A meaningful life

“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something…almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.” –Steve Jobs

Innsbruck, Austria at dawn

A year ago I was mourning the loss of Steve Jobs and his creative genius. But while he left us a lasting legacy of wonderful gadgets that have transformed our world, perhaps his most important legacy is his outlook on life.

I have taken his challenge several times, spurred on by the likes of Brian Tracy and (the sadly also deceased) Franklin Covey, to determine if I was living according to my priorities. Had I not, I would never have started my own training business (twice now), I would never have gone to grad school, and I would not be home with my kids now, or living my dream as a writer.

Many of you know how much of a travel bug I have, but that takes careful prioritizing on only one salary. In the last few years we’ve been to Europe, Miami and the Bahamas, St. Lucia, Bermuda, and a host of closer-to-home spots. In 2013, I want to send my kids to France with their school, visit family in Phoenix and Hawaii, and explore Iceland. Those things could never happen if I ate out every night, and spent all my money on clothes, throw pillows, shoes, Starbucks coffees, and a new car.

There’s nothing wrong with those things if they’re important to you. They’re just not what matters to me (well, not too much). 😉 Honestly, my main goals in making money from writing/teaching are to travel more, and to allow my husband to retire when he hits 20 years with the Air Force.

The way I see it, we only get one shot, so I’d like to live with no regrets. I don’t always succeed. I still let pride, fear of embarrassment or failure, and the expectations of others get in my way. But I’m working on it.

One of Bermuda’s many grottoes

My friend Valerie Bowman recently told the story about how she complained to a near stranger that she wanted to live in Florida, get a dog, and be a writer. He asked her why she didn’t just do it. She, of course, had a list of excuses ready, but he just looked at her and said, “Move to Florida, get a dog, and be a writer.”

And she did.

So in honor of Steve Jobs and Valerie, my challenge to you is to look at your life, ask yourself if there’s anything you want to change, and then sit down and brainstorm what that change might look like. It doesn’t always have to mean a loss of income, or a massive change to your lifestyle.

Maybe it’s as simple as saying “no” next time someone asks you to volunteer. Or “yes”, for that matter.

I’ve learned the hard way that life is too short to settle for an average existence doing what everyone else thinks you should do. What do you want to do?

Go find a way.