go down is wasted if we choose to learn from it and use it in service of what we’re really here to do. We might need to spend some years exploring and trying the “practical” path just to make sure that it doesn’t work for us. We cannot know these things before we know them. I don’t see any advantage to shitting or shouldn’t on yourself about it. Look instead to how it can help you now.
It takes a lot of courage to explore beyond what you know right now. It takes being brave over and over again. Maybe thousands of times, which sounds daunting. You don’t have to worry about that right now. And you don’t have to sort this all out on your own.
I’ve become the person I wish I had five years ago. I’ve learned so much from walking this path myself and helping others do the same. Using my experience and pain in service of others is what matters most to me. Sitting across from someone, hearing their truth and listening to their dreams, is when I feel most alive. And nothing is more fulfilling to me than helping someone bravely take steps toward giving what they’re on this planet to give.
There’s a thing I do with people—to help them get clear on their purpose and the life they most want to live. It’s called a Spark Session and I will continue to gift them to those who can best be served by for a limited time.
F your Clever Brain, my Dear. The world needs you.