November 10, 2013

Live the Life of Your Dreams. ~ Erin McElroy

A year from now, we’ll wish we would’ve started today.

My good friend introduced me to a concept called Lifestyle Design. This might resonate: we sat in our dingy, minuscule “office” that more resembled a closet, (which we not-so-affectionately called The Cave), and  we talked about our life dreams and passions and how this was not it.

I reminisced about the movie Joe vs. The Volcano: the one where Tom Hanks is told he has a mysterious illness called a “brain cloud” and sets out to truly live his last days on earth. He ends up on an island where people only drink orange soda, about to jump into a volcano as a human sacrifice. There is a scene where he describes the fluorescent lights at the office that suck, suck, suck his soul right out of him.

It was starting to feel like “brain cloud” wasn’t so mysterious of an illness.

We got sick of talking about it and started taking action towards this thing…lifestyle design. I think of it as designing our entire lives around our passions, values and talents. We don’t have this thing called “work” that we drag ourselves out of bed and reluctantly trudge ourselves to, while spending our “free” time doing the things we actually enjoy doing. Rather, we do what we love and are good at for finances and for passions; these are not separate things.

While I feel this is a subject that could be talked about at significant length, I write because I believe it is entirely possible to start working towards this today. It is not easy and often involves checking our fears and ego at the door, or better yet, being in a relationship with our fears and ego and open to what can they can teach us.

My journey from the corporate world to redesigning my life started with some simple exercises. I set aside 20 minutes to free-associate on what I cared about, who I was, what my values were, what I was passionate about, what my ideal life would look like and anything else that came to mind. A friend and I took the challenge to write 50 things that we liked about ourselves and this helped me get acquainted with my unique make-up. I thought about times in my current life where these things were represented and where they were missing. I wrote out a schedule of my ideal day-to-day and then wrote out my current work day schedule. I found that my ideal schedule wasn’t even possible with the hours in the day, so maybe I needed to work within a week format. I also found that there was more discrepancy than I cared to continue between my ideal and my current life. A change was necessary; I now had my passions and values front-and-center in my awareness.

I also started reading even more than I already did, seeking out authors who talked about those sorts of things. In some cases they sought me out (the books, not the authors; my manifestation powers weren’t that good yet). Really, the best advice might be to start talking about it and start writing about it or whatever it is that you do to process and live so that it becomes part of your daily consciousness and actions. (Meditate with it, draw it, hike with it, cook with it).

Warning: as we start to dig into this, other things we are not digging into will arise—there will be a change in relationships/friendships and old emotional hang-ups.

Wild dreams and physical issues won’t sit quietly in the corner anymore. We are integrated beings and when we light up one corner of ourselves, we light up everything. This is a good thing. Facing each of these things as they arise will help us become more full and alive; more resources will start to show up as well. It is most definitely not always comfortable, but always worth it.

I keep trying to end this post, but I just can’t. It is too important.

When we want to leave our current job or other parts of our lives, it can be the hardest time to dig into what we like about it. It can be really fruitful to dig into this stuff though. For me, I had been in management consulting and my resume reflected exactly that. I had specialized in change management and organization effectiveness, helping individuals and organizations through change in a corporate setting. I now know that it was my attraction to helping people through personal change and transformation that attracted me to this to begin with. That and the travel component, experiences of different corporate cultures and styles and a corporate salary if I am being honest.

It was helpful to me to write more of a life resumé. What were the experiences and skills I had that are applicable to the new life I was looking to design? For instance, “identifying and analyzing impacts to varied stakeholder groups” became “understanding what people care about and how they are impacted by change in their life”. Chances are that even if we got into a career that we hate, we have learned and gained something from the experience and what guided us there.

We may experience these little whispers, thoughts that almost don’t seem to come from ourselves, about what we could or should do, where we should go.

They probably sound exciting and might even make you think…”yes, but” sending you spiraling back into old thought patterns, fears, and misconceptions that are keeping us where we are today. Try to indulge in these whispers and say yes to them. What does it feel like? What would it look like if we did?

My path is not for everyone, but for me the whisper told me that now was a good time to go wander the world and surround myself in unknowns to see what bubbled to the surface and write about it. I thought, “Well, that would be so irresponsible with my mortgage and bills and relationships and growing career.” Certainly I need to figure out “what I want to do when I grow up” first. After months, the whisper gradually turned into a shout and I allowed myself to indulge in it for a bit. I asked some people in my life who had done these sorts of things what they did, how they did it, where did the inspiration come from and where did they get the means. I stopped being jealous and started being an admirer. I thought about where I’d go and what I’d do. I chose a country to live in. I saved some money. I started making decisions with this in mind. And now, here I am writing from Argentina, an author and adventurer in the making.

On that note, I am off to indulge in some Argentino Malbec and to toast to Lifestyle Design.

Salud! Suerte!

What makes you so passionate that you can’t stop, even if you’re full of fear, just because you want to get the message out there? 

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Assistant Ed: Bronwyn Petry/Ed: Bryonie Wise



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