You read in magazines or on line, see on television all these happy people seemingly living their lives to the fullest, yet there are you feeling stuck, frazzled, and with a sense that life is just passing you by. What can you do differently to change the way you feel?
Not that long ago, just after my eye operation in November 2014 I had this nagging feeling that life was passing me by. Both my loss of vision and the side effects were bringing me down, making me feel frustrated and getting older by the day! Maybe old age wasn’t helping as we already know, life seems to pass more quickly as we get older.
If you’re someone who feels life is passing you by then you’re not alone. There are so many people of all ages who feel exactly the same.
Often your time is consumed with doing relatively benign routine activities. Spending your whole day doing jobs at work that don’t challenge you much or that you don’t enjoy; then doing food shopping on the way home; interacting with your kids or your spouse over the dinner table before vegetating in front of the television. Of course for you onliners, there’s checking your email, taking care of your social medias like Twitter and Facebook and all the other daily tasks you rinse and repeat on a daily basis. Time seems to crawl by. Yet at the end of most evenings you ask yourself the question: Where did today go?
I think the better question that you need to be asking yourself is “where did things go wrong?”
I chased the good life my while lifelong. Look back on my life and my life gone, where did I go wrong? Kanye West
I am going now to introduce you to an awesome tool that will allow you to reflect on the personal experiences and influences that have motivated you in your personal and professional life. We are going to use the symbol of a river to reflect on key stages in your life pinpointing both your positive and negative experiences and influences.
You are going to reflect on these issues:
- If you were able to compare your life with a river, what would the river look like?
- When and where are the smooth, flowing waters – those times when events and relationships seem generally positive or there is a sense of ease about your life?
- When does the river take a sudden turn (and what caused the turn), or change from smooth waters to rough, tumbling rapids or to an excited rush of water?
- Are there rocks or boulders falling into your river – unexpectedly landing there, changing its direction forever?
- Are there points at which it flows powerfully and purposefully or seems to slow to a trickle?
- Begin with a blank sheet of paper. Draw your river of life with its bends and turns, its smooth waters and rough spots, its strength/vitality, and its direction.
- Write in your approximate age, and/or dates, along the flow of your river.
- Identify on your drawing the various key “marker events” in your life – the boulders in the river, or places where the river changes course – that shape your story.
- If you were able to divide your life journey into sections, where would the section divisions occur? Give names to each of the sections of your life river.
- Now think about the various people who have accompanied you along this river’s journey.
- What relationships have been the most significant at different points in your life?
- Who has most shaped you?
- Have there been significant losses of relationship along the way?
- What groups or communities of people were most important?
- Record these key relationships and losses in the appropriate places on your river of life.
- If you wish, you might also want to jot down some of the thoughts and feelings that go along with these relationships.
- In relation to your life’s journey,
- Are there times of significant pain or suffering – yours or others’ – that shape the flow of your life river?
- What has happened along the journey of your life that you associate with major negativity?
- Add these elements to your river.
- As you reflect on your river of life,
- What values, commitments, causes, or principles were most important to you at a given point in your life?
- Toward what goals, if any, were your primary energies directed – or, metaphorically speaking, what purposes and ends helped to shape the flow of life waters at a given time in your experience?
- Note these on your river.
Taking a Step Back
As you finish depicting your river of life, take a look over the whole diagram.
- Do its symbols and words seem to portray how you think and feel about the whole of your life?
- Is there some important element left out?
- Make adjustments as needed
Now looking at your map determine what were you doing differently at the times where your life was very satisfying and you were at your best?
My educated guess would be that at the better times in your life you had meaning. And maybe this is the key to life. In his best-selling book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl suggests three ways for finding meaning in our lives:
By creating a work or doing a deed
By experiencing something or encountering someone
By the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering
“I don’t know what to do.” “I feel stuck.” “I’m lost.” Those are words I hear frequently from clients. Life feels stalled. All those big hopes and dreams seem to have just evaporated into dust. Their answer is to find their meaning of life. When you are lacking a purpose in life, you have no meaning of life and it’s time to put a stop to your sadness, despair and hopelessness! Life is meaningless without meaning or purpose. So you need to find what will give you a meaning of life. Your own personal understanding of what you are meant to be doing with your life.
Reflect on the question ‘what’s my purpose in life’ for a day or two and then I will provide another amazing tool to help you.
Do this so you’ll no longer feel life is just passing you by.