“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.” -Paulo Coelho
Every once in a while I catch myself doing something that, when I think about it, is a little silly. It’s almost a bit embarrassing when I admit it to other people.
I’ll be driving in my car or going for a run and I’ll have my music on the shuffle mode. Maybe I’ve got a playlist on or I’m listening to an album and I’ll think of a song that I really want to hear. I’ll start flipping through, hoping that the song will pop up. When it doesn’t…I start to get frustrated. I start to get annoyed because the song I want to listen to isn’t playing.
Then it hits me…I could just go straight to that song rather than getting frustrated because it randomly won’t play.
Seems a bit stupid when you think about it, right? We know that when you want to hear a specific song, you go to that song! It’s that straight forward.
But it’s not that simple or straight forward; especially when we’re driven by our emotions. The fear of uncertainty and of not knowing can hijack us. If we let it, that fear will drive our behaviour. It impacts how we handle the junk that life throws at us.
Do you live your life like you listen to your music? How we choose to live our lives can be a lot like how we listen to our music. Sometimes it feels completely random, other times we know exactly what we’re looking for and how to get it. There are times when putting life on shuffle is a really good thing - it provides spontaneity and excitement in our every day. Other times, we need a bit more structure and direction – especially when we’re fearful.
In those moments, it becomes important to know what you’re looking for and to have an understanding of how you are going get it. You have to learn to create control, especially when it feels like you have none.
How do you get past the fear? Over the past few months, I’ve been having a lot of conversations with people about what it is that they fear. It’s an interesting topic to talk about: Fear. It seems that a lot of people aren’t really comfortable talking about what it is that scares them. Maybe that’s because we’ve been led to believe that we shouldn’t talk about the things that scare us. Maybe it’s because when we talk about the things that we’re fearful of, we’re admitting to others (and ourselves) that we’re vulnerable; that we don’t have all the answers to the questions that life throws us.
So I’ve been trying different strategies to see what works and what doesn’t; what creates the direction I look for in my life. I’ve also spent a lot of time talking to others about this and finding out what works for them. Here are a few things I’ve learned along that way that you can do to start taking more control over what’s going on in your life and living less on shuffle:
1. Know what you want – When we have a clear picture of what it is that we’re working toward, we make better choices about how it is that we’re going to get there. This isn’t always easy though. It takes being brutally honest with yourself. It requires you to examine your life where it is now and to be real. Are you really doing what it takes to get to where you want to be?
2. Write it down – No matter who I talk to this about, the people who see seem to be in the most control of what they have going on are those who write it down and write it out. Taking the time to get all of the junk we have floating around in our heads down on paper allows us to clear our minds and to look at the situation in a different light. From time to time I take my old journals and I look back on what I wrote. It’s always a great feeling when I realize that the things I thought I would never get through are the things that have really made me who I am today. I can’t stress enough how important it is to write it out.
3. Create a plan for how you’re going to get it – I wouldn’t hop in my car and start driving to a place I’ve never been without either turning on my GPS or at least going online to Google map it first. Why would I do that with my life? Taking the time to map out where you want to go and how you are going to get there is one of those strategies that we often put off to the side because we think that we “don’t have enough time”. The hard reality is that we don’t have time to not do it. If you don’t know where you are going, how do you really expect to get there? Take the time to create a plan. Where do you want to go and what is it going to take for you to get there?
4. Predict what might hold you back or challenge you – Once a week check in with yourself. What goals do you have for the week that will lead you toward your bigger goals? What’s going to potentially keep you from those goals? Write it out so that you can plan how to prevent it.
5. Recognize when you’ve got it by checking in with yourself regularly – Once a week, take a minimum of 20 minutes to check in with yourself. What were your goals for the week? Did you reach them? If not, what help you back? What did you learn? By checking in with ourselves regularly, we allow ourselves to learn from our successes and failures and better ourselves at a steady pace.
6. Ask for help (even if you think you don’t need it)- This is probably one of the hardest things for most of us to do. Asking for help makes us vulnerable. It’s tell the world that we struggle and that we can’t figure out this thing called Life all by ourselves. The reality is that we can’t. We need each other. Some of the most successful people I know are successful because they regularly admit their shortcoming and seek out advice and guidance from others. Who can you go to when things get hard?
Facing those fears takes self awareness Overcoming our fears and choosing to take ownership over our circumstances isn’t something that’s meant to be easy. It takes a lot of hard work. It’s checking in with yourself at least once a week. It requires you to put aside the time for yourself to be with yourself. It means admitting when we fall and learning from those failures. It takes creating a plan and learning to be self aware. Most importantly, you’ve got to own it.
The great part of it is, when we can start to recognize that we don’t have to live our lives in a way that feels completely random and out of control, and that we have more control over the choices we make, we start to feel better about our circumstances and, most importantly, we can create the strategies that allow us overcome our obstacles and become who it is that we want to be.
Matt Tod is an international speaker, leadership facilitator, writer and lover of all things Zombie-related.