Photo by Averie Woodard on Unsplash
By BIS Contributor Debbie Lane
Life is a journey, and we’re all on one.
We may be on a journey that we’ve planned for ourselves or one that someone else has planned for us. It may be smooth sailing, or we may be tossed around so much that we feel completely lost. And continuing with the boat metaphor sometimes may feel as if we’ve hit ground in the middle of a lake—and we’re going nowhere. Whatever the case, we’re all traveling through life—even if we think we’re stuck. The question is, are we headed in a direction that will ultimately take us to our desired destination?
Assessing the Past
I grew up in the South, and without even realizing it, I unconsciously followed the journey that was expected of me. I graduated from high school, on time and with good grades, I graduated from college in the requisite four years, I immediately got a job and began a successful career, I got married before I turned 30, started a family two years later, and raised my children in a happy home. The problem was, in my head, my journey stopped at raising a family.
I was devastated when my girls went off to college and I became an empty-nester. I literally didn’t know what to do next. I had already arrived at my “destination” and yet I still had many years ahead of me. It was then that I realized that I had to start planning again, this time, taking into account the lessons I learned from the first leg of my life’s journey.
Planning the Future
With those lessons in mind, I propose the following thoughts to help me, and may even you, plan for the future:
Consciously plan your own journey, rather than moving down the path someone else thinks you should travel. As you plan your journey and the various stops along the way, I highly recommend reading Bethany Williams’s book Live Your Dreams – Empowering You to Live the Life You’ve Always Imagined. She’s documented some great exercises that will help us all dream big and plan our journeys in a number of different areas in life—from relationships and friendships to fitness, spirituality, home and family life, hobbies, and addressing our various passions. A second book, Self Made, by Nely Galan, illustrates what you can achieve when you dream big!
Regularly evaluate your journey, making adjustments as necessary, instead of blindly following the plan. Be sure to incorporate changes—which may include going on a side trip somewhere that wasn’t available when you first planned your journey.
Don’t put a stringent timeframe on getting to each stop in your journey. Some stops need to be savored. You can miss a lot in life if you’re always moving forward with the end destination in mind. Sometimes you need to just stop, sit still, and enjoy life for a little while.
Add fun to your journey. I unknowingly became so focused on my journey, that I inadvertently cut out all fun! This went on for so many years, that I totally forgot how to do it. In fact, when I joined a health club a few years ago and my personal trainer asked me what I did for fun, I seriously couldn’t come up with a single answer. So, my homework for the week was to start adding it back into my life. Well, when you’ve cut out fun for as many years as I had, it takes some time and energy to figure out what it is. I’m happy to say, however, that as difficult as it was (and I’ll disclose that it took longer than a week), I figured out how to have fun, once again. And my life is so much better for it!
Plan a longer journey. As I began my search on how to proceed (as my girls were now in college), I met and was inspired by a 92-year old woman who had her Ph.D. and was still making a living researching, writing, publishing books, and counseling people who wanted to change careers. She didn’t ever plan on retiring. In fact, her book Capitalizing on Career Chaos—Bringing Creativity and Purpose to Your Work and Life by Dr. Helen Harkness, is perfect for ideas as you continue to plan your journey.
“When your past calls, don’t answer, it has nothing new to say.” (author unknown)
So, as I continue to plan the rest of my journey, I’m not only relying on the tips mentioned above but also the ideas shared in the books written by Bethany, Nely, and Dr. Harkness. And while I may temporarily be on the sidelines, looking at the map and figuring out where to go next, I am by no means quitting. Right now I’m focused on:
- Dreaming BIG with regard to my new destination, and thinking about how I can get there, and;
- Writing all of my ideas down in a journal.
I also meditate on the following two inspirational quotes:
“The only time you should ever look back is to see how far you’ve come.”
“You don’t have to have it all figured out to move forward.”
This “Dreaming and Planning” phase is critical, and I’m so excited about the possibilities.
It is my hope that when we reach our respective destinations we’ll be able to proudly say “I love it when a plan comes together” as The A-Team character, Lieutenant Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith would always remark upon completion of yet another successful mission.