Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Design Your Own Life

Here are some questions for you to ponder.

  • What kind of life are you living today?
  • How did you get to this place in your life journey?
  • Who guided you to the life you are living?
  • How big a role did you play in designing your life?
  • Why didn't you do all the designing for your life?
  • Why don't you do a complete Life Design Makeover?
  • When will you design your own life?
  • What's holding you back or stopping you?

I'm not going to answer these questions for you. Only you know the answers. You may think you're exactly where you want to be in your life. If you are, great! You're one out of seven plus billion who is. Maybe you think you are living a very well designed life. But, are you? If you have to think about it, then you most likely aren't. Have you ever taken the time to visualize what your perfect life would be like? Perhaps, like most people, you don't believe you have the time to do such contemplation.

I listened to an interesting podcast last week and one of the topics that really struck me as I was walking my three to four miles was about designing our own lives. In my mind, I want to believe I designed my own life. In my heart of hearts, I know I only lived part of the life I would have designed for myself. Why is that? The reason is actually very simple. We are taught from a very early age that we must do our best to please others, not upset the apple cart and color inside the lines.

So, who are the people who actually design our lives? They are typically those we are closest to such as immediate and extended family members; religious leaders, if we are raised in and remain connected to an organized religious or spiritual group; teachers and college professors, who we trust to teach us what we need to know to survive in the world; and friends. We also may be influenced by our pediatricians or family doctors and others who take various degrees of personal interest in each of us. Additionally, when we enter the world of work, whether as teenagers or after we complete whatever level of school we choose to, our employer and the various levels of managers, supervisors and even peers will all have influence over the design of our lives.

There are others who will also have, more or less, significance in designing our lives. For the most part, everyone of them, even employers, to varying degrees, have our best interest in mind. That's why they guide us in the “right direction” according to their own life experience and personal belief systems. It's probably important to note that few, if any, of these people actually designed their own lives. In one way we might say we have “the blind leading the blind.” How can someone know what you want or how you would design your life when they aren't living a life they designed for themselves?

Everyday I Learn More and More About Less and Less Until One Day I'll Know Everything About Nothing!

Maybe you've heard that before. I remember my father reciting that to me on several occasions when I was a youngster. It was confusing to me back then. One day, many years later, as an adult, I remembered him saying that to me. Like a bolt of lightning, it struck me and I understood exactly what he was saying. Today, that is one of my mantras. It took me a long time to realize how little I really know about so much and since there is more knowledge evolving everyday, I know less and less.

Why is this important? Because one of the things most of us live with, yet don't realize it, is that we mostly don't know what we don't know. Okay, I know it sounds like I'm talking in riddles, but I'm really not. We live our lives designed by other people because . . . that's the way most all people live their lives. Since we don't know what we don't know about life, the future, what our passions may be, what we don't really like, but accept anyway and so much more, we simply believe that those influential people in our lives know best. Thus, we unconsciously accept their influence and that ultimately becomes the design of our life.

If you have children, have you ever found yourself telling them something or, perhaps, lecturing them because they did something you considered wrong? Here's the next part of that . . . have you, all of a sudden, said to yourself as you're lecturing, “that's my father/mother talking, not me. I'm turning into that person.” Almost every parent I know has had this experience.

Is this wrong? Is it wrong to be guided and influenced by these people who have your best interest in mind? Of course it's not! But, there's a differentiation we need to make. Are we accepting and assuming this guidance and influence for the basic educational, moral and ethical values? Or, are we assimilating and adopting them as the design for our lives? There is a difference. As children and young people our minds are like sponges and we soak up everything presented to us. That's one reason our parents attempt to control the sources of this input.

When we become young adults and we think we're in control of our lives, we don't necessarily assimilate or adopt information as readily, we become more selective. When we become mature people (I'm using mature rather than old or elderly) and our minds have been atrophying for a decade or more. We are more resistant to many kinds of change. It so bothers me to hear people in their 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's say, “I'm to old to learn how to use a computer.” We all know that's hogwash, right? You couldn't have just read that statement if you weren't using some kind of computing device. We stop learning when we're dead – or we're dead when we stop learning.

Don't Upset the Status Quo, You Have A Role To Play In Society

There you have it. You have a role to play in society. Therefore, you need to follow the dots in this design for your life. You don't get to actually create the dots because they might not come out looking like what society wants. But, that raises another important question. Whose life is it anyway?

Remember, you and I believe we're in control of our lives. We believe we're actually following a design we created for ourselves. Yes! We may have actually decided we wanted to be a carpenter, a doctor, a minister/rabbi or some other religious or spiritual leader or whatever else we might be doing. But, many of us really didn't make some of those choices.

From some research I've done, when we choose a mate, we most often choose someone who has at least some of the qualities of our father or mother, depending on our own gender. We will evolve from our parents, yet, 20, 30, 40 years down the road we often find we're actually in a very similar place to where our parents may have been. To a certain degree, who we select as a mate may be part of the design of our life guided and influenced by the external people.

One thing we have to be very careful of is not upsetting that apple cart. Everyone who has influence over us and guides us wants us to make the right choices. But, subliminally (and sometimes quite overtly) they believe they know what's right for us and guide us into that path. Usually, that path is safe and doesn't involve coloring outside the lines or breaking out of the box. That's too risky. The so-called “black sheep” in many families are the individuals who choose to design their own lives and live on their own terms. They are mavericks. They aren't conforming to the values everyone believes are the “right” values.

The Dinosaur And The College Girl

Last night my phone rang. It was an incoming call from Montclair, New Jersey according to the caller ID. I wasn't quick enough to put the pieces together, so I answered. Instantly, I knew this should have gone to voice-mail. It was a sweet sounding young college girl calling from my alma mater. No! Sweet, young, college girls don't call me, someone old enough to be their grandfather, just for casual conversation. She was calling because it was pledge time for alumni. She wanted to shake me down, to put it bluntly.

I knew the drill. I even knew the script because I was on the President's (college president), special fund raising team when I was a student at my alma mater. I helped in fund drives for my graduate school alma mater, also, after I left the university. I did telephone solicitations for that school. So, I had the inside track. She started off with the usual small talk, building rapport questions. What she didn't know is I knew how to derail her. Her call was supposed to take three to five minutes. She opened the door and I stepped through and took control of the call.

I won't go into details, but what she wanted to know initially was how I used my degree I earned from her university nearly 50 years earlier. Thus, by relating this information I'd know how important that education was to me. I immediately took her down my actual career path. It had nothing to do with my degree from that school, nor, for that matter, did the graduate degree I earned from a major university.

She was blown away by just a brief part of my resume. She was blown away more when she realized I was the founder of the radio station on the campus that she listened to. When she tried to tell me that to really be successful you have to have a degree, I told her about my son's success story, earning as much or in some cases more than the MBA's from Ivy League universities working along side him at one of the most respected global consulting firms. He doesn't have a college degree.

Let me cut this story short. It's really not about me or my son or even the sweet young college girl. I turned her three to five minute call into a half hour lesson on designing her own life just as my son had done and Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and a long list of others. While it wasn't my intention to dissuade her from completing her education, she did, now, have another perspective on life and the future and the concept that she really could design her own life any way she wanted it to be.

No! She didn't get a donation from me. I tithe and donate my time (more valuable than money) to things I believe in. At this stage of my life, I need to preserve any money for my future. But, I'll bet she talks to some of her friends about this wacky dinosaur she got on the phone. And, I did refer to myself as such to illustrate where she is and I once was and where I am and where she'll be one day, most likely.

It's Never Too Late

It's never too late to take control of your own destiny and design your own life. What would your perfect life look like? So, why not go after it? You already know it's simply a choice. Your choice! Sure! It might not seem conceivable and if that's what you want to keep telling yourself and believing, you're right! Napoleon Hill, in his timeless best selling book, Think and Grow Rich, said, “Anything the mind can conceive it can achieve.” You define the work 'rich' in any terms you, again, choose.

Why can't you design your own life? Don't use age as an excuse. That's simply a chronological number you can use as an excuse or as an advantage. Again, it's your choice. Are there obstacles? If there weren't any you wouldn't be human. So, you simply find a way to go around them, over them, under them or bore straight through them. What happens if you die in the process? News Flash! You're going to die – anyway. Why not die living your dream and the life you've designed.

How do you start? Just do it. Start! Remember good ole Lao Tzu's admonition, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” When should you start? There's never a better time than the present. Why should you design your own life? You tell me. I'm busy designing mine and I know my why. I can't know your why.

Share your dreams and thoughts with me and the other readers. We all need your inspiration because we're all part of the family who chooses to live free. Leave a comment here on the blog or on the Living Free Facebook fan page or on Google + I'd even appreciate a +1 from you.

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