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If you could have anything you want, what would you paint on the canvas of your life?

As we begin to look at our future, we’re frequently crippled by our past. Some of us are still holding on to the blue ribbon we won at the spelling bee in third grade. Others are still holding on to the haunting sound of laughter when they spelled “any,” e-n-y. Those successes and failures in our past are nothing more than a mirage we’ve painted on our future. The more we chase it, the farther away it gets.

Let’s Take a Peek

If you want to know how your past is affecting the design of your future, here are some questions that may help you take a peek under your own hood. We found it a great exercise to share in a small group. But I think you will get just as much out of it, if you write your reactions in a notebook or simply dwell on the thoughts that come to you.

  1. What do you already know about yourself that will keep you from having the future that you want? We all have our own version of this song. But is it the truth? Or is it the excuse you use to hold yourself back?
    • I’m a procrastinator
    • I’m great at the start; it’s my finish that’s lacking
    • Nobody believes in me, so why should I try
    • Everything I do, touch, try fails
    • If I succeed, someone I care about will feel bad about themselves
  2. What do you already know you want to have, do, and be in the next 10 years?

On this one, it’s important to listen for the “should” in your life. One of my friends was close to retirement age while several members of our group were generating their careers. She was frustrated because it occurred to her that career building was a requirement for our group. Far from it! When she let go of the should, she was able to design her retirement into her future. If your mom and dad were like the rest, they had/have big dreams for your future, and it’s hard to distinguish your dreams from theirs. And, to tell the truth, society plays a big hand in laying out the path we should follow. In addition to your own list, which of these dreams are yours because they’re yours?

  • Get the “right” degree
  • Weigh the “right” weight and have the “right” body
  • Have the “right” job and make the “right” salary
  • Marry the “right” man/woman
  • Have the “right” number of kids
  • Live in the “right” house in the “right” neighborhood
  • Drive the “right” car and have all the “right” toys

3) Who is the judge of your success?

As an aside to your should list, see if you can identify the voice in your head that has a say if you’ve made the right choice. Everyone has an opinion about something. Are you listening to theirs like it’s the truth? I’ve noticed that I’ve given a different voice authority over different areas of my life. It used to be my parents, but after I achieved some element of independence, the voice of my friends and co-workers invaded the space between my ears. You may have watched the scene in “Runaway Bride” where Julia Robert’s character was trying to decide how she liked her eggs. That isn’t so farfetched. I didn’t know what type of music I liked after several years of marriage. So, who influences your choices and what choices would you change if no one was watching over your shoulder or you weren’t trying to make the “right” choice?

The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude.” ~ William James

It’s all Made up, Anyway

If you’ve ever spent any time investigating another culture, you’ve already noticed the way “we” do things is not necessarily the way everyone else does. From the food we eat to the way we practice medicine, the means of transportation we use or the side of the road we drive on, it’s all a matter of someone or some group of someones making up how things will go.

Likewise, if you’ve spent any time investigating (or experiencing) the sweeping hands of time, you’ve noticed that what’s cool and “in” goes “out,” and what everyone thinks is awful becomes the new-normal. Hair, clothes, body piercings, and tattoos are obvious examples of that. But social opinions about body weight, divorce, racial issues, sexual preferences, and drugs and alcohol use are all subject to a changing tide.

If you think about it, there really isn’t a right or wrong about most things, and even those “other” things are a matter of opinion and circumstance inside the society you live in right this minute. Even those things could change . . . So, my invitation to you is to make up some new rules for yourself and your life inside your own “what I like” and “what I want for myself and my life.”

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” ~ Alan Kay

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