I had the honor of doing my first group motivational talk about a month ago. It was both a culmination and a dawning in my quest for my true identity and passion. Culmination because it marked the end of a journey that began six months ago when I finally took the plunge from the known into the unknown, murky world of self-employment. A new dawn because I was now doing what I truly desired, what made me who I am, a true realization of my identity.
When I first asked myself who I truly was three years ago, my identity was mired in my titles, material possessions and relationships. Most of us will tend to define ourselves based on the people and things around us and not who we really are when everything is stripped away. I was no different and I found myself frustrated by the feeling of worthlessness despite having a pretty decent life. As I started to peel away the masks that I had hidden behind for decades, I slowly started to realize my true vision. Interestingly it was something that I had always spoken about as a small child – to be a teacher. To shape behavior. To influence. To transform lives through imparting knowledge.
For me, the greatest feeling is guiding someone in peeling away the layers and masks to rediscover what truly makes them tick. What makes them happy. The light inside of each of us which will not be extinguished easily though we go to great lengths to keep it suppressed and possibly, forgotten.
I recently completed an 11-week course called Centonomy. For those who have never heard of it before, its basically a course focused on helping people understand financial issues better, hence improve their own management of money. It’s a course that has truly impacted how I view my life in relation to money and I would highly recommend it to every single person; I can’t wait for my son to be old enough to enroll him in it.
During one of the classes, a certain question was posed; What would you choose to do if you knew no one would judge you? This isn’t the first time that I had been asked this question but for some reason this time it really got me thinking. It didn’t really hit me till this morning that as human beings, we are very good at building a wall of excuses when we do not want to do something. Even if that something is our life’s dream. I was actually speaking to someone last evening and she was very frustrated because she felt like life was passing her by and she was stagnating all because she couldn’t pursue what really made her happy.
As we spoke I began to realize that in general a lot of us are really not doing what makes us happy. Yes I know you will hit me with that same old story – we don’t have the luxury of being happy when bills have to be paid and responsibilities have to be met. So we build this nice grand house of Excuses. I cannot pursue my dreams because I have a child to support. Because I have a loan to pay. Because I have a spouse to support. Because I have rent to pay, or a mortgage to pay. Because I have my parents/siblings to support……….blah blah blah…….Does this sound familiar? Excuses. That’s all they are. But we have convinced ourselves that there is no possible way we can be “selfish” enough to be happy while all these people are relying on us right?
As I pondered more on this dilemma, I asked myself; so what happens when your kids grow up or your dependents no longer need the support or the loan is paid? Will you then pursue your dream for happiness? Will you then do what really makes you happy? Chances are the majority would simply get a new excuse to hide behind. You all know how this story ends. On a death bed with forlorn regrets of what could have been had you had the perspective and guts to just grab it.
I am not in any way encouraging reckless behavior but you do need to ask yourself, how long can you hide behind the excuses? Obviously few of us have the luxury of having zero dependencies, so it just means it will take more planning on your part to ensure that you have catered for those who depend on you. Haven’t you heard of someone who ventured into business from the safety of a job? Most will tell you that they saved the equivalent of at least one year’s income, some as much as three years, simply to ensure that they could continue to sustain their lifestyle in the period of initial transition. Doesn’t this make sense? And isn’t this person doing what makes him/her happy? Don’t we actually look on from the sidelines wishing we had the balls to take the same bold step?
So what is really stopping you today? Don’t tell me a child, the child will eventually grow up and leave you there by yourself and you will still not take the bold step. When you really think about it, you are the only one standing in your own way. YOU. Everything else is details. Interestingly, a lot people haven’t even really thought about let alone figured out what they would really want to do if dependencies weren’t such a huge factor. Some of you are just afraid to ask themselves that question, Fear governs you. Because the minute you ask yourself and figure it out, then you might have to do something about it. And that thought just terrifies you to the point of crippling you. So it’s simpler to have the excuses and never do anything about it.
So now that hopefully I have got you thinking about it, what’s your next move? You need to figure out what makes you happy. What would you choose to do if all the excuses were eliminated? This is probably the hardest part because it requires a lot of introspection. Once you have got this figured out then make a plan on how you can implement it. For most of us it will be a business or a better job, or a different choice career, or even more personal choices like leaving an unhappy relationship or finally settling down. Whatever it is, just make sure that its 100% about you and not about anyone else. Your implementation plan then needs to be S.M.A.R.T for it to work (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound). It needs to be documented and tracked constantly to ensure that you are actually making progress towards your set goal. (I have a life coaching program that specifically focuses on helping people find their direction and achieve both short and long term goals using this model).
Ultimately all this looks a lot easier said than done. Like most things worth having, it’s obviously not a walk in the park. However, if you are persistent and tenacious enough you could soon be living the life of your dreams and choosing rather than envying those who appear to be doing so. It all comes down to the choice you make. Will you live your dream or will you live the excuse?
I have never been much of a resolutions person. I do make resolutions, but never at the start of the New Year. Other than being a trifle cliché-ish, I mostly didn’t believe that I should have to wait till the start of a new year and the so-called 365-days-blank slate to decide on what needed to change in my life. True to form, nothing was different this New Year’s. For the second year running I had opted to take my leave in January and this time around I took time to reflect back on my last year, just to see if I was still on track for what I had hoped to achieve by this time.
2014 was a big year huge year for me. My life literally underwent a transformation at all levels – career, business, emotional, spiritual, intellectual…..every single level. It was a roller coaster to say the least and I was looking forward to my long break at the end of the year to just relax and catch my breath! As I started my break in mid-Dec, I couldn’t help but wonder if 2015 could even hold a candle to 2014, but that’s something I shall figure out as the year unfolds.
What struck me the most about last year was that in the midst of all the balls I was juggling, inevitably I dropped a few. I found that I was mostly too busy to nurture quality time with friends and family. Even my closest friends at some point nearly gave up on me due to the fact that I rarely returned their calls or texts. My family clamored for my attention (mostly in vain) and eventually accepted that I had become a rare commodity.
I distinctly remember being so pressed for time, especially in the second half of the year that I would desperately wish that there were more hours in the day just to accomplish what I needed to. As the year drew to a close, I was in awe of the magnitude of my achievements and simply pushed what it had cost me to the back of my mind as I embarked on a much awaited vacation.
However reality eventually beckoned and in the silence of my solitary moments, it quietly dawned on me that I had lost something that was truly invaluable. Time. Time with people who mattered to me. Precious memories of which I was not part. Moments that I would never get back. Feelings that I would never be a part of. In my intense determination to make something of myself, had I lost myself in the process? As my reflections got deeper, my thoughts grew more forlorn and I became intensely introverted even as those around me threw themselves into hearty celebrations, hardly noticing that I was but barely present.
I was relieved when January dawned (I never thought that I would look forward to this month) as it offered the reprieve of intense activity – going back to school preparations and all that which offered a much needed distraction. Before long however, it was back to reflections as I was home alone with nothing but my thoughts for company. That’s when it hit me. I had a choice. I could allow myself to get caught up in what had already happened in the past, and depress myself in the process. Or I could make a choice to do something different this time. The choice was easy. But I knew the actual implementation wouldn’t be such a walk in the park.
To start myself off, I looked back on 2014 with different eyes, open eyes. I asked myself what I could have done differently and this time I tried not to judge myself too harshly. I realized that if I didn’t let go then I would not be able to move on. So I forgave myself for each time I let someone down. For each time I didn’t come through. For each text I did not reply and each call I did not return. For all the whatsapp groups I exited from. (this one was easy). For all the family occasions I missed. For each time I came home late and missed my son’s bedtime. For all the dinner dates I cancelled. For each time a friend needed me and I selfishly disregarded them, putting myself above them.
I felt immensely lighter but I knew the hard part was just beginning. The hard part was doing my hardest to make sure that I wouldn’t have to forgive myself for these things again. The hard part starts now, today and every day. The hard part is finding that evasive balance to make sure no matter how hard I work, my family and friends do not suffer the consequences. The hard part is making sure that out of all the limited time available to me, some little time always goes to those invaluable moments. Those precious memories that once taken away cannot be reverted.
Whether or not you believe in making (and keeping) resolutions, ask yourself this year and every year what it costs you to chase after your goals. Find that delicate balance because great achievements matter more when you have people to share them with. You do not want to wake up one day and realize that you lost the moon while counting the stars.