I have to buy my holiday gifts. I have to work out. I have to do laundry. I have to make a certain amount of money to feel successful. I have to be married by a certain age to feel worthy. I have to have children soon. Those “have to’s” are a mouthful that choke us with every breath. It is a mountain that can never be climbed rather than a journey that brings us joy and wisdom.
We have all heard the statement, “life is short,” so live. But why don’t we listen? We spend hours making lists and sleepless nights trying to mentally complete our tasks before the sun has even risen. We race through life trying to get from point A to B and we never stop to ask if this is what we really want. Do you want to have children? Do you want to be married? Do you want to continue on your current career path?
I have a client who was miserable with her career. She knew the work was not fulfilling, but she felt she needed to stick it out unless she had a “legitimate” excuse to leave. She was feeling pressured because all of her friends were having children and she suddenly saw having a child as a way out of her job. She never actually stopped to ask herself if this was what she truly wanted, but she believed she “had to have a child soon anyway.” She gave birth to a beautiful baby boy and although she loves him deeply, he could not fill the void in her life. When she recognized that her happiness had nothing to do with keeping up with her friends, she finally learned what made HER happy.
Close your eyes and picture yourself happy. Where are you? What are you doing? Who are you with? How do you feel? Take a deep breath. Open your eyes. Write down what you saw. This is your start. How can you bring more of this feeling into your life now? What can you get rid of and what do you need to bring in?
It is undeniable; there are tasks that need to get done that may not be enjoyable. Who looks forward to laundry and errands? But this should be a small part of your life, not your entire existence. When your list includes being married by a certain age and making a certain amount of money because a friend does, this list is for your friend not for you.
This mentality forces you to enter a race and, in truth, you may not even want to participate. You are just competing against friends, coworkers and family to get to the finish line first. But what are you really racing to? Why do we need to rush life? We are not standing still if we take some time to figure out our career. We are not missing our opportunity if we wait to meet the right partner. We are molding a life that works for us.
We live in a chaotic world filled with obligations, but it is also filled with potential. We each have a unique purpose and a gift to share and we all have the right to be happy. We need to grow and learn and be challenged, but we also need to learn to be flexible. Oftentimes happiness is found in life left unplanned.
Today try burning the list and starting over. Banish the words “have to” and replace them with “want to.” Instead of looking to your neighbor to define your life goals, ask your most trusted confidant for advice by looking inward.
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