The Weekend I Was Hit With a Two-by-Four: Live Your Best Life

We spend so much time focused on our careers and our businesses; how often do we slow down to identify and appreciate the things that make our life feel whole and balanced? We know that planning is important.  We plan for our financial security, but we also need to plan for ourselves. How do we achieve our best and brightest selves that aligns with what we are really looking for?  The answers sometimes arrive when we least expect it. 

I recently took a long weekend to fly out East to visit with my aunt who lives in New England. Throughout the weekend, I thought a lot about family, specifically, my two aunts, the one I was visiting, and my aunt-in-law, aunt of my husband. These two are very different and distinct in their own right, yet are both fiercely independent, strong women. My aunt Ann was a nun for many years.  She eventually left the convent and later met the love of her life, my uncle. Ann is fun-loving, quick-witted, and as they say in Massachusetts, “wicked smaaart.” We spent the weekend together hanging out, eating ice cream and discussing our shared family secret: a shared ancestor, Mary, who was murdered in the Salem witch trials. (Yes, for those of you who may have suspected it, , it’s true. I am a descendent of a “witch!”) Ann is one example of someone living a full and balanced life with work, family, spirituality, whole relationships, and service. 

Marilyn, my husband’s aunt, was, in her day, a tough-as-nails corporate professional, which was highly unlikely for the time. She’s a person who spoke her mind and often masterfully got the results she was pursuing. Marilyn grew up on a farm and did not initially plan to go to college but when her sister, my mother-in-law, put her foot down and insisted, Marilyn went to college where she met Carl. Together they raised a family of daughters. Even after losing Carl a few years ago, Marilyn, into her late eighties, continued to travel with friends.  

What was remarkable on this weekend was that on the same morning my husband dropped me off to go see my aunt, my husband received news that Marilyn had suffered a stroke.  There it was, right in front of us.  This.  This is why we take, devote, and share time with those we love. This got me thinking about the lives we lead and the legacy we leave. How do we make the most of our time here and live our best life? 

As part of my own business practice, I participate in a weekly mastermind program. During one of our recent sessions, one of the leaders, Chris, walked us through an exercise I found immensely impactful. I want to share it with you and encourage anyone seeking to connect joy in your work and life outside of work to  do this exercise as well. 

For this exercise, it is important to grab a pen and paper.  No keyboards! Things flow out differently on paper than they when we type.  There's actually scientific research that backs the fact that your brain operates differently when writing. Allow your imagination to wander to different possibilities.  Reach inside of yourself for your childlike curiosity. Allow yourself three to five minutes to fully answer each question.  (Set a timer.)  Most importantly, have some fun with this exercise! 

Broadly, imagine your ideal life in five years; What kind of person are you? What do you have? 

  • What kind of work and career do you have? Are you a leader or a collaborative member of a team? What impact are you having in your workplace? What are you contributing and how is it providing for you in your life? 
  • What is a typical day for you? Do you go into the office or are you working from a remote location? Are you always on the move or sticking to the routine of one place? Do you have close contact with an internal team, or do you work with clients on the phone or meet face to face on site? What’s the routine for balancing life, family, and work? 
  • What do you do for relaxation and inspiration? It could be as simple as a jog around your office campus or a walk in your garden at the end of the day. Do you have a physical or spiritual practice that helps you reach a calm, contemplative state? 
  • What are you doing to contribute to a better world? Are you involved in your community? Are you developing the people that work closely with you on your team? Are you focused on larger national or global issues for which you have a passion? 
  • What have you accomplished? What highlights can you share in your list of accomplishments for which you can be truly proud? What was difficult but worth it? What would surprise and delight you if it were achieved? Again, think about what the list looks like five years from now. 
  • Where do you live, geographically? Are you in the downtown of a major metropolitan city? Are you in the country surrounded by nature or in a small community? Do you live near your friends and family or are you moving around, traveling, and seeing as much of the world as possible? 
  • What does your home look like? Your home is an environment you create for yourself, your family and those closest to you. Do you live in a small, easily managed efficient apartment in an exciting location with access to nightlife? Do you live in a house surrounded by land, privacy, perhaps a beautiful garden you enjoy maintaining? Is your home designed as a place for your family and friends to gather or is your home designed as refuge for your work and creativity? 
  • What are your most intimate relationships like? Are you married or partnered? Do you have children? Are you close to your extended family? Do you have a large friend list and active social life, or do you gravitate toward a few very close long-term friendships? How much time do you dedicate to your loved ones on a weekly basis? 
  • What is the quality of your life like? Are you aware of your limits and able to avoid burnout? Are you excited about the activities and responsibilities in your life? Do you feel balanced in your health, work, financial status, and family relationships? 
  • How would someone close to you describe you? Would they describe your contributions to your work teams or community? Would they talk about your family or the home and social circle that you have built and cultivated what characteristics would be the first words to describe you? 
  • What are your physical and emotional states? Are you getting enough exercise? Do you have a healthy relationship with your body in terms of sleeping, feeding yourself and finding time to relax? Are your emotions balanced and appropriate for the inputs that you are receiving? Do you feel heard and appreciated by those around you? 
  • What are your mental and spiritual states? Are you able to communicate your feelings and emotions with those that you trust? Have you developed or strengthened a spiritual practice? Do you take care to avoid overworking or overstressing; what are some of the strategies you have to balance periods of intense work toward stretch goals with relaxation and quality time with your support systems? 

Now that you have answered each of the questions above, you have a more complete picture of the ideal life scenario you want for yourself. Read through your answers.  Look for signs on how you can build a life that has balance, not just in terms of financial wealth, but plentiful worth and wealth in every aspect of your life. This is part of the three-legged stool, wealth, and financial success, - having joy and pride in the work that you do, and a full and passionate life outside of work. 

You can take this exercise a step further by converting your answers into goals and making them measurable. I would encourage you to go back after a period of time has passed and look at your answers.  This is the great part of having them written down rather than lost in the files on your computer.

  • How have your answers morphed or changed over time?
  • How much have you accomplished toward your ideal life scenario?
  • Is it time to repeat the exercise and possibly take it a step further? 

Having a written plan for where you are going and where you want to be helps bring clarity to your everyday activities. If you know your desired direction, the day-to-day decisions become easier and more focused toward the results you expect. It makes your dreams more real, giving in to the power of manifestation.   You get more done so, when, in five years, you reflect on what you have actually accomplished, you can take pride in it all.

Marilyn and Ann are two of my role models for living a life authentically and in line with my values, beliefs, and goals.  Life is amazing.  It can bring us these lessons at the most remarkable times.  Fare thee well, dear Marilyn and I can’t wait to go back and share more ice cream with Ann. Who knows what new secrets and directions it may reveal?!

Special thanks and acknowledgement to  (c) Chris Winfield  Your Ideal Scene






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