Most of my life I worked hard toward something, as far as I can remember. When I was 10 years old, I started playing tennis and competed throughout my teenage years. When I was 19, it was clear I wouldn’t make it as a pro tennis player so I needed to find new ways to survive in this world. When I was 21 years old, I moved the States alone, with $300, not speaking much English and with two suitcases.
For many years after my arrival, my only focus was to make it, to survive in a country I wasn’t familiar with at all and didn’t know anyone. When we are in survival mode, we make decisions that might not benefit us long-term just to make it at the moment.
Today, I work for myself, and I do what I love and believe in, still working many hours and most days of the week.
A couple of weeks ago, when a close friend asked me if I had a bucket list, I looked at her surprised and answered no. I don’t remember thinking about writing a bucket list before. As I thought about it, I realized how many years passed since I left home, how many years I have missed my family, and how many years I spent focusing only on surviving, growing, and not really living.
I missed many years not sharing my love with people who matter to me. I started thinking about the things I would regret not doing or not expressing before I died. Just by someone asking me if I had a bucket list, I realized I was living for tomorrow so much that I took today, this very moment, for granted. But what if tomorrow never comes? What if I won’t have time to express my love, to say the things I need to say.
It was a sobering moment for me. All this time, I lived to work and for my mission, but I forgot to really live.
I know I’m not the only one living like this. Most of us get caught up in our daily routines and habits and responsibilities, and we forget to live and have joy or forget about the things that are important besides making ends meet. When we are in a survival mindset, we can’t think outside the box. All we see is the fear of what would happen if we don’t show up in the same exact way we always have and how it’s going to affect our lives short- or long-term.
Even when we feel empty inside, and we realize it isn’t good for our health, and we can’t keep doing things the same way, we’re scared to change because this is the only way we learned to provide for ourselves and maybe for our families. We’re scared that when we change we’ll lose our assets and we’ll put ourselves in danger, or we’ll lose everything. This is how we’re conditioned.
For some of us, life is more challenging than for others. But still, it sounds like a paradox to me;
….we’re forgetting to live in order to survive?
Does it have to be this way?
What is the point of life when there’s no joy? When there’s no love? When there’s no sharing?
Is life only about achievements? Money? How much are we willing to sacrifices in the name of all those things? Our lives? Our health?
“Man surprised me most about humanity. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.
Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.” ~ Dalai Lama
Is there another way?
I realized that by changing my focus, I could change the quality of my life. Two things came to me that could help me resolve the conflict I had with working a lot and feeling as if life was passing by without me living it. Most of the time, when we want to make changes we think about the extremes, all the way in or all the way out. Well, none of those are options for me and definitely they’re not a good long-term plan. So I thought I needed to change a couple of things and I came up with the following.
First, I choose to work with gratitude. I can change my emotional and mental state by being grateful for all I have, clients, opportunities that come into my life and give me the ability to express myself through them. Being grateful instead of taking all those things for granted makes a huge difference in the way I feel about my life even when I’m working a lot.
Second, I understand my needs and knowing that friends and family, my relationships, are very important to me. It’s important to make time for them and nourish my already existing relationships and friendships and cultivate more meaningful connections in my life.
I can’t do it all, so there are times when I need to say no to work, and there are times I need to say no to friends. I have to accept it will never perfectly balance, but just paying more attention to spending time with my loved ones in the past month already filled me up with so much joy, and I felt more motivation to keep working. I also had more energy to give to my clients.
Everyone is different, and everyone has different needs. I do feel that we spend a lot more time than we need with the things that are for our survival and not enough time with the things that really, truly matter. I also feel that some of us are in survival mode when we don’t need to be. We live with the mindset that there’s always tomorrow, but tomorrow is not given to all of us.
Is there anything in your life you feel you would like to spend time with but you’re putting off? Is there anything you would like to say to someone that scares you, but you would regret it if you didn’t do it? Is there anything in your life you haven’t done you would regret?
Take time to care for your body, your health, and to eat healthy food, get exercise, spend time outside, meditate, share your love and kindness with others. You may not get a chance to do the same tomorrow.