I love the movie starring Jim Carrey titled Yes Man. It’s a comedy with an underlying message of positive thinking and seizing moments as they come. In the past few months, I’ve noticed that I too have become more of a Yes Man with a more open mind backed up by my growing self-esteem. I started seeing life with increased immediacy because recently one of my long time friends was hospitalized due to complications with his eyes. He temporarily lost 80% of his vision and has been sliding down a slippery slope of health concerns over the years including diabetes, hearing problems and heart pain to go with his life long battle with eczema. He’s married with two very young boys and he’s only 44.
As my collection of friends begin to show their age (with knee problems, high blood pressure, cholesterol challenges, balding), I sometimes think about some of my own aches and pains including my lower back and knees after playing intense games of basketball.
And when I think about recent celebrities passing away at the young age of 75-80 years old, I begin doing the math of the remaining time I might have on this planet.
Let’s see… 80 – 45 = 35 years…
..in that 35 years, i may not have the same mobility and health as i do now….so let’s knock off 10 years…
that leaves 25 years or so…
I turn 46 this March…so that loosely leaves me around ONLY 24 years of quality living….yeesh!
So at the turn of the New Year, I reached several conclusions. Not resolutions. Conclusions.
Time is finite. Saying yes to everything like how Jim Carrey did in the movie isn’t realistic, but keeping an open mind to new ideas, new ventures and new passions might just take you up a notch with your overall level of happiness. A friend of mine sometimes says to me, “could have, would have, should have” whenever I whine to her about my missed opportunities. If it’s something you’re passionate about, it’s worth considering because you may not have the time to do it again in the future. We blow off our friends because we’re too busy, or we don’t spend enough time with our kids while their young because we’re occupied checking emails from work. Those opportunities may not come around again and time is ticking and we need to prioritize what makes us happy.
We all want to share our stories
I went out on a date a few months ago with this lady friend I met at a function. Nice woman who clearly takes care of herself very well. She’s got a good head on her shoulders along with two teenage boys to look after. We had a real nice time over coffee and she had so much to share about her kids, her career and her backstory that she was very open and eager to share. After the date, we didn’t quite feel a connection, but I realized how much she needed to tell me (or someone) about her story. She must have a felt a weight lifted when she did and also validated. Everyone has a story to share about themselves. When we find that safe place where we can connect with, the floodgates open. It’s especially important for us as we get older to share about our past because it’s what created who we are today and reminds ourselves of how far we’ve battled through despite the pain we may have endured. In the process of sharing our stories, we feel validation which is a key element to finding our purpose.
And besides, the prequels to movies and stories are always more interesting anyway…
More ways than one to live
Here’s how my life was mapped out for me:
Graduate from highschool. Check.
College degree. Check.
Buy a car. Check.
Start a career. Check.
Find a great girl and marry her. Check.
Buy a home. Check.
Start a family. Check.
I worked so hard in my life, planning, saving, worrying, analyzing and more planning to avoid being in the exact position I found myself in many years ago: divorced, alone, depressed, angry, resentful and without a whole lot of money to my name.
So I say, forget about the planning, worrying, analyzing and comparisons to others because there’s so many ways to live your life and to find yourself in a happier place. All the cookie cutter plans that work for some people, may not work for you. Find your voice and go your own way.
Make your contribution
A number of years ago, my friend and colleague Christine helped me find a supply of coffee flavoring for a beverage that I was developing. She discovered it at a food show in New Orleans and to this very day, I still sometimes remind her how successful that product is, thanks to her.
I told her that she’s left her mark on the world.
She grimaced and explained to me how she’s got a Masters degree in Food Science and she’s embarrassed that she’ll always be remembered as the girl who came up with a coffee flavor for a kids’ beverage. She said she’d rather be remembered for something greater.
I explained to her how she’s missing my point. It’s less important what the contribution is, as long as it’s for a greater good and helps someone along the way. The bigger message I wanted to make is that we’re still talking about HER today, and that’s what matters.
When I published Living with the Dragon, it wasn’t to make millions obviously but what was important to me was that I’ll be remembered as a person who made a contribution to the mental health community around the world. I may not revolutionize the way we think but I feel as though I’ve made my mark on the fire hydrant, and that feels pretty darn good.