Day 2 listening to podcasts, while having my coffee, is a success. I’m working on creating a habit where I replace reading work emails in bed or as soon as I wake up, with doing something to better myself. This goes back to yesterdays post about the law of first things and doing something in the morning to start your day that will guide the rest of your day. Today I listened to The Improvement Project podcast. I listened to an older episode, What is intentional living? I am trying out new podcasts everyday and I had listened to The Improvement Project last year while traveling. I like that they are short podcasts that make me think. This morning is no different and launched me into this blog post of living by default versus design.
Do you live your life by default or design?
This question is easy for me to answer because in my life, I have done both. I know what both look like for me and I feel that is the key to understanding your truth. In my life when I lived by design, I was most successful and that design catapulted me into one of the best times in my life, career wise. In an earlier post I talk in detail about starting at Sallie Mae as a young woman and making a goal on day one to one day be a vice president. Everything I did in that job, every opportunity taken was weighed against my goal. If it supported by goal, I took the opportunity and if it did not, I did not do it. This meant I moved my young family to Texas to train their contact center and eventually ran a division. It meant I moved my family back to MA when asked to run a division in need of help. It meant I moved to CT versus working from home in NC to run a different center. It meant I got my VP at 40 and that got me in the door at Nike. My dream job. All of that was done by design. It was not all rainbows and unicorns. It was hard work but I had a goal and a vision that I kept in the forefront of my life and I attained it.
I have also lived a lot of my life by default. It looks very different from the above. In fact, outside of the above most of my life has been by default. Often times the worst kind of default, Survival mode. The time when you do what you do everyday because if you don’t, bad things happen. This was the case as a young mother when I realized I was going to have to be the responsible one in the marriage. This realization only fed into my financial worries and helped create the workaholic, perfectionist, Type A, amazing woman, that I am today. If my then husband was going to quit jobs when he felt like it, I had to carry the load to be sure there was always a roof over our heads, food and health insurance. I took the job at the call center and worked until I got noticed. I literally fell into the life I live today. Don’t get me wrong, for the most part I like what I do and I make a really great living. I often refer to it as my “golden handcuffs.” That alone says so much. I am the sole support of my family now, divorced and financially secure. Do I love what I do? Is it my passion? No. Is it draining? Yes. Is it what I would do if I designed my life? No.
One thing to note is that my ex is not a bad man at all. He has some mental health issues that was undiagnosed in most of our marriage. It contributed to his behavior mentioned above. It is my truth though in my marriage, had an impact on the way I live my life and I speak it.
I have also been fortunate in my life to think I was going to die. 151,600 people die everyday in the world but we seldom give our mortality a thought. Sadly a large number of people in the world die without truly living or doing what they dream of doing. I had ovarian and endometrial cancer and dying was a real possibility. I also have a heredity syndrome that makes me cancer prone so at times, when I let it creep in, I still think I will die before most. I say fortunate because I am now 5 years cancer free and can see what really matters. I am beginning to see what I want to design into my life. So many people don’t get the chance to understand how precious life is and what matters most when you think it is over. I did and now at the point where I can’t neglect what I learned.
So what does designing a life look like? In simple terms it is living an intentional life. Being proactive in your life versus letting life happen to you. Its the difference between you running your day and letting your day run you. Do you have dreams? Can you articulate them and turn them into goals? Have you sat down and asked yourself what YOU want your life to look like in 10 years, 20 years? Forget the obstacles for the moment. What does it look like? Are there things you can say no to right now? Things that drain you or that you do out of obligation. Start by saying no and start reclaiming your time in small ways. How many hours does your screen report say you spend scrolling each week? Can you repurpose that time for some work on your goals and dreams? It is not easy. Designing a life is hard work and intentional thought and action. Its worth it though when you can step back in years and say, “hey I did it!”
I’ll keep you posted on my design. It’s in the works. For now I am working on creating my morning routine and running miles a day. I am working on my work boundaries in this work from home environment. Small victories. Let me know your thoughts on this post or what you’re doing to live by design. I’m interested.