Getting old is not that much fun. The aches and pains, the loss of hair and the gaining of weight. Ugh; it can be downright depressing. Deb and I sing in a Glee Club that performs at a number of Senior Centers and nursing homes. I look out at the audience and it terrifies me. I don’t want to end up there; I don’t want to be them; I don’t want my final years to be tragic. But if I am sitting in one of those chairs someday I want to look back and know I lived the life I was called to live. The life I was meant to live. The life I want to live.
It seems to me that the key to having the life you want is to know what life you want. Sound simple? It isn’t.
Most of us wake up at some point in our lives and say, “Is this the life I wanted?” Unfortunately for most, it is not and that’s when we begin to ask the big questions. “Why don’t I have the life I want? What is the life I want?”
For some, this is when the blame game starts. “It’s because of the school I went to, the family I grew up in, the career opportunities I didn’t receive, etc.” and while those might be factors they are not the reasons.
The biggest reason we don’t have the life we want is because we don’t know what life we want. We have aimed at nothing and hit it – bullseye.
Why don’t we know what we want? We think we want material things, and when we get them it’s nice (better than not having them) but it’s not satisfying; it doesn’t meet the deep need of giving us the life we want. Or perhaps we think we want a set of accomplishments, but when we achieve them they too are not satisfying. We need something deeper to give us a full life – the kind of life we really want.
The main reason we don’t have the life we want is because we haven’t spent enough time thinking about the picture of the life we want in order to be able to make that picture a reality.
Most of us think in pictures. We can see in our mind’s eye a picture of how we want things to go – what our day is, what the next meeting is etc. We have our pictures and we act to make those pictures a reality, but we haven’t stopped to think about the picture of our whole life. We might have a picture of tomorrow or next week, but not of next year or the next decade.
What is the picture you have for your life? What about next year, the next ten years, the next twenty years, etc? Do you have a picture for your life at eighty-nine years old? Michelangelo was eighty-nine years old when he finished his last statue – six days before he died. I think his picture of his life was exactly that. It was that he would be chiseling on marble every day until his last day.
What’s your picture? Take some time and think about that question. Let it ruminate in your mind. Try on different pictures and see if they fit. When you get a picture that excites you – that gives you energy to continue the race – then let it sink in. Live with it and let it become real to you.
Then and only then can you begin to start thinking about how to make your picture a reality.
When I first did this exercise over ten years ago, I wanted my picture to include at least two months in France every year and a real focus on Christmas – making the most of the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. That picture didn’t develop overnight. I had to work at it, and make sure it was what I wanted. I had to change the way I looked at France – and make it something more than just a tourist visit. Thankfully, I am getting to live that picture today but I didn’t just fall into it. It took intentionality and planning – and a wonderful wife!
Recently I moved all of my father’s remaining belongings from his house to a storage compartment. I thought – we spend most of our life collecting things and the rest of our life getting rid of those things. I don’t think any of us have that as our picture – but it becomes our reality because we have not proactively thought about another picture.
I’ll tell you one picture I don’t have: life in a nursing home. But if I do wind up there, I want to be able to make that nursing home part of my picture and be happy even there. I want to engage people, talk about truth, sing loudly, drink great wine, and live my life to the fullest.
What’s your picture?