Has Your Life Gotten Off Track?
Do you ever feel like your life is so far off track that you don’t know how you’ll ever get back on? Maybe you’ve lost your job, maybe you’re in recovery from an addiction that has cost you everything, maybe you have an illness that keeps you from following your dreams, maybe you’ve gotten divorced.
Well, take a big breath and read this.
There is no track you are supposed to be on
There are 7 billion people on this planet and all of them are doing something different. They’re supposed to be doing something different. That’s why they’re individuals, unique. Whatever you choose to do with your life or wherever life takes you, that’s where you’re supposed to be right now. You are having an adventure – a spiritual being in this body for this lifetime.
Now, you may not like the particular adventure you’re having at the moment. You may want more: more money, more friends, more health. You may want less: less panic, less guilt, less shame, less loneliness. That’s ok. We’re designed to want some things and not others – without that we wouldn’t create new adventures. But the important point is that at each moment in this lifetime, you get to choose a new adventure. (Some of you may remember the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books from years ago.)
The idea that there is a particular track for you is something that is part of our social conditioning. A couple of hundred years ago the track was supposed to be: Get a farm, have a family, slog it out for 50 years, and then hope one of your children did the same thing and took care of you when you couldn’t do it anymore.
That isn’t most people’s track anymore. Today the track is something like: Go to college, get a good paying job, get promoted, slog it out for 50 years, and hope you have enough savings or pension to keep you going in retirement.
If you’re not doing that, people tell you you’re not on track. But who says you have to want that track? Plenty of people do other things. Some people are minimalists. Instead of making more money, they scale back their needs so they can enjoy other aspects of their lives. If you want to earn money, you might decide to be a pearl diver or a scarecrow. Yes, these jobs exist along with a lot of other really unconventional ones.
There are many advantages to being off track
If you’re not on the standard track, the past doesn’t create your future.
It may have created your present and it may take a little pushing to steer the ship in another direction, but you can start turning the wheel now. Ulysses S. Grant was derailed by drinking, depression, and business failure. He ended up as President.
If you’re not on the standard track, you can make room for your limitations.
If you’re ill, choose a path that allows for that. If you’re grieving, give yourself time to grieve. If you have a bad credit record, give yourself time to get it in better shape. When things go wrong, we want to right them all tomorrow, but that usually leads us into worse troubles. As Anthony Robbins has commented, “most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year – and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade.” Relax into a slow first year or two.
If you’re not on the standard track, you get to see that life about appreciation as much as it is about production.
If no one existed to appreciate art or purchase useful items or listen to music or go to a library, what would our world be like? Listening, seeing, hearing, appreciating, reflecting on – these are all what our human self is created to do. The rush to “do, do, do” is not inherent to being human – it’s a value of a particular modern western worldview. Other worldviews often do not value it as much. For example, studies done on primitive cultures find that people work enough to produce their sustenance and then spend the rest of their time simply experiencing their lives. Eastern cultures are more about being than doing. Doing has its place but not at the expense of other aspects of human experience. Try enlarging the space you give to the appreciation of life.
If you’re not on the standard track, you aren’t too old.
Age matters to organizations who don’t want to pay benefits and higher salaries to people who may not be there for the long haul or to people who have built up higher costs due to seniority. However, if you have your own business or are working with a small group that needs your expertise right now, it only matters that you bring value to the venture. That value can be experience, maturity, stability, creativity, and many other qualities you have had time to develop. Grandma Moses started painting at the age of 78. Colonel Sanders started his finger-lickin’ chicken company at the age of 70. I met and married my soulmate at the age of 65, and we started our company the same year. It’s been a grand adventure.