In case you haven’t noticed, life can get complicated. A few bad decisions here and there, and it can get away from you.
In the most likely scenario, however, you started your young adult life with a partner and career that made sense at the time. But as you continued to evolve through the familiar stages of life, you just didn’t pay that much attention. One day you found yourself somewhere you didn’t mean to go.
The good news is that this doesn’t have to be the end of the line. You can get back on track, or even get on track for the first time, but not without some careful reflection on your part. You have to start paying attention to what’s not working, and that can be painful.
Try to think of the pain this way: it might actually be growing pain, not an indictment of guilt or failure of some sort. Why not look at it as if it were a big nudge from the universe telling you there is something more for you in your future? Maybe even something better?
Shift from the self-flagellation or blame or angst into a period of serious, intentional reflection on your life to this point. Take a deep breath. Relax. Grab a blank journal and a pen.
As you reflect on the following questions, capture in brief bullet points (like on a resume…) everything important that comes to you. Do not prematurely jump to the phase of figuring out what you’re going to do about anything until you have digested it all and allowed it to sink deeply into the marrow of your bones.
1) What’s working? You know what is working in your life, but you may not be paying attention. Most people pay much more attention to what is not working in their lives than they do acknowledging what is. Allow yourself to get carried away here. It might help to divide the various areas of your life into major categories such as Friends, Family, Finances, Career, etc. Allow yourself time to enjoy thinking about everything that is working well in your life and practice incorporating an inner sense of accomplishment.
2) What’s not working? Try not to be as sweeping in your reflections here. Be more specific and nuanced. Instead of a bullet point noting that you hate your job, for instance, think about the aspects of the job that are not a fit. You could be in the right role in the wrong company, for example. Don’t sweep out the whole house if you only need to sweep out a room.
3) What’s missing? This can run from the particular, e.g., “More contact with Jeffrey,” to the grand, e.g., meaning, purpose, or spirituality.
4) What now? This is the situational question, which is always pertinent to this kind of reflection, as in, now that I have a baby … or, now that the kids are in school … or, now that I’m 30 or 40 or 50 or 60 …
5) What else? This is about the rest of who you are. What you love to do, what you’re good at, what your gifts and talents are, what you care about, and—most importantly—what you want.
Take some time to digest your reflections, desires, and dreams until you can think and speak coherently about them and allow them to work their way deeply into your consciousness and heart. These are the raw materials of your future.
Now you can get serious about turning these raw materials into an action plan that will begin to move you toward the life you want. You can’t make a good life happen unless you know what a good life would be for you.
Call me if you hit any snags.
Bonnie Bell, with husband Jim Bell, CFP®, owns and manages Bell Investment Advisors, Inc., 1111 Broadway, Suite 1630, in downtown Oakland. The firm has been providing personalized financial planning, investment management, and career and life planning services since 1991. www.bellinvest.com, 510-433-1066.
Published in Piedmont Post on August 25, 2010