How do we know if we are living a big life? A life of fulfillment, a life of purpose, a life that makes a difference. Our very best life.
Many years ago, a longtime friend of mine was mourning her good friend who had recently passed away. She was young and her passing was too soon. As I learned more about this person, I was in awe of the life she had lead. For someone so young, she clearly had an impactful and meaningful life, as was beautifully captured in her obituary.
At that moment, I thought about what would my obituary look like? That was easy, it would read: “She worked really hard”.
That was a pivotal moment in my life. I began to shift my thinking. My best life was no longer going to be defined by how much I accomplished in the corporate world, by how many hours I worked, by how much money I made, or by how many raises or bonuses I could gather. I started thinking about my best life in terms of how I wanted to live my life. What did I want my relationships to be like, my everyday experiences? How could I have more moments of peacefulness and less moments of exhaustion? How could I contribute to my community? What talents do I have that could be helpful to others? How could I be my best self? How could I live a creative life?
I am not talking about living an artist’s life or a perfect life, or to say anything is wrong with working hard and having accomplishments. My years of hard work allowed me to take a step back and literally step out of the rat race. But, I had pushed the “hard work” button way too long and had not done a good job of balancing life with work. Over the years, I had lost my sense of creativity, my playfulness.
In Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic, she defines creative living as “having a life driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear”. Creative living is nurturing our relationship with inspiration. It is “having the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden with you”.
So at that pivotal moment, I declared to the Universe, I wanted a different life. I wanted to be connected more…with my husband, my family, my friends, my community, my neighbors. I wanted my days to look different, my pace to be different, my interactions with others to be stronger, more meaningful. I wanted to help others, encourage others, and support others. I wanted to continue to learn, to play and just to have more fun! I wanted a more creative life.
It did not happen overnight, in fact it took years. But slowly and sometimes dramatically, my big, best life began to emerge. In the past 18 months, shortly after my father passed away, I left my grown-up job, I took on the renovation of a family home my great-grandparents built 100 years ago, and I reconnected with the community that I grew up in and love. I began volunteering every week to things that contribute to the community. I created a blog and I started writing more. I began spending more time in parks, at the beach, and in the mountains. I have made new friends and reconnected with old friends. I found my playfulness again, and I have let creativity and inspiration find me, engulf me.
I honestly believe if you want to know if you are living your big, your best life, sit down and write your own obituary. Right now. No matter how young or old you are, do it. What would it say? What would you be known for by your family, your friends, your community, or your co-workers? What would your imprint be?
The path I took was not one I would recommend: total burnout and then finding balance and happiness. So set your intentions now. Take a few minutes to envision the type of life you want to lead that allows you to show the world your hidden treasures. Don’t wait until you have more time, until you are working less, or until your children are grown. Do it now. And before you know it, your life will evolve to your best, big life possible.
I don’t imagine my best life will change the world, but hopefully I can change my footprint. I am not done writing my obituary. I want more experiences, more adventures. I have more giving and learning to do. More creativity to uncover.
And I am so much happier with my new big life.
(Originally published in skirt! magazine’s blog, October 4, 2016.)