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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