As a personal life coach , people often describe a similar scenario that creeps up in our modern daily lives. They feel like they're just going through the motions, like they’re just coping with the events in their lives without feeling fully the experience of being alive. Instead of owning and directing the events of your life, daily circumstances seem to own and direct them. Does that sound familar?
This is what I call sleepwalking through your day. It's when you feel like you have no control, and that other people and the circumstance own your life journey. When we find we are sleepwalking, we often avoid making decisions instead of choosing to stand up and take power back, as if we have already accepted that power is gone, leaving us unable to decide.
The bottom line is that even though you're going through the day, you’re not getting much from the day. There's no purpose behind this kind of blind forward movement. Life has no energy. You start to lose self respect and wonder what happened to all the dreams you once had as a kid, if you even bother to wonder any more at all. Yet, we all go through these periods or slumps in our lives.
It's a natural cycle we all go through, just like in nature we have the ebb and flow of day and night.
There is some merit to the observation that if we never had down times we would not have the capacity to appreciate the ups.
The problem arises when this continues for a prolonged period of time and becomes a dark cloud that not only hangs over us but represents our experience of life. It wears on us and breaks us down—no person can sustain this feeling. We start to feel depressed. We get easily irritated. We get down on ourselves and those around us.
But it’s important to develop the life skill of snapping out of this mind frame, and the first step towards gaining that skill is to define what you want out of life. But why is it so important to know what you want? Isn’t the desire for happiness enough?
Well, if you don’t know what you want, than it becomes tempting for other people to tell you what they want you to do. Why would you want someone else decide for you what you want in your life? What is the cost of living that way?
I would venture that the cost is your individuality, your freedom, you self-confidence. And even your life. Life is short, and time is your most valuable resource—the measure of every moment—why would you give this resource away?
Knowing what you want not only empowers you to make decisions but it also helps you to take ownership of your own life. What makes our lives different is based on what we want and the decisions and choices we make because of that.
Because a defined "want" becomes our purpose—a fixed point on the horizon—and our decisions become the tools we use to steer towards that fixed point. Without decision, without a fixed purpose, we have no direction and we are bound to stray off course. How can you even have a course if you never take the time to define it?
So why is it sometimes so difficult to make decisions?
The word decision is derived from the Latin verb “de -caedere” which means to cut off. Every time we make a decision, we’re faced with a trade-off. Saying yes to one thing means saying no to something else, and thus in the process of making decisions we’re sometimes confronted with this feeling of loss. And it makes sense. Because every time we choose something, we have chosen not to opt for countless other paths in life. You can only take one course. You can only move in one direction at a time. But the right decision-making process can help you to define which course leads to the greater good.
The Process of Defining What you Want
Answering this life coaching question of what you want requires a holistic view of life that identifies the different areas of healthy living—family, relationships, career, health etc. Life is a system, and as in any other living system, balance is vital. Every component affects the other components, and in order for the system to function properly they must exist in harmonious balance.
First, sit down and define your level of satisfaction in each area, using a scale of 1 to 10. In a perfect world, you would have 10 in each area–but that is not reality. We are never a perfect 10. Just as the components of Nature’s systems fluctuate and re-balance from time to time, our own components are constantly shuffling. The most important thing is realizing the need to strive for balance.
Zoom in on each of the different components. Let’s say your level of satisfaction in your career is currently at a level 3. Okay, so what would a career level 9 look like for you? How would that be different? How would that affect the other areas in your life?
Take a close look at that gap between level 3 and level 9. What is the difference between your current career situation and your desired career situation? And how does that affect the overall quality and balance in your life.
Once we clarify what that higher level means just in that one area of our life, we can start setting goals. We have spotted our fixed point on the horizon, and now we can navigate towards it. Obstacles may lie before us, just as people and resources will help us proceed. But with a plan of action, we can now make decisions. And that is the true essence of moving forward.