Photo by Gibson Claire McGuire Regester
At the beginning of this year, I quit my job to found a startup. For months, I’ve worked tirelessly to make the startup grow and launch successful projects. And just as the startup is starting to take off in the eyes of the public, I decided to take a step back and spend more time on new projects.
A few weeks ago, I sat with a group of trusted friends sharing stories and advice. A story came up about a man who was offered an amazing business opportunity, which he declined over and over again — even when the offer kept getting better and better. The man’s logic was this:
“I’m focusing on three things right now. Accepting this business opportunity does not fit into any of these three things.”
I’ll never forget that story, and there’s one thing I understood: I have a limited time in this life. If I want to spend it wisely, I need to focus.
There’s no changing or questioning this. We all have a limited time to live a remarkable life. Some people live for seconds, days, years, decades — but nobody is here forever. All of that seems very morbid — and it is — but there is a powerful motivator behind this concept, as well.
It’s this motivator that is keeping me focused.
You can’t forget dying. It’ll make living that much better.
To everyone around me, my decision to take some space from my startup doesn’t make much sense. It sounds like I’m throwing away all that time I invested in growing something into what it could become in the future.
To me, it feels like taking a deep breath. To me, it feels like the freedom that I’ve always wanted. To me, it feels like the bliss of writing for hours. To me, it feels right.
I have less time today than I had yesterday, and that’s awesome! Today, I can live differently than yesterday. Today, I can enjoy life differently than I did yesterday. Today, I can wake up and experiencethe world differently than I did yesterday.
I’d rather focus on today instead of yesterday.
I now know that I had better get busy living -— and fast. I’ll share some tips in case you want to join me.
Taking Advantage of Your Life — Your Action Plan
1. Know your five things — where you want to go.
Every one of us is different, and our goals are as unique as our personalities. Most times, our daily activities are overwhelming and tedious. The problem is that they may or may not line up with what we actually wish to achieve and feel each day.
This helped me make the decision to step back.
To figure this out and get back on track with what I really want to do, I take some time every few weeks to list out the five core things that I want to feel and what activities I am partaking in to create those feelings in my life. Activities that don’t match up with my five probably should be eliminated.
For example, the core five things that I’m striving for in my life are:
My five are probably extremely different than what your list might look like — and that’s okay. But you have to come up with your own list to figure out whether your life is on the right track and what activities will lead you to your own five.
2. Write out each tiny step — how you will get there.
Once I have my list of five, I add a column and start planning out what I can do to achieve those five emotions, states of being, or accomplishments. I plan out exactly what I will do tomorrow, the next day, and every single moment up until I’m there. It may be tedious, but it keeps me focused.
It keeps me focused on what contributes to my life, not what detracts from it.
Usually, my first reaction is to feel appalled at how distracted I have become in my activities and endeavors. I’ll never forget the first time I sat down to make my list of five and realized that almost none of my day-to-day projects and activities were leading me anywhere near where I wanted to go!
The magic is that, after a few revised lists and more self-reflection, I find myself more satisfied and focus with my projects with each passing day. It appears as if scheduling regular check-ins with myself to hone in on my deepest desires and emotions has helped steer the ship to a better place all on its own.
3. Get it done and smile
In the words of Henry David Thoreau, “All endeavor calls for the ability to tramp the last mile, shape the last plan, endure the last hour’s toil.”
There is something we all must face — the work. It won’t be easy, but it’ll be worthwhile.
The choice of how to get the work done is all yours, and that is beauty behind the decision-making ability you hold in your power. You can choose to do the work and enjoy the process — or resent it and walk away frustrated and beaten down.
Most days, I choose to take each challenge (sucky as it may be) and re-frame it as a liberating experience.
Learning something new (like a tedious math problem) is liberating.
Overcoming an obstacle (like having a tough conversation) is liberating.
Launching a new project (like emailing out offers and announcements) is liberating.
Draining my body of its energy (like an exhausting and purifying run) is liberating.
If I re-frame all of my day-to-day activities as liberating, there is nothing to get in my way of achieving my five core emotions. There is nothing that could hold me back from making the decision to spend more time with my startup, instead of on the projects that are calling to me.
The beauty is that, by anchoring my life to the five things I desire the most, I’ve regained my life and started to live every single day as if it’s a vacation. I invite you to do the same.