Do you feel like you should be further ahead by now? Do you sometimes look at your life and wonder where it went and why you haven’t done more of what you really wanted by now? Did you have big plans when you were younger that haven’t quite come to fruition yet?
I know how that feels. I thought I would be a published, famous, rich writer by the time I was in my 20s. It’s possible that some of those goals were unrealistic.
It’s possible that I’ve historically expected way too much of myself and not given myself enough credit for what I have done.
It’s possible that you have, too.
Something I was watching on Facebook linked to one of Marie Forleo’s videos. Marie Forleo is a business strategist, content marketer, and all around rock star. The video was titled “Feel Like You Should Be Further Ahead By Now? Do This, Pronto.” Okay! Better watch that, Ms. Girl Who Always Feels Like She’s Behind.
The first tip Marie gave was this: “Adore your detours.”
At first I was all, whut? LAME. That is meaningless, and I am a sucka. But as she explained, I found myself nodding in agreement. She described it in terms of how you would approach a road trip; what if you stop for lunch and discover an adorable town you never would have seen? This spoke to me.
I love to travel. I’m super curious and fascinated by history and weird buildings and unusual cultural activities; exploring new places is a huge joy in my life, and I have a specific attitude when I travel that’s different from my day-to-day attitude. I’m more able to ignore the details and appreciate where I am in the moment. I’m curious, I’m open, and I’m excited. I have an agenda (always) but I’m not afraid to stray from the plan if something intriguing catches my attention or if I find that I need more time at a place I hadn’t expected to be so cool (or less at one that isn’t so cool). And I NEVER worry about money when I’m traveling.
Sound familiar? Even if you’re not a big traveler, I bet you have some kind of scenario that puts you into this mindset. Walks in nature? Local weekend trips to the seaside? Indulgence in a spa day? Yoga class?
Try to capture the feeling of that mindset now.
Marie’s advice got me thinking:
What if we could transfer this attitude to everything else? What if we approached every day as though we were traveling and everything we do as though it’s a new adventure?
At which point, of course, because it is constitutionally incapable of remaining silent at moments like these, my inner critic chimed in:
THAT IS RIDICULOUS AND IMPOSSIBLE
Since I’ve gotten better at dealing with that voice, I noticed the feeling I was having and shook my head at it.
The real me: Hey, I’m only asking a question and considering the options.
Inner critic: BUT WE MUST HAVE A PLAN; IF WE DON’T HAVE A PLAN WE’LL DO IT WRONG
The real me: There are many possible plans. There are ways (see above) to have a plan and not hold onto it with an iron grip that would make us miss out on some things we would love. What if we did it like that?
Inner critic: YOU LOVE TOO MANY THINGS; YOU GET DISTRACTED EASILY
The real me: It is true that I love many things and sometimes get frustrated by the lack of time and energy (and money, by the stars, the lack of money, egad) that I have to DO ALL THE THINGS. But perhaps there is a way to evaluate the things I love hierarchically and keep in mind which are the most important things I want to work toward.
Inner critic: HEY WAIT WE DO THAT ALREADY
The real me: Uh, yeah. So there is a plan. But it doesn’t solve everything. That thing that’s at the top of the list, that’s the most important? It doesn’t pay the rent yet. So we gotta pay the rent … and there are a lot of different ways to do that. And it’s hard to tell which one is the “best” way. So that’s where the road trip comes in. That’s where adoring our detours comes in.
So hush that inner critic of yours, if she sounds like mine, and let yourself off the hook, and I will, too, and let’s look at things from Marie’s road trip perspective:
Look forward, not back.
Should I have been doing more sooner? Like starting this blog? Doing more freelance writing? Self-publishing earlier? Maybe. Or maybe I needed to meet the guy who would inspire me to think of the name of this blog. Maybe I needed to see self-publishing come farther from the stigma it used to have. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. According to Adam Grant in Originals, it’s not the first movers who are most likely to succeed in a given industry, anyway. It’s the ones who let other people go first and make mistakes and then move in once they’ve learned from the front-runners.
The choices you made in the past are over. You can’t change them. You made the best decision with the knowledge and resources you had at the time. You’ve learned more since, so it’s easy to throw your new knowledge at your old self and berate him. But he couldn’t have known what you know now, because he didn’t. So let it go.
If there are choices you regret that you made, the answer isn’t to dwell on them. It’s to figure out what you can do about it in the future. What can you do now that will help you get where you want to be?
Know your priorities.
I can’t emphasize this enough. It’s so helpful when you’re sinking and feeling overwhelmed. What’s the most important thing to get done today? What’s your most important project that you’re focusing on? What really matters to you? Make sure you’re moving that forward, and everything else will fall into place behind it.
I know that I am happiest on the days I spend at least an hour writing, so I try to get started on that as early as is possible.
Keep your “to do” list short.
Three things. That’s it. Maaaybe four. Keep the other stuff somewhere else. When you get through the three, you can do more after that. But don’t you dare put it on your list or think about it before then. Just those three. I promise, it helps.
I often have an item on my agenda that looks like this: Finish writing “The Importance of Designing a Life of Focus” post. But then I’m on Facebook and I’m clicking over to Marie Forleo’s video and I’m inspired to write a post about adoring your detours. So I write that instead. Oh well. I’ll finish the other one another time. (Today’s agenda also included “go to bed by 2 a.m.” It’s 2:43 a.m. If I’m writing, I put off everything else for it. I know my priorities.)
Treat setbacks like adventures.
Oh, well, that one thing didn’t work out? Whatever does will be even cooler. When something unexpected happens when I’m traveling, I find creative ways to deal with it. I rearrange my schedule. When transportation is delayed, I do some writing. So, what if, when all the job postings I’m seeing make me want to poke my eyes out, instead I start approaching specific companies? What if I start considering unusual skills I have that I hadn’t really been thinking about and looking for something different? What if I accept an invitation to chat on the phone that I would’ve normally turned down because it’s with someone who founded a company I admire? Imagine …
Heck, treat everything like an adventure.
I mean, it kind of is, right? When I travel, especially out of the country, I have no trouble seeing things that way. Why is life itself any different? So I hit a speed bump. Or two. Or a whole bunch all at once. No matter what your worry mounts to, try to keep in mind that you know, deep down, that you can handle it. Whatever happens, you’ll figure it out. Because, you know, you’re pretty good at figuring stuff out. When you’re expecting the possibility of difficulties (adventures!), you go forth into them, right? You chill out and you roll and you enjoy yourself anyway.
Let’s do that with life, too, no? Adore our detours, as Marie said.