Do you ever notice yourself fantasizing about living a different life than you’re living now? How did your life unfold to be the life that you are living now?
Like I mentioned in the last post, I think you are the director of this movie that is your life. So, you get to choose the scenes, the actions, the actors, the dialogue, the wardrobe and the plot line!
Is this bringing up any resistance for you? Can you hear yourself saying, “yeah.. But…”
Let’s discuss this!
I remember years ago I would frequently have the experience of driving to work on my morning commute and noticing the people waiting at the bus stop or walking on the sidewalk. I imagined they were going to work too and I imagined that their lives must be more simple, and therefore more enjoyable than my life. I was thinking something along the lines of it must be so nice to work at a job within walking distance and just take a leisurely walk in the morning and not even need a car if you don’t want one. Their jobs must be so clear cut – go, do the work, then go home and enjoy life.No drama, no office politics, no stressing about work after getting home, etc.
Now as I’m looking back about what I was thinking, I see so many errors in my thinking!
I thought they must have had it easy because what I imagined their circumstances were (what job they had, where they lived, how they got to work) and I thought I had it hard because of my circumstances (what job I had, where I lived, how I got to work) – but now I realize, I had it hard because of what I was thinking about my circumstances. I had it hard because of my resistance to my commute – not because I had a commute.
I had it hard because of my thoughts about the people I worked with, not because of the people I worked with.
Do you see that subtle, but important difference?
A few months ago I was re-reading my own writing from years earlier (thanks past self for writing this novel for me.. It’s a pretty good story!), and I came across a description of an event that I had completely forgotten about- but when I re-read it, I still remembered when I had the realization – even though I can’t remember what the girl looked like who I’m about to tell you about. The realization I wrote that day was this:
“I can do anything I want. I can create whatever lifestyle I want.”
Over the years, I’ve translated that realization into the mantra: Life is the story I tell myself.
Here’s the Story
One day, I met a woman at work from a different department in a different city. When I met her, I thought she had a certain persona, a personal brand- a way of dressing and talking, her tone of voice, her word choice – I noticed it all. I noticed the way she talked about her education, her previous jobs and her current job. I thought she was very sophisticated. She had an important (to me) sounding title, her clothes and shoes were beautiful. She was completely put together. And, she was super smart.
During the conversation, she offhandedly mentioned that she came from a very rural environment, I assumed from the comments she made about where she grew up and the people in her home town that she thought they were “white trash” (I wish there was a better description than that – I don’t like it- but that’s the most descriptive way I know to say it) anyhow, she was talking about these people that she grew up with and went to school with, and I got the idea she wouldn’t want to spend any time with them and wouldn’t want to stay connected with them.
This sophisticated, educated, professional woman was anything but white trash. So, I was imagining the internal journey she must have taken from the environment that she came from to the person she had created herself into. She created her current reality for herself. She cultivated the impressive job, the cosmopolitan city she lived in, the education, the beautiful clothes, hair & make up, the sophisticated hobbies- everything and that was the image she portrayed.
I realized she was an example of someone who can do anything she wants. She can create whatever lifestyle she wanted for herself.
I was both surprised and judgy about that realization. I was surprised to realize it was possible, a person can just decide they don’t want to see themselves as coming from a “poor, rural or uneducated upbringing?” Yeah! They can!
When I applied that to myself, I realized that all the things I thought about myself that I thought were true, didn’t have to be. I get to tell myself the story about myself that I want to tell.
I also found myself being a little judgy in that moment, I kind of felt like I could see through her.. Like, wait a second, I know where you’re from, I know how you grew up.. You don’t just get to move to San Francisco and get a fancy job and wear beautiful clothes and chic accessories.
“Oh really? Is that so, Bex? I get to judge her on what she’s decided to wear and where she’s decided to live? I’m deciding if she’s real or fake- NO WAY. She decides! “
It’s none of my business and it has nothing to do with me! So then I had to laugh at myself for my completely off-the-mark judgements – but even noticing how wrong I was in that bitchy moment reinforced to me that I AND you AND she AND each one of us really does get to create the life we want for ourselves – no matter what anyone else thinks.
That example with the coworker illuminates the thought error I had been thinking that my life had to be the way it was and that it couldn’t be another way.
I Can Choose
Now I know, I can choose however I want my life to be – no matter what I’ve already done, planned, bought, or decided on before.
I can choose who I want to be – no matter who I was in the past. Or who I am right now. I can create the life that I want – even if it’s 100% different from the life I am living now, or 1000 times different than the way I saw life as I was growing up, or a million times different than the life my parents wanted for me, or “society” told me I should want.
What about you? Are you living the life you want? Or, are some parts of your life, parts that you just inherited, and kept without considering?
Are there any parts of your life that you did want 15 years ago, but you don’t really want now?
Are there any parts of your life that you’ve always wanted for yourself, but haven’t made a part of your REAL life yet?
What would you do differently?
Have you ever heard the question: “If you knew then, what you know now.. What would you do differently?”
I love this question so much because when people answer it, they think they have so much wisdom and experience and perspective that they didn’t have when they were younger.
Let’s try it right now! Think about a time when you felt like your whole life was ahead of you- maybe when you were 18, or 15 or whatever.
And now, consider what you know now, in your current age.. And if you apply that knowledge to yourself when you were that previous age.. What would be different?
What different choices would you make?
What different risks would you take? What different goals would you have?
So, in this hypothetical question people think they can apply all that wisdom, experience and perspective to their younger self and get a different outcome than what they have right now. That’s all true- hypothetically. And, it’s also actually true right now!
You can apply all the wisdom, experience and perspective to your life right now to do whatever you want to do!
You don’t have to be 18 again.. you can just start again right now!
If you consider what you know now, in your current age.. And if you apply that knowledge to yourself right now. -knowing that your whole life is still ahead of you- . What can be different? What different choices can you make starting today?
What different risks can you take? What different goals can you have?
This reminds me of a conversation and experience I had with my friend Connie. We had just celebrated her 50th birthday about 6 months before and she had quit her long-term, well-established professional job and given up her amazing San Diego apartment to move across the country and start a new career. As she made her roadtrip across the US, she stopped in Arizona to visit me. I specifically remember sitting on the couch with her in my living room and talking about her future plans.
I had gone through a major career transition a little before that and I remember talking to her and getting the feeling like we were both 18 years old again and talking about our plans for the future.
Everything seemed ahead of us, everything seemed possible, we didn’t have to decide or nail anything down or be sure of anything- it was all available. And, even better than when we were 18.. We had so much insight and maturity that we most likely didn’t have at 18. Plus, we have so many more resources now that we didn’t have back then, like the internet and smartphones and GPS.. and podcasts!
I loved that carefree conversation we had that day, I literally felt like I was 18 again with my whole life ahead of me to decide what I would make my life into.
Why is life the way it is?
Who decided where I would work and live and who I would be?
Why is your life the way it is right now? Who decided where you would work? Where would you live? And who you would be?
My guess is that each of those answers is a thought. And thoughts are optional. And can be changed.
Thoughts that don’t serve you, that don’t get you the results that you want can be discarded and replaced.
So, back to me. If there’s something I don’t like about myself or that I wish was different about me- could I change it?
The answer has to be yes.
Now, immediately I hear my own resistance to this idea. Like, “Oh yeah? I can change my height?” for example?
First of all, I have heard of people’s height changing because of extreme things like surgery, or aging or because of really basic reasons like better posture or wearing high heels- but I’m not suggesting you would change your height if that’s the thing you don’t like about yourself. I am suggesting you would change the thought “I don’t like my height. Or the thought “my height means (fill in the blank with whatever you make it mean).”
And, again, the whole point is not really about changing your physical circumstances specifically, although that is available if you want to live somewhere else or weigh less or have more muscles or something like that. The whole point is for you to think about these questions:
What are you currently doing out of comfort?
Out of familiarity?
Out of fear?
What are you currently doing because of lack of awareness of your options?
Let’s do a resistance check right now.
As you were reading those last few questions, the “mind in you” or your Ego may have been screaming: “but I HAVE TO – this is the way it is, this is the way I am – this ca not change!”
And my response to that is.. Maybe, but maybe not. Maybe you don’t have to. Maybe this is one way it is, but it could also be another way. Maybe you are the way you are because of your own thoughts and beliefs.. And those can change. Maybe, everything can change.
Is that open to consideration? Could you just try on that possibility for a minute and see?
If you’re still feeling resistance to that possibility, I wonder what that resistance is doing for you- is it protecting you, is it conserving energy? Is it keeping things familiar for you?
Sometimes I talk to people about this idea, and I tell them, you can do whatever you want in your life. You can have whatever you want! And they say “I don’t know what I want.”
2 Suggestions to Try
The first way is probably easy. You can probably do this immediately:
Ask yourself- what you currently have that you don’t want.
What about your current life do you NOT like. Easy right?
Most people can tell me 10 things immediately that they don’t like about their life – their job, their weight, how they feel, where they live, their relationship (or lack thereof) how broke they are, their stress, their guilt, their overwhelm, their boredom.
Maybe as I listed those, a few of them (or maybe all of them) applied to you. That’s great news! Because as soon as you know what you don’t want, you also know what you do want.
If someone says I don’t want to be this weight and I don’t want to work at this job and I don’t want to feel stressed and guilty all the time, we can guess that she does want to be a different weight, working at a different job, feeling peaceful and confident all the time.
That is the movie she wants to be in. That’s the story she can start telling herself. And that’s the life that she wants!
The 2nd way for you to find out what you want is to be curious and exploratory:
I love this because it engages your imagination and it’s so open and full of possibility. I used this technique when I was going through a little bit of an identity crisis and I knew I wanted something else for myself, I wanted to find my purpose- but I was stuck.
And the previous technique I just mentioned didn’t work for me because when I asked myself what I didn’t like about myself, it was my feeling of purposelessness – so that told me I wanted purpose- but what was it- I had no idea!
So, by being exploratory and curious and open, I figured it out.
I’m going to go into specific detail about how working with a coach and creating an exercise for myself helped me. If you’re curious about this- make sure you check for the next post where I’ll explain how I figured it out for myself.
Great things to Know
You just learned 2 ways that you can figure out what you might want your life to be like. There are 2 great things about all of this –
#1 – you’re not writing this in stone! You can write all of this in pencil, so to speak.
You can choose something right now, start working towards it, start trying it on, and, if it doesn’t fit, or if it’s not exactly right for you, you can change, pivot, tweak, alter.. Whatever!
#2 – you don’t have to decide all at once and have a completely figured out plan and persona that you’d be ready to wake up as one morning and step into.
You could just decide on one element of your life that you want to create for yourself. Or one part of your life that you want to change. Or one personality trait that you want to develop for yourself, then, just start working on that one by itself and let other things fall into place naturally.
Kitchen Island Example
My husband and I would use it as a drop off place for mail, keys, stuff, dishes, basically everything. And I hated how it looked. It always looked cluttered and messy and disorganized. It made me feel sloppy. I want to be the kind of person who has a beautiful home, and that kitchen island was cramping my style.
So, I decided I wanted to be the kind of person who always had a clear, clean kitchen island. So, one day, I moved everything off the kitchen island and decided it would always be that way.
And now, whenever I see stuff on it, I always immediately move it off – I probably drive my husband crazy by always moving his keys and his phone. I don’t necessarily put things away or in their place, (sometimes I do) but my main thing is keeping that kitchen island bare- so, as soon as I get home, I’ll move mail we haven’t dealt with to the table. And I’ll move dirty dishes to the counter by the sink, and I’ll move my husband’s keys and wallet to the coffee table – and that kitchen island stays clean – at least while I’m around.
Eventually, I plan to be the kind of person who’s whole kitchen countertops and even the table in the breakfast nook stay clean and bare – but for now, I’ve got the kitchen island.
Tiny or Major Makeovers?
So, is there one tiny area in your life that you want to makeover? Is there a personality trait you’d like to develop for yourself?
Or maybe there’s a major life change you’d like to make? Different city? Different job? Different relationship status?
Whatever it is.. You can do it! You can be whoever you want to be! You can be the person who has a clean kitchen island and you can be the chic, sophisticated business professional who lives in San Francisco and travels for work.
Anything you want, you got it!
Earlier I told you 2 ways that you can figure out what you want: one way is to figure out what you don’t want, then think of the opposite of it and the other way is to be curious and exploratory.
Then, when you’ve decided what you do want, Write it Down!
Write it down so you can see it and read it to yourself – but also write it down so you can see it and invite any resistance to come up! And, resistance will come. You’ll think of reasons why what you wrote isn’t a good idea, why it’s not possible, why you shouldn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t.
You’ll think of other people and what they’ll think. You’ll think of how your life is now and what will have to change, and how hard that will be or how much time or money that will take.
Of course! Invite all that resistance to come up and reveal itself. Then, you can address each piece of resistance and release it. Some of your resistance might be thoughts – that’s great! Thoughts are optional and you can refute them or discard them and replace them with different thoughts.
Some resistance might be based on your circumstances , for example, you might want to be married in the story you’re telling yourself, but you’re not currently dating anyone. Or, you may want to work in a different field, but you don’t currently have the qualifications to get hired in that field. Good to know! So, dating, or getting those qualifications would be steps you take in creating the life you want for yourself. You can create an action plan for yourself to get you on track to the life you want for yourself.
Anything you want, you can take the actions to create it for yourself. Anything you want, you got it.
And I’ve got you! If you want to be coached through this, if you want to release your resistance to becoming someone else, let’s talk!
Life is the story you tell yourself! Let’s find out what story you’re currently telling yourself and what story you wish you were telling yourself and find the path between those two.
Life really is the story you tell yourself
Please share your thoughts and your reactions. Do you see how you’re the director of your own movie? Or are there some very real and specific reasons why this isn’t true for you?