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The world of self-help is inundated with messages about GOING BIG and DREAMING BIG…BE ADVENTUROUS…and it got me wondering when did big get to be the line which we measured our happiness?
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Show Notes/Partial Transcript:
A few months ago, I had a new client come into my office. We were talking about her life and the changes she wanted to make. And she said to me, “I get so discouraged when I see those Pinterest quotes…want my life to be that…you know…’live your big dreams’, ‘go BIG or go Home’ etc.” “I feel like life passed me by and I want to do something BIG.” “I want to chase my BIG dreams, move to Paris, be a graphic designer”. But I missed my chance.
As we talked, she shared that a big regret was not finishing her degree in design, she was happily married and her kids were old enough that she didn’t need to be around ALL THE TIME.
Which left her with a lot of time to think and ponder what’s next. In short, She was feeling lost and overlooked and when she looked on-line for answers the answer was GO BIG.
The world of self-help is inundated with messages about GOING BIG and DREAMING BIG…BE ADVENTUROUS…and it got me wondering when did big get to be the line which we measured our happiness? Through our work together, we talked about the definition of the word BIG and what that meant for her and how that would show up in her life.
Eventually her BIG dreams got clearer–and it turned out that they weren’t so big anymore. She realized what she really wanted was to show up in her life. She had lived for everyone else for so many years and that had created a great life…but now she wanted to live her life.
The cry of moving to Paris seemed like an easier way to blow it all up than the slow painstaking approach of showing up. Turns out the BIG change was making small little choices to show up every single day. So over time we worked on helping her speak up in her relationship and start showing up in small ways in her life (asking for what she needed, saying no and setting boundaries).
She finished her degree in graphic design and working for a small start-up Marketing company doing design work part time. At least that is what GOING BIG means for her –dreams, gusto and adventure all change over time. She said to me recently, “I feel WAY more adventurous now than if I had moved, because showing up fully in my life is hard… someday I might want to do something BIG AND BOLD and CRAZY with my husband but when that time comes I know I will be not be moving in search of something I am moving simply to see something different.”
Sometimes when life gets challenging and we don’t know what to do next…the temptation is to Blow it All Up…but that point of thinking maybe blowing it up isn’t the answer, is when the real adventure begins. I remember in my early 30s, I too wanted to live the Pinterest quotes (although there was no pinterest at that time).
But I wanted to do something big with my life. I traveled to Peru with a group of strangers, I drove solo across country twice (once to the east coast and once to the west coast). Finally I decided I wanted to move to Portland, Oregon, I wanted to take a BIG BOLD ADVENTURE.
One day while a friend and I were driving around Portland, touring to see if it was a good idea to move there. I pointed at the back of a car and said, “I can’t wait until I have an Oregon license plate on my car because THEN I will be happy. THEN I will know that I have lived my big adventure.” She simply smiled and nodded.
Over time, like my client I realized that living my big adventure had nothing to with moving to Portland (although it is still one of my favorite cities). The adventure of Portland wasn’t going to ‘fix’ me. The adventure of Portland was just that, an adventure. But another, equally adventurous decision was to stay in Columbus and show up for my life. To learn how to speak my needs to my friends and family, to set healthy boundaries and stop saying yes to everything, to fully show up in my life as me…vulnerable, imperfect me. Because in Portland I would still be me—different city, same baggage.
A few years after I decided not to move to Portland, my friend gave me a present…it was an Oregon license plate.
As I opened it I smiled and she looked at me and said, “Just wanted to remind you that THIS license plate isn’t what makes you happy, You make you happy.” That license plate sits at the Live Happier Loft to remind me every day that for me GOING BIG means fully SHOWING up for my life. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good adventure. I love big risk taking, adrenaline pumping adventures. But somewhere along the way we were sold a bill of good that adventure and risk is directly correlated to being better people. That a great life is only achieved by living great adventures which means taking big risks and doing great things.
But I am here to argue, sometimes doing big means,
Being fully present and empathetic when your child comes home from a bad day when you are exhausted yourself.
Telling your spouse that you are struggling and need some time to decompress. Even after you were invited to a neighbor’s happy hour and he really wants you to go.
Holding the hand of your aging parent, looking them in the eyes and telling them how much you love them as you heart breaks wide open.
Admitting to a friend that you can’t do it all anymore.
Giving yourself self-compassion for the hard time you are having at work.
One quote that gets tossed around in the world of Pinterest is from Thoreau “I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life”
What I truly love is Professor Keating’s clarification of Thoreau’s quote in Dead Poet’s society. “Sucking the marrow out of life doesn’t mean choking on the bone. There is a time for daring, and there is a time for caution. A wise man understands which is called for.” That is the challenge of vulnerability, trusting yourself to know when to be open and when to be cautious.
The point is we have a choice.
Our lives aren’t necessarily Pinterest quotes. But our lives are uniquely ours. How do you want to show up in yours?
Today think about where could you be more open to life, where could you tear down some walls and allow some light in? Where could you drop the illusion of control and relax a bit into your humanity?
Weekly Ritual Segment:
One thing that has really helped me Live Happier is adding regular ritual practices to my daily life so each week I am going to be sharing a ritual with you and challenge you to complete it
This week’s ritual: Before you go to bed: Name 5 things for which you are most grateful that happened that day.
This practice has been a life changer for me. It helps me process the day in a different way. Rather than worrying about everything that I have to do or didn’t get done it allows me to see everything that made me feel happy throughout the day. But more importantly, it has become a way for me to bring awareness to my day throughout the day as I intentionally collect the moments for which I am most grateful. As you lie in bed before you fall asleep silently re-play all the things that happened that brought gratitude into your heart.
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