Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Life Lessons to My Older Self

Reading an article entitled “Life Lessons for My Younger Self” got me thinking about how you can apply time travelling wisdom to your own life in a useful and practical way.  So here is my radical alternative:  “Life Lessons to My Older Self”!

My thinking goes along these lines.  You can shape and influence your Older Self, helping him/her to be happier, more true to himself/herself and more successful. Understanding now what matters deeply to you, allows you to either express yourself fully now or shape your steps to do so in the future.  If you look at what you regret spending time on in the past, it can help you look at how you are using your time today. It helps you understand what more you want for yourself and others going forward.

Nelson Mandela had a very clear picture of what he felt was most relevant to him, saying he wanted his epitaph to read just “Here lies a man who has done his duty upon earth” and no more. Duty for him came before all else.  For others the heart searching questions about how you have lived your life will be different but no less important.

 Those questions may change over time too. In my twenties I acted like the all-important question was “Have you been successful?”  Unsurprisingly, the Rosie Miller that I was then was very earnest and hard working. Today I wonder whether the all-important question might be “Did you enjoy your life?” or “Did you make the best of your talents?”.  With this mindset I am looking at ways of having more fun and laughter in my life and ways to fully express my set of talents. I still want to be successful at work but I am challenging my Older Self to live a different balance in life – one which meets a clearer definition of success on my terms.  

So how can you rebalance your life and focus to enable your Older Self? One way is to run a self-audit every five years or so.  Many of us have 8-9 key life areas to consider (in no particular order): parent, family member, romantic partner, work or career, friends, health/fitness, interests, community involvement and possibly spiritual/faith.  You can adapt these to your own list of roles and priorities. Look at how you are performing across the different areas in your life versus what you would like to be true. It helps you take a helicopter view so that you can identify imbalances and think about what drives them. What would you like to do to help your Older Self have a better audit score? What will it feel like to achieve that?

I found doing a self-audit especially useful a few years ago when I was heavily engaged in a demanding job. The results showed that I was still responding to the same drivers as in my twenties. My work-orientation meant I was only expressing myself and contributing well across half the areas in my life. The much needed change has taken a few years but has paid off enormously in terms of happiness and satisfaction.

What then is my key life lesson to my Older Self? Keep asking yourself these questions:

Are you living a life that helps you fully be what you truly are?  

If not, when will you permit yourself to do so? 

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