I remember Oprah saying she would never have been able to dream big enough to imagine her life today… that her dreams were based on what she knew at the time. She said she couldn’t have predicted or imagined all that she has become.
And that’s the gift of the Second Act of life. It offers us an opportunity to look back at our lives and assess what we’ve already achieved, in particular, things we thought we could never have accomplished or circumstances we miraculously survived.
Why look back? Because in the second act, hindsight is where wisdom is born.
Like most people, I’ve had a tumultuous life.
Here’s a list of things I thought I couldn’t do:
· Survive unimaginable loss
· Start a new career… and succeed
· Heal my heart after divorce
· Raise my kids on my own
· Find love again
· Write books and articles about all the things I thought I couldn’t do
Oprah was right.
The magnitude of your life can’t be predicted. Like Oprah, if I had tried to conceive of experiencing or surviving any of these things, I would have quickly slipped into overwhelm, fear, and doubt.
I didn’t plan my whole life story. Some things happened that I couldn’t have foreseen. We all have those life interruptions, and it’s how we view them today that has the potential to give us our deepest insights.
After all, here I stand, ready and willing to accept there could be something more, something bigger, something beyond my ability to dream.
I’m ready to say “yes” to the unforeseeable future.
Life is always a mystery until it happens.
Every new year, people have great fantasies about setting and achieving goals. I think the great interrupt of this type of goal-setting is that we really don’t know what will happen until it does. We can try to have a great overview and lots of targets to shoot for, but really, we just don’t know.
I’m already playing catch-up on this year’s business goals. I couldn’t have predicted my business would stall in the early part of this new year. But I plan to move forward, trusting I can adjust the course anywhere along the way. My life has proven it again and again.
As the years and experiences give us wisdom, we can share our relevance, our value, and inspiration to those just waiting in the wings. We have earned the right to be seen and heard.
We are hardwired to thrive.
We are all hardwired to survive. We are also hardwired as creative beings. Creativity guarantees us the flexibility to go on, in spite of our setbacks. It’s not just limited to the arts; it is in everything and every decision you make.
Because you’re creative, you can read a book and make it come alive. You can make choices to choose this over that. It stimulates the emotional center of your brain and makes you think about your next steps.
Do you have the exact same thoughts today as you had yesterday? No… that’s creativity joining with experiences of the day to create a whole new 24 hours.
You may get up and go to work, just like every day, but you don’t have the same thoughts or reactions you had yesterday. The experiences and input of today open up a new file folder in your brain.
You know more, and so it continues to add to your knowledge, which in turn, bursts open the next thought and the next after that.
Thank goodness Maya Angelou, Steve Jobs, or Thomas Edison didn’t stop when they failed. All three exhibit different kinds of talent. Creativity whispered in their ear to keep trying no matter what. They monumentally changed the world, but think of countless others who transformed our lives… like the person who invented the refrigerator, or the creator of a comfortable mattress, or the first to make a cup of coffee from strange little roasted beans.
Creativity makes “choice” come alive.
Your creative mind goes to war with limited thinking and opens up new possibilities. Every day is an opportunity to make a better day.
It’s the new year, and you have dreams, and goals, and targets for what you want to accomplish, and yet sometimes it seems so overwhelming.
Don’t stop. Trust your ability to be resilient and your creative mind will help you achieve all that you hope for…but don’t forget to leave a little room for something more.
Just like Oprah. She could never have dreamed big enough. She just kept making one decision at a time and had faith that she could stop resisting change, release the oars, and trust she was floating down the right river.
I had tremendous doubts about my ability to survive.
There have been so many times I’ve felt like my boat had tipped over and I was drowning. I had tragically lost my son, then my marriage. I was suddenly alone raising my three living children.
Along the way, I learned how strong I really am. I never could have conceived of my uprising from the depths of despair.
And yet I did.
I had the ability within me to regenerate the life I had lost into something more. Here are some key things I remind myself whenever I lose faith…
Darn it… I’m not Wonder Woman.
Although I often thought I wanted to be, but thinking I could do it all and making it all happen on my terms cost me, big time. I can think of numerous hours I spent at the computer trying to figure out a new program or updating my website, ending up with tears and frustration, not to mention lost hours that I could have been writing or meeting with clients.
Today, I finally know that I don’t have to do everything. I focus on what I love and what I am capable of doing, and delegate the rest. (I discovered there are virtual assistants out there who have reasonable rates, and they can do it all much faster than I can.)
I’m in and out of love with hiring housekeepers. Sometimes I just like doing things my own way.
Don’t get stuck thinking you should be able to do it all. Do what you must and ask for help with the rest.
But wait… who is Wonder Woman anyway?
In the last film version of Wonder Woman starring Gal Gadot, directed by Patty Jenkins, she was portrayed as an extremely complex woman with a blend of naiveté and innate brilliance. She worked hard to prepare herself physically and mentally for the ever-changing world before her. She’s not always sure or confident, but that doesn’t stop her.
She has a great costume, but what she really wears is her cape of strength, even when faced with great danger. Even when you don’t feel strong, it helps to trick your mind into thinking you are. It jolts the brain’s amygdala to create a powerful emotional response.
Believe that you ARE Wonder Woman… Put on your armor, whether it be preparing yourself with knowledge, skills, or creativity, and trust you’ll figure out whatever comes your way.
I don’t have to know everything before I move forward with my plan.
You’ve likely heard the expression “fly the plane while you’re building it.” That saying always made me feel a little excited about what comes next. It’s the perfect metaphor for avoiding fear or overwhelm because all you have to consider is the very next step.
You can still have the blueprint for building, but there are always tiny adjustments AND big leaps that surprise you until they present themselves.
Keep moving forward… As Marie Forleo says, “Everything is figure-outable.”
I need to make peace with myself when things don’t happen the way I want.
Sometimes we find out it was actually the better plan.
I’m now aware that goals might shift, change, and possibly grow bigger as they come to fruition. Stay open to possibility!
Consistency makes me better at what I do.
People think that working from home means you work when you feel like it. I have two jobs. I work as a real estate agent, and I’m a writer. I have to be consistent with both.
I realize that I need to prepare for my creative time, just as I plan for my real estate clients. Consistency and showing up for your work is absolutely essential.
I need to honor myself for what I HAVE done.
Sometimes I don’t give myself enough credit, and it’s likely you don’t do that for yourself, either.
Try looking back over this past year; you’ll discover some of the milestones and the big things you accomplished. Did you celebrate? And what about the little “wins?” Even the little tiny day-to-day successes count for something.
I decided to return to my child heart and bought a pack of happy face stickers for my checklists and calendar. You’d be surprised how good it feels to put a silly sticker on a completed goal, particularly on my daily workouts. Those little achievements add up to a great feeling about the day.
Wake up your goals with excitement.
Have you set your goals? Author, Michael Hyatt says that big goals have to evoke real passion or you won’t stick with them.
Give your goals some excitement. Set up rewards when you achieve them, anything from happy face stickers to planning a vacation for your “big win.”
I’m not done yet, and neither are you.
Look at your past as the First Act in your life script. You’ll see the cycles you’ve already lived. There’s no story without conflict, but you’ve survived! The knowledge of where you’ve come from gives you the enlightenment to negotiate and fully live the Second Act.
I know I can’t recover the life I once had with my beautiful son and husband, but I do know this new life of mine adorns me with gifts of love and a suit of armor that makes me feel powerful and alive.
Rise up to honor the life that is uniquely your own and embrace it with all the grace, dignity, and respect you’ve earned. That’s the glory of your legacy years. Enjoy them now.
A version of this post was previously published on Thrive Global and is republished here with permission from the author.
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