This is the question I am on a journey to answer. As I have mentioned to many friends and family, I have become convinced that we aren’t prepared for “the wall”. We are brought up from birth to crawl, walk and run without a sense of how to deal with life’s full stops. Even in the ‘race of life’, our journey is more about hurdles than the moments that become stopping stations, then settlements and occasionally burial plots. We are told to keep moving forward but between you and I let’s have a little brutal honesty, that sometimes life grinds to a halt.
When you look at the self-help and personal development books on the shelves of the airport bookstore, you would be forgiven for thinking that reading 240 pages will change the world, give you a six-pack, an IQ upgrade, spiritual enlightenment and the added bonus of the date of your dreams. But life’s staccato pace isn’t like that is it. We’ve become numb to the unmet expectations. I generally feel that the undelivered promise of many of these resources is built around taking what little fuel you have left and with an injection of guru adrenalin you can shoot for the stars. Can you?
My walk is amongst those who have actually stopped. They have given up, forgotten, been side-swiped or even mentally shelved their dreams and aspirations. What once had shine and promise now has a centimetre of dust that cushions the memories and acts as a barrier against entertaining those childish imaginations. You remember! The movies of our mind that once flickered across our gaze like the frames of an old-time film projector. Once, and it really wasn’t that long ago, we had dreams and plans so vivid and hope-filled.
I still remember the primary school game that was meant to change my life. Draw a rectangle. Draw a line through the middle from top to bottom. Now from one side to the other. Write the numbers one to ten at the top and down the right-hand side of the four countries you want to live in. On the left-hand side write the names of the four girls from the class you would like to marry. At the bottom, you could put four types of houses or four types of cars. Either way, the next step was to choose a number. Now the game begins. Counting around the rectangle in steps of the number you have chosen and crossing off the girls, countries, numbers and cars or houses until only one dream life remained. Finally, you were left with the girl of your dreams, the country you would live in with the house or car you always wanted and the numbers on the top? That was the number of kids you were destined for. I still haven’t made it to Greenland and we’ve given up on the idea of eight kids.
It’s this childlike yet open-hearted approach to life that has been lost by many of us. I recently saw a bank ad on TV where young children were asked “What do you want to do when you grow up?”. The simple and amazing ideas they shared with no barriers or shame flowed thick and fast. Their smiles lit up the room and their eyes were dancing with anticipation of being old enough to live their dream. Then, the ad switched to our more mature friends. It didn’t matter whether the person was 26, 61 or 37, the question of what do you want to do with your life stumped the older players. Most came forth with a phrase like; “Oh, I don’t know” and the conversation stalled. How sad that the joy was sapped, somehow, somewhere.
I’m walking into this conversation wanting to find out how we can reset life. When my phone or computer starts slowing down there are ways to clear the clag and start with a fresh set of opportunities. I don’t lose the core of the computer operating system but I can wipe the virtual dust off the memory and start clean. Can we do that with life?
As I’m preparing to write a book that draws on the experiences and lessons of friends, contacts and anyone willing to give me a vulnerable look at their story. I am excited about what a Reset Life can do for many. Down deep in my soul I would love to see this become a resource that helps prepare us for these inevitable stages in life. A proverbial fence at the top of the cliff and not a poor solution of a bandage from an ambulance at the bottom.
Already I have started writing about five different scenarios and I know this will grow as I explore the life stories around me. With one story I will look at the common “stolen dreams” where what was ours was taken from us. For those that are tired, we will explore the “stalled vision”. For some, the wall was a “stumped idea” where a problem seemed insurmountable. One story common is where a career is involved and results in “shifted priorities”. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the lesson we can learn after feeling side-swiped or shunted off course by a career can still be brought back to our true north? For a person who has made sacrifices for family or career, we will look at the “shelved plans” that we have intentionally and sometimes misguidedly put on the shelf as our sacrifice.
Life does have full stops, but with a swish of the hand in the right direction, we make a comma and keep moving forward with our story.
I want to hear your story. Would you be willing to walk with me, and talk to me about the full stops in your life that you are facing or have come through? Maybe you know someone with just this story to tell.
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