Whether you realize it or not, the way you choose to spend your day is ultimately a trade off. You are literally trading the minutes, hours and days of your life in exchange for your current activities. Most of us spend 40 (and often more) hours per week trading the precious moments of our life for our job.
Two questions immediately rise to the surface: Do you consciously recognize and appreciate each day of your life with the awareness that none of us know how much or how little time we have left? If so, are you making a fair trade (i.e. are your activities worthy of your life energy)?
When I first understood this lesson at both an intellectual and emotional level, my honest answer to both of the above questions was NO! I was not necessarily taking my life for granted but I also did not truly appreciate my days. I was devoting my time to a number of things that did not make me happy and I was avoiding facing my fears. My mindset was, I will deal with it at a better time. Deep down I knew I was simply avoiding the issue altogether. Specically, I am talking about my professional career.
Although I was quite successful, had a great salary, great security, excellent benefits and room to grow in the organization, I did not enjoy the work. I would start my day and look forward for it to be over. I did not work with any passion. Worst of all, I was trading my life for this career. Because this was the only profession I knew and spent many years establishing myself, it never actually occurred to me that change was possible. I simply assumed that I would have to stick it out and hopefully do well enough financially so that I could retire early and THEN begin to enjoy my days.
Then I got involved in personal development programs. I started to learn more about life and more about the mind. I quickly realized that I had been operating my life following a set of beliefs and paradigms that were not necessarily ideas that I agreed with.
I had always assumed that everyone disliked their job and it was just something we all had to go through to earn our retirement. When I found out that there were many people who loved their work and had found a way to make a living based on their passions, I was very intrigued. I was also wary of the idea because it sounded too good to be true.
As I started to study some of these people and learn about the inspiring lives they were living, I realized a very important distinction between them and myself. Unlike me at the time, they DID appreciate the value of each living day and they also structured their life in such a way that they were trading their days for a purpose worthy of them and their true values. When I compared them to myself, I was trading the days of my life for something that made me unhappy. When I dissected it further, I was choosing this lifestyle because I was too afraid to change. I was afraid to give up the salary and beneÞts, afraid to give up the position that took so many years to obtain, afraid to admit to others that I was unhappy and afraid to decide what I truly wanted out of life. The more I thought about it and the more I studied personal development teachings and success stories, the greater my desire for change became.
I started to reprogram my mind so that the pain of remaining status quo was actually more intense than the fear of change. I know many personal growth programs advocate positive thinking, but negative motivators inspire action for all of us. It certainly worked in my case. Not only did this new mindset drive me to find my true passion and true calling in life (speaking and coaching), it helped me establish a sense of personal freedom that can best be described as liberation.
There came a point where my self image literally shifted and I saw myself safely and confidently walking away from the career that I had so desperately held onto for many years. The days of my life were far too important and valuable to be spending them doing something that had no meaning for me. After I resigned from that position, I made a personal commitment to dedicate the rest of my working days doing only that which I love.
I now love my work. I look forward to my days. I look forward to new projects and new opportunities. I never think about retirement because I never plan on retiring. When you do what you love, why would you ever want to stop?