Natalie: “How to live life on your own terms? What are my three priorities for the next 30 days that will move me closer towards living life on my own terms?”
I’ve always been a follower disguised as a leader. I am really good at appearing confident and knowledgeable. Well, along the way I have become confident and knowledgeable <laughs out loud> but I know deep down that I’m faking it until I make it. This is a huge confession to make both to myself and in particular in a “public” blog.
This summer I attended a really inspiring program called Coming Alive at The Haven on Gabriola Island. It was six days of very close contact with 26 other people. We spent three intense hours every morning and afternoon in a large group and then two or more hours in a smaller group in the evening. There were some prescriptive exercises where we practiced honest communication from a place of true feeling. In other words, what specifically do you feel in your body right now? Needless, to say this type of exercise elicits a lot of emotional response. Some in the group had endured unspeakable traumas in their lives both recently and in the distant past. Once the emotion began to express in someone, the leaders would work with them to get right into the feeling and release it. Expressing all that pent-up emotion was the key to coming to peace in most instances. It was a miraculous process for the individuals but also for those of us who witnessed the experience. It was impossible not to feel very emotional along with the person who was clearing. And therefore to get in touch with some genuine inner feelings.
When you spend that much time with others in such an intimate process, it’s impossible not to begin to communicate in a brutally honest way. One of the highlights for me was being called a “performer”. I had hardly said a word in most of the open sessions and here was someone telling me exactly who I was! At first I was mildly indignant–afraid, is more like it. Then I realized that the truth had been spoken and I knew it all along. Busted! Performing always according to a script carved from my perception of my audience expectations, much of the time it worked well. Sometimes, it was a dismal failure.
All this to say living life on my own terms is a real challenge to define. And that is because I have been following along most of my life. It took me a very long time to even begin to understand what things were important to me in my life and how I wanted to live it. It turns out, as I grew older, I did bring many of my childhood values with me–integrity, honesty, spiritual pursuit. But the things I valued as part of my life were more difficult to figure out. Once I got to the West Coast, it suddenly dawned on me that I had finally landed in a place where I really wanted to be. And I learned that skiing was, in fact, my favourite winter activity–something I pretty much knew but didn’t do enough of until my arrival in the big mountains. I also learned that I loved the beaches–there are seventeen beaches in the Lower Mainland. One summer I visited as many as I could. It’s relatively easy–there are ten accessible by public transportation! Even later on, I finally started taking real holidays (not visits to parents) and that was another epiphany. It became my passion to get to a west coast beach every time I went!
Recognize also that it was not all following along. I was never very good at working in a bureaucratic environment. Some hierarchical organizational structures made me cringe. I’ve been much more of a loner than not over the years. I’ve never fit into the pack, always circling the outside, dashing in and out of different groups. So I’ve managed to carve out a life on my own terms simply because I wasn’t willing to engage with the “gang”. To me this was more of a default life. That’s why this is such an interesting and difficult question.
And so it goes. The learning continues, there are bumps along the way–both small and very, very big and terrible–but they are all lessons that help discern how better to live my life, what terms I want to live it on and how that will continue to unfold.
Right now, to identify three things I need to do in the next 30 days to live life on my own terms, would be to outline how I have been living my life for the past few years–really, since I moved back to the West Coast. One, I focus on the moment knowing clearly what my goals for the future are. Two, I plan my actions according to the goal of the moment–growing my network, learning my business product, finding the next contract. And three, I live in the firm belief that the universe will show me the way. With a clear goal in mind, the how will be shown. This largely spiritual practice has been working for me for many years and is vastly improved by clarity, self-care and being as positive and optimistic as possible every day of the week.