Or back up a step…how do you know when you are on the right path? How can you judge if your life has meaning?
These are big questions…like elephant in the middle of the room type questions. And the answer definitely has to come from inside of you…in that place where you are the judge and jury.
And I have been sitting there a lot lately. A lot. More than that…yeah…that much.
And yes, I started with the judge, and man was she tough….but luckily, I had some big time helpers sitting on my jury! And here is what we came to agree on…maybe this will help you with your inquiry.
1) Personal Integrity
The top of the list called, “Did I make it” had one clear bell. How well am I living up to my own sense of Personal Integrity. The things that came up for me were big and small. Do I recycle, compost, how big is my carbon footprint, Am I honest, can I be trusted and can I trust myself, am I responsible, am I a good person, do I check in with my needs and make sure they are met. The list goes on and on. It turns out that being alive has many many responsibilities, but to be present for them, I have to know myself. So before it all, this was most important.
It’s turned into a buzz word lately, but really, when you look inside….do have evidence of being a compassionate person? Do you listen more than you talk? Are you a good friend? A good human? Can you be present for another person? We can’t all be Buddha, but we can do what we can do. And what I have realized is that when I have space for compassion within myself…I have a lot of room for compassion towards others.
3) Meaningful Work versus Necessary Work
This one is tricky. I happen to be super lucky and my work IS my passion. But there are lots of you out there who have a job and learn to like/tolerate it…and it’s a necessity. There is no shame in that. BUT….it means you have to find meaningful work elsewhere….because the dwarfs had it right when they sang whistle while you work. There is a medicine in doing things we love. So one of the best ways to know if you’ve made it, is by pointing to work you have done this lifetime you are proud of, that brought you satisfaction, joy even.
There are people who make art along the beach…spend all day making sandcastles or drawing amazing pieces with shading and everything…and it’s gone as soon as the tide comes in. But this brings them the most intense feeling of purpose, of passion! And it’s fleeting, so they do it again the next day. This isn’t about leaving a mark that never moves throughout history…this is about finding what wants to come out of you! This one is tricky…but it’s very important.
4) Giving Back
This does not mean financially, though it could. However you can give back…it counts. And this one counts big! Other examples of giving back are volunteering, picking up trash (you know when I’m walking my dog and I see some other dog poop near where my dog is going…I always pick it up. It can be little things!) It can be playing with your friends kids when they really need a break, holding doors open for people when their hands are full…every little thing that helps another person is part of giving back. How many times a day can you reach out? I bet it’s more than you think!
Finding your friends and your community in life is an amazing way to gauge if you’ve made it. When I look around at the people who surround me, people who I have chosen and who have chosen me back…I am amazed. I may not think that highly of myself…but I have to marvel at the amazing people around me and acknowledge they see something in me I don’t see. I have ultimate faith in their judgement and I can allow that knowledge to fill me up! Look around and see who surrounds you. Community cannot be bought, it can’t be won…it has to be earned…and when you are in the center of amazing people, you KNOW you’ve made it!
I think it’s easy to run around and try this and try that and do this and…wow. That gets exhausting, but it’s fun! And it’s distracting. When you can turn all that enthusiasm inward, when you find that inner balance which allows for perfect stillness, for contemplation, for being in the moment, You have made it.
I have used this example before, and I’m not a skier, but I know a ton of ‘em. And they always talk about that focus, that presence, that stillness they can connect into when they are going down the mountain at full speed. So stillness can take many forms…there is no right or wrong.
7)Personal Feelings of Accomplishment
You get a say in weather you have made it or not too! When you look inside…what are your accomplishments in life? And I would like to stop that thought that just came up…because I had to stop myself from this a few months back. Other peoples ideas of what making it means has nothing to do with your ideas! You get to decide. You get to feel what is right. And I really suggest sitting down and making a list, or a drawing, or a doodle or whatever feels like the right way to tap into this information. Remember, you are your judge and your jury…lay out the fullest case you can. And if you aren’t feeling anything…it’s time to get to work! (But I bet you can find at least one!)
8)At least one other person agrees with you
I was actually having a hard time coming up with my list, and those of you who know me may be shocked by that. But I happened to be talking with a friend who said, “Elisha, I don’t know anyone who has touched and changed more peoples lives for the better.” And he started giving me an example of how I had changed his. And I started thinking about all my patients and friends and even strangers who I listened to and offered advice and heard from them years later how our chat had propelled them forward in life. And I realized that making it..for me…has always about helping pe0ple be the best version of themselves.
So getting a little agreement from folks feels beyond amazing. Imagine you are calling witnesses to the stand…and make sure you call good ones!
9) Joy is a part of everyday
I think a major indicator of making it or not is the quality and quantity of joy in your life. If you aren’t having a good time….you definitely have NOT made it. And by joy I mean something different than random manic outbursts…I mean…without being overly cliche, though I’m going to be anyway…that you stop to smell the flowers. That you actually are awed by sunsets or leaves unfurling or waves rolling in…or whatever it is that brings joy into your life and heart. Yes laughter is important, but so is that full feeling you can get in your heart where you think it’s going to burst from love or joy or whatever word that comes no where close to capturing what is happening in those moments.
10) Your list of accomplishments eclipses your list of regrets
This should be obvious. But I want to point something out here. We all wanted to be Indiana Jones or an Astronaut or a movie star or the President. Those don’t really count in what i’m talking about unless you were on a track towards one of those things and failed miserably…or really wanted to try and just never did. I’m talking about taking stock in all the things above and laying them out as your closing argument right now…even though you have so much more living to do. If you looked at your life right now, where do you stand? And lucky for you, you still have time, even if it’s only a few breaths. Take one of those things above and do it differently. Do it from your heart. Do it with passion that you haven’t mustered up in years. Do it with reckless abandon! (I can’t give up the cliches.)
If you are serious about feeling like your life has been worth something, like you want to know that about your self…start living the life that will make that happen.
Money isn’t everything. In fact, when I really got down to it…99% of what makes my life so beautiful has nothing to do with it. And I have to tell you…that feels really good.
So, how do you know when you’ve made it?
Let’s hear your case!