Free Up Time, Money, Experience: Stop Wasting Your Life
A life wasted is what could have happened (but didn't) when my parents broke up, had I followed the advice of others and the all too prevalent encouragement of our western society - movies, ads, schools, corporations, churches - all the expectations they lay on us constantly:
Get a good education, good job, marry, have kids, buy everything you want.
Strive to get ahead always, improve yourself financially, follow the rules, invest.
Get a loan to buy a car, then another to buy a house. Send the spouse out to help (in addition to cooking, caring for kids, and cleaning up).
Get a better job, a bigger loan, a better car, a better house, more "stuff." Take your family on vacations to exotic places.
Get a 2nd (or 3rd) mortgage, expand your house, save what's left for the kids' education (after loan repayments). Get another better job (like it or not), a bigger house and a better lifestyle.
Above all, lots of sex . . . with sequined gowns and suits, flowers, champagne, banquets, jet set trips. Yeah! That's the life!
Ever wonder why so many of the jet set are in therapy? Alcoholic? Addicted to drugs and/or sex? Racing to stay young, chased by the press, craving attention, betraying each other? Pretending to be someone else, not really knowing who they are inside? Wasted lives, all. Wasting time, wasting money, wasting opportunities. Letting the direction of their lives be dictated by others. Committing suicide.
How much time do you spend wandering around the house or town (or at the bar) bored? How much time do you spend mentally rehearsing your way out of arguments you need to heal? Or daydreaming about situations you have no intention of putting yourself into? How often have you agreed to go places or do things you knew you wouldn't like?
Do you enjoy the hours you spend at the work you do? The friends you hang with? We all have trouble with most of these (myself included). If you've never really looked to see, if you're bored often, then most of this time is likely being wasted.
Wasting Money & Things
How many things have you bought that you don't need? Toys for the kids they never play with? Clothes, shoes, jewelry you never wear? More cars than you can drive, more food than you can eat, another vacation you don't have time (or money) for, yet another party gift? Is your house too big? How high are your utility bills? How many things do you throw away that could go to someone else?
Wasting Opportunities and Experiences
All your life you've been having experiences, all of which have the potential to teach you something about yourself, to help you grow.
Have you ever stopped to really look at them - to see what they have to tell you or do you just keep having the same ones over and over? A certain type of person you always seem to argue with or get "caught" by? Always missing flights or other deadlines? Choosing the same types of lovers and losing them again? Overspending, in debt again, yet another unsatisfying job?
Start Now - Take Charge of Your Life
If you ever want to live a life of value, you'll need to know what it is you value - what is important to you, personally, not what someone else (or society) thinks "should be" of value or "should have" happened.
“An unexamined life is not worth living.”
A true sense of value comes from deep inside each of us and shows up differently on the surface of each of our lives. If you are reading this, you've already lived enough life to be able to discover yourself in it, so let's get started.
Find the Value in Your Life - The Real Gold
Find or make a peaceful, quiet hour somewhere you can be alone. Get pen and paper and whatever you want to drink. Maybe put on some relaxing music and pull a blanket or throw over your lap. Cozy up. Now you're going to mine the gold from the life you've lived, so do the following and write down the results:
1 - Mentally look back through your entire life and ask yourself:
What have I done in my life that really felt fun (and still does)? What was best about it?
What experiences have I had that I would call really valuable? What made them valuable?
Who do I know that I really enjoy or did enjoy being with? What did I like best about them (or us)?
If a flood were to wash through my house and sweep out everything I own, except what was most precious to me, what would be left?
What do I like best about myself? What have others told me was best about me?
2 - Take a break to absorb the good feelings, then come back and make a second list. This will be about things you haven't liked:
What have I done that was awful?
What are some totally boring, wasted experiences I've had?
Who were people that were horrible to be with?
What things do I own that most bog me down?
- What characteristics do I hate about myself?
3 - Ick!! Let's move right along. Take each of the items above and flip them over. Clearly you don't want to repeat them, but just as clearly, you can't see awful things without also recognizing their opposites - what you would have wanted instead.
Write those opposites down, e.g. this thing I did that was awful, what would I liked to have done instead, if circumstances were perfect (or what would I do if it happened again)? Don't beat yourself up anymore for it. You've likely done that plenty already, and it's not the purpose of this exercise. Your purpose is to discover the best in you and what really brings joy.
Note that by taking this step, you are mining the real value of your experiences and now you won't feel like they've been wasted. If you hadn't had them, how would you have known these great things about yourself? How would you know what more you want in life, if not for the contrast? Finish this step now, then I'll give you an example.
Mining the Value
Last year I left a small company I'd been working with for four years, where I had more experience than almost everyone there, including the owners. I came out of it feeling unproductive, devalued, and depressed . . . except that I had discovered how numerous and practical my skills were, which I hadn't realized before.
“In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years."
- Abraham Lincoln
The company couldn't keep up with me. I'd had to tamp myself down to match their capabilities, more and more, since the others were busy or didn't know enough to support or carry on or take over the new projects I created (or could have) in my job as a new business developer.
After I left them, the depression began to lift. I started to see the gold and now have greater confidence in myself. I have contacts I can utilize, a deeper understanding of an industry I value, and I know I can claim nearly twice the salary, were I to try again with a different company. I've also learned to utilize the Law of Attraction. If I hadn't known how to identify the value of this experience, I might still be deeply regretting having worked there.
Transforming your "Wasted Life" into Value
Now take your first and third lists to the computer. (Shred or burn the second list, since you're done with it now.) Combine the other two lists into one on the computer by category. What you're doing now is looking to see what a truly valuable life looks like for you. The past is gone, the future is yet to come, and the present is the cutting edge of change. The present is where you make choices between options that create the future.
Here are some of the questions you can be asking yourself from now on:
The past is gone, the future is yet to come, and the present is the cutting edge of change.
- Abraham Group
What fits my new understanding of what I want in life - going here, going there, or staying home for once?
Does this person I know fit into the life I want or are they of the past?
Do I really want to buy this object? What can I get rid of to compensate?
Hmmm . . . there's a lot of stuff here I could weed out. What fits the life I want to live and what doesn't?
Let this exercise start a whole new lifestyle for you - one of gleaning value from everything you do and everyone you hang with, one of making choices for a life you really want to live. Be aware that the only person you really have control over is yourself and, in truth, you are the only one who can control you. Others may try, but their success always hinges on your agreement with them and your willingness to go along.
Your life is your responsibility, not anyone else's, and the deeper and more joyful you can make it, the more valuable you will also be to others. When you're happy (for real, not fake) it makes it easier for those around you to be happy. Since life is always expanding and growing, just as people do, you will never run out of new ways to be happy and others will learn from you. As long as you're mining the value of your experiences and refining your choices, nothing will be wasted. The good life starts and ends with you.