choice

If today was the last day of your life, would you be doing what you’re doing?


Death - the only certainty of life

Death – the only certainty of life

“Fear not that life shall come to an end, but rather fear that it shall never have a beginning.” ~John Henry Cardinal Newman

“I wish I could stand on a busy corner, hat in hand, and beg people to throw me all their wasted hours.” ~Bernard Berenson

There’s an abundance of quotes available about making the most of life.

I often wonder what it would take for some people to realise that the choice to live it fully everyday is primarily theirs.

Granted, our circumstances and upbringing will have an affect on our choices, but at the end of the day, we can choose to be limited by them, or we can discover the gifts we’ve gained on our journeys, and use them wisely.

Death as an agent of change 

I’m extremely fortunate in that I’ve only ‘lost’ my grandparents – no-one else in my immediate family has had any serious illnesses or died.

I have however, had the experience of friends dying.

One in particular, in her 40th year, had a huge impact on me. I remember the shock that someone I’d only recently spent time with, could suddenly be gone, never to be seen again. Her death was one of the decision makers in my choice of travel to New Zealand initially in 2001.

“The more side roads you stop to explore, the less likely that life will pass you by”. ~Robert Brault

In 2005, I met the man I would marry in 2009. His first wife had sadly died in 2003, also at the age of 40 (ironically isn’t that when life is supposed to begin?). It took a long time after we got together for him to commit to me, he’d never imagined a life without her. Once he did make the choice, he opened up to so many opportunities to make the most of life, knowing from personal experience how suddenly it could all end.

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” ~Mark Twain

Living before you die

In June 2005, at a Stanford University commencement speech, Steve Jobs, CEO and co-founder of Apple and Pixar, talked about pursuing our dreams and being open to the opportunities in life’s setbacks. It’s an amazingly inspiring presentation,  titled ‘How to live before you die‘.

The part that really resonated with me, was that he looked in the mirror every day, and asked himself “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’  If the answer was ‘No’ too many times in a row, he knew it was time to change something.

“Begin doing what you want to do now. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand, and melting like a snowflake.” ~Marie Ray

Writing your eulogy

If you could write our own eulogy, what would it say?

I was recently touched by another untimely death. A midwifery colleague who’d been instrumental in bringing the option of water births to the West Midlands area, and possibly to the UK and elsewhere, through her unwavering passion and purpose.

She’d heard about the concept at a study day, and from that had made it her mission to find out more and introduce it to the Trust she worked at. The results of her three-year audit ‘The Tide Has Turned‘, was published in The British Journal of Midwifery in 1998.

Sadly I didn’t get to see her before she died, but I did send a letter to the Hospice which was read to her on the eve of her death. I told her what an inspiration she was, how she’d made an indelible difference to the lives of so many midwives and childbearing women and their families. Her daughter phoned me the next day to tell me she’d passed away, and that they’d all been touched and comforted by the words I’d written.

Why had I waited so long? Why hadn’t I made more effort to contact her while she was alive when I’d heard she was unwell in April? I guess my own life took over, with the huge changes I was making this year, and the priority of spending time with my family. So that’s ok. But it did motivate me to set up a Facebook Group for people who had worked in the maternity department at the Trust, and many people from that wrote heartwarming tributes too.  Now we can keep in touch, rather than wait until someone else dies before telling them how amazing they are.

Talking about death

I’m intrigued about the ways we talk of death, if we even venture to do so.

I have a fascination with graveyards, and reading headstones. People ‘pass away’, are ‘lost’, they ‘go to sleep’, rarely do they ‘die’. Why is that? I’m a member of an organisation called Dying Matters , which helps to get the concept of embracing our own mortality out into the world. Death seems to have overtaken sex as the taboo subject.

Delving into the book ‘The Five People You Meet in Heaven‘, you can explore how things you do or say, actions you take or neglect, can potentially have a life-chaging effect on others, even though you may not be aware of it at the time.

“Minutes are worth more than money. Spend them wisely.” ~Thomas P. Murphy

Points to consider

  1. Don’t wait until you’re dying before you start living – be wary of delaying your ‘bucket list’ until that ‘magical age’ of retirement (the one governments and employers keep changing!). Many people don’t make it that far.
  2. How frequently do you tell the people who are important to you, how much they mean to you – and why.
  3. Are there people who’ve made a positive impact on your life, that you can talk to and tell them – now, before it’s too late?
  4. How will you be remembered? What would you like your eulogy to say?
  5. If you’re not living the life of your dreams, what steps can you take towards that path, and who can support you along the way?

Live each day fully

“Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Don't delay - live today!

Don’t delay – live today!

My daughter recently sent this image and caption to me – that’s how I plan to grow older, and just in case I don’t make it that far, I love surprising people frequently.

If you want a supportive coach to challenge you to change and awaken to living each day fully, please get in touch and see if I can walk alongside you (go to my contact me page to book a suitable time and day).

Daring to be different, or ‘fitting in’?


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 “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” ~ Apple Inc.

Where do you see yourself? Are you doing what you’ve always wanted to do, or frequently wishing you could be living a different life?

For some reason I’d never heard of Steve Jobs until he died in 2011. Even then, I only learnt of his untimely death via Facebook, where I read a number of tributes to him from people I knew.

I was intrigued.

This man definitely sounded as though he’d dared to be different. I read more about him and watched Youtube videos of his speeches and was very impressed. He inspired me to buy an iPhone, and subsequently an Apple ‘Mac Air’ 13″ notebook computer. Previously I had no clue as to what the difference was between Apple and other systems – now I’m a convert.

How did I miss him?

I suspect it was because for years I’d vehemently avoided joining the ‘technological revolution’. I had an ancient ‘Motorolla’ mobile phone, which texted, called, and took photos (not terribly good quality), but I felt that was enough. Few people I knew personally had ‘Smart’ phones, and, probably most importantly, I didn’t think I’d be able to work out how to use one.

Making yourself noticeable

I guess it’s so much less challenging to ‘follow the crowd’ and just ‘fit in’ so no-one notices you.

I remember my youngest daughter once saying to me, “Mum. If you make yourself unnoticeable, no-one will notice you!” It sounds obvious really doesn’t it? I can’t recall exactly what was going on in my life at the time, but I suspect it was to do with my job and personal life, being afraid of rejection and not feeling ‘good enough’.

Over time though I’m proud to say I’ve faced many of my fears, and often challenged myself to my limits. I’ve had people say that I’m brave, and they wish they could travel/be adventurous/leave their unfulfilling job/dysfunctional relationship, etc. That “One day I want to …”, whatever it was for them. However, unless they can find the resources and courage to move out of their comfort zone, and realise it IS ok to not keep following the crowd, that ‘one day’ will eventually turn into ‘too late’.

One step at a time

Re-training at the age of 51 to ‘become’ a Life Coach, has been an amazing personal journey, which I know will continue for the foreseeable future. I’ve been astounded at the power of coaching to enable clients to uncover their limiting beliefs, face them head-on, and realise that the only thing limiting them from daring to be different and actualising their ‘One day I’ll …‘ is themselves.

Once they begin to take manageable steps towards the life they want, it begins to miraculously take shape, and their energy shifts from one of sameness and routine, often ruled by fear, to one of excitement, joy and hope for their future possibilities.

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”~Mahatma Gandhi

Holidaying in Samoa last year, my friend and I came across a stunning vista – a breath-taking swimming hole inside an open-topped cave. The challenge was to climb down a rather basic wooden step ladder to reach the warm water. It looked terribly scary, and my immediate reaction was there was no way I could do it.

My brain imagined all the things that could go wrong, like slipping and falling, banging my head and being killed outright or dying in agony, or worst of all being maimed for life. Then I saw and heard people who’d already made it down there, and were having a great time. They’d overcome whatever fears they’d encountered. It looked so refreshing in the heat.

The more I opened up to possibilities, the more I realised I could either allow my fears to limit me and turn away from an experience of a lifetime, or I could put them in perspective and reduce the risks (which were real!) of falling – imagining myself achieving instead of ‘failing’.

I chose the latter. I was still aware of the consequences of slipping and falling – I just didn’t allow those thoughts to limit me. I listened to my inner coach rather than my inner critic/gremlin, and talked myself through the journey.

Here’s the water hole …

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In the following video you’ll see me descending the ladder, albeit cautiously and carefully (apologies for the quality, it was taken by my astounded friend, who then decided if I could do it she could also – and did!), whilst coaching myself and breathing slowly and deeply to keep me calm …

 

 

And here I am at the bottom – so impressed with myself for overcoming my fears, and looking forward to the swim – before coaching myself to tackle the stairs again!

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“If you celebrate your differentness, the world will, too. It believes exactly what you tell it—through the words you use to describe yourself, the actions you take to care for yourself, and the choices you make to express yourself. Tell the world you are one-of-a-kind creation who came here to experience wonder and spread joy. Expect to be accommodated.” ~Victoria Moran

I’d love to hear from you.

When have you dared to be different?

How and why do you sometimes wish you could move away from ‘following the crowd’ and ‘fitting in’ to make yourself unnoticeable?

Changing perspectives on choices and decisions – are they really right or wrong, good or bad?


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‘Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention …’~Frank Sinatra

Good old Frank, he was proud to have done it his way, informing the world he’d lived  ” … a life that’s full …“.

How many of us can say we allow ourselves to feel and believe such words?

It’s more likely that you find yourself frequently looking back in time, wondering what would’ve happened in your life had you made a different decision, or taken another direction, rather than the one/s you took?

Similar to the movie ‘Sliding Doors’, maybe you wonder what would’ve happened had you boarded another metaphorical train on that day, at that time, in your past?

I’ve recently heard stories from friends, relations and clients about instances where they wish they’d made alternative choices in their lives.   They’re feeling desperate at times believing life would be so much better, and they’d be so much happier, had they chosen an alternative.  It seems this hinges mainly around letting go of someone, or something, and/or missing out on the accumulation of wealth.

My challenge

I can certainly empathise with this challenge.

There’s a pivotal point in my life I occasionally return to, with a tinge of regret, when I sold a house I’d aspired to own for many years – and two years later the property doubled in value.  Yes, there was a man involved and I was distracted by my ego and past ‘neediness’ to believe we had a future together, even though on reflection the signs were all there to the contrary (that retro-scope is an amazing tool isn’t it?).  We were going to travel to New Zealand together (a place I’d dreamed of living for as long as I could remember), though I recall him challenging me mockingly that he didn’t believe I’d ever leave the town I grew up in, or the organisation I’d worked in for the previous 14 years.

I was also lured by the short-term gain of cash in the bank (it’s a very attractive prospect when you’ve struggled financially for many years as a single parent!), and with it the ability to take time off to travel, as my daughters were grown and heading on their own new adventures. By the time I realised maybe it hadn’t been the best choice, I’d been brave enough to travel to New Zealand on my own, spent the equity I’d had from the sale (in amazing experiences rather than things), and subsequently returned to England with no house, no job, no car, no relationship and no money.

That was over twelve years ago, and since then I’ve been fortunate to find ways to buy and sell three houses, hold three senior posts in the midwifery profession in UK and NZ, release my NHS pension and invest a lump sum in NZ, meet my soul mate and remarry (for the third time – this time for life!), and am now living our dream on the waterways of England aboard a narrowboat.

Lots of threes there did you notice? Interestingly, in numerology, the number three is associated with growth.

Despite this, I do ponder intermittently what my life could look like had I not made that choice.  I believe I would now be mortgage free with a house worth around £250,000, about to retire from a senior role in the same place I’d worked for 26 years, and looking forward to a healthy lump sum and pension.  My children would have had a base to return to in times of struggle.

However, I’m also convinced it would’ve meant I’d have ‘settled’ for a life of mediocrity, safeness and sameness, with little risk or challenge to stimulate my soul – and then it’s very likely I would’ve always looked back and wondered ‘what if I’d sold my house, given up my job, been open to change, took a risk, etc,etc.’

Lifetime learnings so far

“Through it all, when there was doubt …” I’ve learned:

  • People come into our lives – for a reason, a season or a lifetime
  • It’s up to us to embrace what they’re there to teach us and then reflect on those lessons
  • The decisions we make are based on the evidence we have available to us at that time – and we generally make the best choice from that information
  • To listen to my intuition more – it’s generally right
  • I can look at the gifts that each experience has brought me, so that next time I face something similar I have more knowledge of the options and outcomes
  • I believe we’re happiest when we embrace change and take risks, when we follow our hearts and can be open to adventure
  • It’s highly unlikely I’d want to end my life thinking ‘thank goodness I didn’t move away from my comfort zone and kept myself safe and risk free’.

Many clients I’ve had the honour of coaching, have similar stories – so what’s the answer?

Is there really an answer?

As we live longer, there will be more times that we’ve made choices and changes.  Some will work out how we imagined, and others will alter the course of our lives irretrievably for better or worse.

A new perspective

Alternatively, how can we look at things from a new perspective?

Here’s three (!) possibilities to ponder:

  1. People come into our lives for a reason – if I hadn’t sold my house and gone to New Zealand the first time, I wouldn’t have had the incredible opportunities I’ve had since then, and met some amazing people who’ve become life-long friends – and I wouldn’t have met my gorgeous husband.
  2. Life is not just a process of the accumulation of wealth – money is important, granted, it’s difficult to live without it.  But if all we do is focus on being safe and secure, what possibilities are we denying ourselves?
  3. Being grateful for what we DO have, rather than always wishing we had more – whatever choices and changes you’ve made in your life, you’ve made for reasons that resonated with you at that time. Be compassionate with yourself and know that you’re always doing your best, with the information you have.

At our wedding in 2009, on the roof of our narrowboat Northern Pride, my elderly father took me to one side and asked me how I knew so many people – and that was just friends and family in UK! One of my gifts from the paths I’ve taken has been knowing some incredible people.

There’s a quote I love that’s pertinent here, and really resonates with me:

“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” ~William G.T. Shed

Do feel free to comment on any choices, changes or decisions you’ve made that you may be feeling regret about.  Will you listen to your inner critic, or your inner coach?

Then, consider how you can change your perspective on that if you’re still unhappy – or contact me to see if coaching could support you further …