Choices or Excuses?

I recently completed an 11-week course called Centonomy. For those who have never heard of it before, its basically a course focused on helping people understand financial issues better, hence improve their own management of money. It’s a course that has truly impacted how I view my life in relation to money and I would highly recommend it to every single person; I can’t wait for my son to be old enough to enroll him in it.

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During one of the classes, a certain question was posed; What would you choose to do if you knew no one would judge you? This isn’t the first time that I had been asked this question but for some reason this time it really got me thinking. It didn’t really hit me till this morning that as human beings, we are very good at building a wall of excuses when we do not want to do something. Even if that something is our life’s dream. I was actually speaking to someone last evening and she was very frustrated because she felt like life was passing her by and she was stagnating all because she couldn’t pursue what really made her happy.

As we spoke I began to realize that in general a lot of us are really not doing what makes us happy. Yes I know you will hit me with that same old story – we don’t have the luxury of being happy when bills have to be paid and responsibilities have to be met. So we build this nice grand house of Excuses. I cannot pursue my dreams because I have a child to support. Because I have a loan to pay. Because I have a spouse to support. Because I have rent to pay, or a mortgage to pay. Because I have my parents/siblings to support……….blah blah blah…….Does this sound familiar? Excuses. That’s all they are. But we have convinced ourselves that there is no possible way we can be “selfish” enough to be happy while all these people are relying on us right?

As I pondered more on this dilemma, I asked myself; so what happens when your kids grow up or your dependents no longer need the support or the loan is paid? Will you then pursue your dream for happiness? Will you then do what really makes you happy? Chances are the majority would simply get a new excuse to hide behind. You all know how this story ends. On a death bed with forlorn regrets of what could have been had you had the perspective and guts to just grab it.

I am not in any way encouraging reckless behavior but you do need to ask yourself, how long can you hide behind the excuses? Obviously few of us have the luxury of having zero dependencies, so it just means it will take more planning on your part to ensure that you have catered for those who depend on you. Haven’t you heard of someone who ventured into business from the safety of a job? Most will tell you that they saved the equivalent of at least one year’s income, some as much as three years, simply to ensure that they could continue to sustain their lifestyle in the period of initial transition. Doesn’t this make sense? And isn’t this person doing what makes him/her happy? Don’t we actually look on from the sidelines wishing we had the balls to take the same bold step?

So what is really stopping you today? Don’t tell me a child, the child will eventually grow up and leave you there by yourself and you will still not take the bold step. When you really think about it, you are the only one standing in your own way. YOU. Everything else is details. Interestingly, a lot people haven’t even really thought about let alone figured out what they would really want to do if dependencies weren’t such a huge factor. Some of you are just afraid to ask themselves that question, Fear governs you. Because the minute you ask yourself and figure it out, then you might have to do something about it. And that thought just terrifies you to the point of crippling you. So it’s simpler to have the excuses and never do anything about it.

So now that hopefully I have got you thinking about it, what’s your next move? You need to figure out what makes you happy. What would you choose to do if all the excuses were eliminated? This is probably the hardest part because it requires a lot of introspection. Once you have got this figured out then make a plan on how you can implement it. For most of us it will be a business or a better job, or a different choice career, or even more personal choices like leaving an unhappy relationship or finally settling down. Whatever it is, just make sure that its 100% about you and not about anyone else. Your implementation plan then needs to be S.M.A.R.T for it to work (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound). It needs to be documented and tracked constantly to ensure that you are actually making progress towards your set goal. (I have a life coaching program that specifically focuses on helping people find their direction and achieve both short and long term goals using this model).

Ultimately all this looks a lot easier said than done. Like most things worth having, it’s obviously not a walk in the park. However, if you are persistent and tenacious enough you could soon be living the life of your dreams and choosing rather than envying those who appear to be doing so. It all comes down to the choice you make. Will you live your dream or will you live the excuse?

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Life…And Death.

Early this morning we received the most devastating news at work. Our colleague had tragically passed away early in the morning while undergoing treatment in the hospital. Worse still, she was 6 months pregnant. Honestly speaking, I am still in shock even as I write this. I look around at everyone in a daze, the news not really sinking in yet because I keep waiting to wake up and find it was all a vivid cruel dream.

All around me people keep asking, Why her? She was at the prime of her life, all her dreams ahead of her, full of life and laughter, so why her? Someone even wondered out loud, does God ever make mistakes and allow people to go yet they weren’t done with their time on earth? For me, I am filled with an eerie, bubble-like, calm-before-the-storm ominous stillness. It feels like there is actually a physical obstacle between me and the acceptance that she is really gone. There is also the grim realization that the dam will burst sooner or later and then I will really be ripped apart.

The one thing that struck me today though was incidentally related to a rant I had a couple of days ago on Twitter. I was going on about how people really need to appreciate how short life is and start to live life rather than wasting their time envying other people’s lifestyle choices.

It’s really bizarre how it takes a loss through death to viciously remind you to appreciate what you have – before you lose it. It takes death to remind you to put aside petty differences and reconcile with those alienated from you. It takes the loss of a loved one to propel you to fulfill your life’s desires sooner rather than later. It takes a loss such as this to force you to put your broken life back together and live life again. It takes death.

What I also know is that one week, two weeks, a month or so from now, we will all have forgotten the lesson it has taught us today and will be back to our old ways. Till the next time it visits us.

I choose to be different this time. I choose to learn the lesson and carry it with me every day. I choose to live a life without regrets. I choose to tell my loved ones how much I love them every day. I choose to fulfill my dreams, take that holiday, make new friends, renew old acquaintances, put aside petty differences and all those other things on my (very lengthy) bucket list.

When my time comes I intend to go out smiling. And the people I leave behind will all say “She lived her life to the full!”

R.I.P. Jacinta. The Angels are lucky to have you.