Stop and really think about what you want from life

A friend and I made a pact today.  No more hanging out halfway, it’s all or nothing.  Each of us has a dream for our lives.

Our respective dreams are almost the same, and they’re dreams that we’d almost cast aside or given up on.  Why? Because they require so much faith, dedication, focus and endurance to pull off.  Neither of us had wholeheartedly committed to the dream.

I’ve had a small taste of my dream, and I’d almost convinced myself that that was enough. I know how much work stands between me and my greatest vision for my life.  It’s work I love, but I somehow have to find the time for it and work at it like never before – that will require a kind of determination and single-mindedness that I’ve yet to experience or exhhibit.

That said, I did have a sort of single-mindedness about my flamenco-dancing dreams. In four years I went from that first flamenco dance class to having my own dance company in Los Cabos, Mexico and even performing for celebrities.  I did this by being extraordinarily determined and focused and having dreams out of proportion with what most would have said was my “reality”.  I certainly wasn’t the best dancer and probably didn’t really deserve the kind of gigs that I got, but they came into my life anyway, no doubt attracted in by the fervour and faith that I fed that dream with continuously.

Medical school, by its nature, consumed me too.  Between the endless hours of classes, constant exams, life and death patient consequences and impossible load of information to absorb, you had no choice but to be totally focused or you’d either drown or accidentally kill someone.

It wasn’t much effort for me to dance day and night, because I loved it so much and had the time.  By moving to Mexico I’d deliberately set my life up for that purpose. I had lots of free time, few expenses, and didn’t have many responsibilities.  Ditto for med school, I was living off student loans, young and single with nothing significant to do other than studying and showing up for class.

So here we are today.  My efforts over the last few years in pursuing my passions and aspirations around dancing, writing, coaching and speaking have landed me in an extraordinarily busy life, one that’s much more fulfilling than the uni-dimensional medical life I started out with about ten years ago, before all this transformation took place. Yet for the last few months I’ve been feeling like I spend most of my time at bat, with dozens of balls flying in at me, one after the other.  I go through my days trying to keep up with these balls as they fly in, trying to hit them as masterfully as I can without getting hit or striking out.

Life has become more about managing its demands, rather than consciously and deliberately creating it. Reactive, instead of proactive and creative. Can you relate to this?

Meanwhile, sitting alone, behind me in the stands, is my dream.  I know that it’s there, I know exactly what it looks like, yet I’m so busy playing this ball game (that I started, no one made me stand here) that I don’t even have time to turn my head and make eye contact with it, much less have a meaningful conversation about the future.

Today, I made the decision to put the bat on auto-pilot, leaving it mounted in a stand at home base, and I’ll run up there periodically to hit back the most important balls as they come in.  The rest will likely end up hitting the ground or the back of the batting cage, but that’s ok.  From now on I’m going to spend every second I can in the relative calm of the stands, hanging out with and making serious plans with my dream.  We’re moving forward together this time, single-mindedly – I’m determined not to abandon it, or push it into “someday” again.

Does your life feel so busy that you hardly have time to stop and really think about what you want from life?

Where in your life have you gotten stuck halfway?  Perhaps you’ve never even started, but you know exactly what it is that you need to start.

Do you know what you want from life, like I do, and simply need to make the decision to stop the madness and get focused?

It’s so easy to be doing, doing, doing as we go through life, without really accomplishing any one thing that’s significant.

Our world is designed around a short attention span: thirty second commercials, fast food, 140 character tweets, 2 minute YouTube videos.  There are so many distractions, so many things to keep up with, that we’re all at risk of never delving deeply into any one thing, lulled into a false sense of accomplishment by busyness.

What have you started, or longed to start, that you need to take all the way?

I fear end of life regrets, and I don’t want to get to the end of my life without having done this one thing – especially if I were to learn, when leaving this life, that just a bit more consistent effort would have gotten me everything I felt my heart longing for.

Susan Biali is a physician and author of Live a Life You Love: 7 Steps to a Healthier, Happier, More Passionate You. She blogs at her self-titled site, Dr. Susan Biali, MD.

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  • Jackie Fox

    LOVE this post. Have to share these Mary Oliver lines with you, from her poem The Summer Day:
    Tell me, what is it you plan to do
    with your one wild and precious life?

    For you, it’s flamenco. For me, it’s writing poetry, which I thought had left my life for good until breast cancer delivered a wake-up call. Developing a secondary passion for b.cancer issues/blogging/tweeting/writing cut into that precious time. But I’m going to make it work. I’m printing this out and keeping it. Thank you so much!!!

  • Dr. Susan Biali

    Hi Jackie!
    You made my day – I’m so glad that this was so meaningful to you. I spoke at a women’s event yesterday where a woman read out some of her poetry, it was so moving. You are so lucky to have this gift!
    All the best,

  • Shaun Wilcox

    You seem to have an insight on life that a lot of people are missing. I saw this amazing film How To Live Forever where they talked about how the main influence on how long and healthy a person lives is how happy they live. Your story is very inspiring.

  • Dr. Susan Biali

    Thanks Shaun,
    My passion is helping people to step back and really get conscious about the choices they’re making and the lives they’re living. So many of us just do what everyone else is doing or what others seem to think is best and the next thing you know an entire lifetime has gone by. We can miss so much of what’s really possible for us (and miss a lot of the joy and fulfillment that we could experience as a result). As a physician I believe that this has a direct impact on our health as well.
    I will watch the video, thanks so much!

  • A

    My favorite quote, from Mark Twain: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

    Hard to do, but great words to live by.

    • Jackie Fox

      Ooh, love the Mark Twain quote. This whole discussion thread is wonderful.

      • Dr. Susan Biali

        I LOVE the Mark Twain quote, too, I’m going to post it on my Facebook page right now…!

        • Jackie Fox

          A bit off topic but just wanted to tell my fellow Mark Twain fans that his autobiography is awesome. I skipped a lot of the introductory “birthing of the manuscript” history. When I finally got to him, and his amazing voice, it is surprisingly intimate and immediate.

  • gzuckier

    or you can have kids and watch them crumple your dreams up and blow their little noses on them; and the funny thing is, not only won’t you mind, but you’ll think it’s adorable.

  • Haleh Rabizadeh Resnick

    Dear Susan,

    I couldn’t agree with you more. We get out of life what we set our minds to and when we lose sight of it, we get lost. Lucky for us, when we’re lost, our body and soul shout and let’s us know- nothing goes right. Keeping our eye on what it is we want out of life, keeps us focused, calm and able to achieve what we’re reaching to do.

    Thanks for your words,

  • Kim

    This is an awesome post! It really is all or nothing and in this day and age, that requires intense focus.

  • Jackie Fox

    Hey, Susan and Kevin,
    This would be perfect for Grand Rounds, which I am hosting on Tuesday at my blog. The theme is what gives your life/work meaning. I would like to republish this there. If I don’t hear a no from you, I will assume it’s okay to use :)

  • Dr. Susan Biali

    Hi again Jackie!
    I love that you want to share this and as far as I’m concerned feel free to do so – my only request would be for you to do what Kevin does and include a live link to my website from the post: .
    Let us know here when it’s up and include the link, I’ll share it on my social media sites.
    Glad to be connected with you and thanks again!

    • Jackie Fox

      You bet! Thanks!

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