As many of you noticed, I didn’t publish a post last week. I experienced some big shifts on my last day in NYC (after our awesome event!), and ended up releasing a crap load of stuff as soon as I got back to Barcelona. This manifested as a massive head cold/flu, which I surrendered to (didn’t really have a choice…), leading me to rest and sleep and stay in bed as much as possible. Thank you to all of those who were concerned about me and reached out (you guys are so sweet!), and thank you to all of those who weren’t worried at all (you held the space for my wellness!). I’m all better now and back in better form than ever (LOVE the energy rush we get after a big release!). Now, for today’s blog post.
I received a beautiful message from new reader Awesome Marc the other day, in which he thanked me for my work and declared that he was looking to get out of his soul-sucking job. He used the phrase “Life is short” as the reason that he was now willing to make a change. A lot of us use that phrase, and quite often. It’s the original version of YOLO (You Only Life Once). After all, if you only have all that much time to live (or only one life), you’d better use that time wisely. You wouldn’t want to waste your short, precious, scarce life, would you?
The only problem is that the phrase “life is short” is not only totally crap at motivating us to have the lives we want, it’s also completely inaccurate. In other words, I’m going to make the case today for why you may want to stop using that phrase, or more importantly, change your perspective of it (which may well cause you to choose different words), so that you can actually rev up your motivation to shift into the life you want.
Life is not freaking short
Let’s face it: most of us alive today are going to live well into our 80’s or 90’s. I personally plan on living to about 150, although I’m still working on that (it used to be 120, but I upgraded this year. Ha.). Even if you “only” live 70 years, that’s still a long time. Of course, when you compare the average human life span to that of a Redwood tree or that of the planet, or even the Universe as we know it, it seems totally miniscule. But we can’t really make that comparison, can we? Do you know what it feels like to live hundreds of years, never mind thousands or even millions? No, you don’t. None of us do. We have no idea what that experience is like. For all we know, that tree experiences its lifetime as passing by in about the same amount of time as we do ours. What if the fly that lives for only a day experiences the equivalent of an entire human life in that time? What if ten thousand of our years is experienced as one day to a mountain? We can’t really make any kind of meaningful comparison between our own experience and that of another life form, because we don’t know exactly what their experience is. All we can really do is to choose to use what we assume our experience of their lifespan would be to make ourselves feel bad (“there’s not enough time!”) or good (“compared to the gnat, I’m nearly immortal!”).
But, let’s look at the average human life span in a different way. Like I said, even if we “only” live to be about 70 years old, that’s still a hell of a long time. You can pack a lot of experiences into seventy years. If you think of all those years as being comprised of trillions of individual moments, and each moment as full of unlimited potential, the human life span starts to look pretty damn good. Shit, it’s so long that a lot of people get tired of it in old age, and often way earlier. I’ve met people in their 30’s who were basically sitting around just waiting to die. They weren’t ill or anything, just not at all enthusiastic about life. I understand that there are a lot of people who don’t expect to live past the age of 50. It’s not just that they don’t think they’ll physically be able to, they really don’t want to. They’re “done”, tired, drained by the constant struggle of their lives. For these people, a normal life span is too long. They just want the suffering to end. They want to be done with it already.
Of course, if you let go of the struggle and fill your life with awesomeness, you’re not going to sit around waiting to check out. You’re going to fill your days with precious moments and adventure, which can and almost certainly will have the effect of slowing down time. You’ll experience more of it. In other words, you’ll pack more into each year. I can tell you that 2014 has seemed like ten years to me (no joke). I expect 2015 will be even longer…
Why a short life is not a good motivator
Not only is life most decidedly not short, the idea that it is, is actually a horrible motivator. If life actually was of a short duration, it would be ok if it sucked. It would be like ripping off a bandaid. You’d be born, spend a short amount of time in suckitude, and then die. You’d never experience the suffering for long enough to really get properly sick of it and make a change. You can put up with just about anything for a short amount of time.
But life is long – too long to put up with the pain of horrible, painful, soul destroying jobs or relationships. Consider this: let’s say you were granted eternal life (maybe a sparkly vampire bit you or something…); would you stay in your current job? Would you change nothing because life just became longer? Or would that not be more of an incentive to go and do what you really want to do? Would you not suddenly be inspired to open businesses, knowing you had plenty of time to nurture them into success? Would you not go and travel the world, safe in the knowledge that you’d never run out of days to fill? Wouldn’t you actually be more likely to give up the desperate struggle to find a mate or birth kids, or accomplish anything in a certain amount of time, allowing yourself to relax more, drift more, and trust the unfolding of things more? Wouldn’t an eternal life take all the risk out of it? After all, if you screwed something up, you’d have eternity to do it over again.
What you almost certainly wouldn’t do is lament that there’s no point in achieving or experiencing anything, now that you have all this time. When we say “Life is Short”, we assume that it will motivate us to make a change, meaning that the opposite, a long life, would lead to lethargy. This is, quite frankly, bullshit. If you had eternal life, you also wouldn’t stay in a crappy job. A lot of people justify staying in a nasty situation with the reasoning that they only have a few years left to retirement, or they’ve already put so much time into a relationship (and there’s only so much time to go around), or they’re getting old and don’t think they have enough time left to manifest a different reality. A lack of time tends to motivate us to stay where we are. An abundance of time frees us up to do what we really want. While we can put up with suffering for short periods of time, we’re much less willing to be in pain for decades or longer.
And yet, by continuing to buy into the paradigm that life is short, we can actually keep ourselves stuck in a horrible situation for an entire lifetime. We convince ourselves that it will go on for just a little while longer. We can do that, right? Just another day. Just a couple more years. THEN we’ll be released either through death, or retirement, or whatever excuse we’re using to finally allow ourselves to feel better.
Your long, awesome life
If you truly want a time-based motivational tool, remember that life is long. Look at that soul-sucking job. Imagine doing it for another 20 or 30 years. How does that feel? Is that acceptable to you? Don’t just project the negatives out for the next year or so, look at your entire lifetime. Whatever situation you’re in NOW, imagine that you’re still in it at 90, 120 or even 150 (whatever age you can imagine you’ll get to). Is that what you want to look back on, a life full of struggle, fear and ignored opportunities? Or would you rather look back on decades and decades of adventure, risks, and awesomeness?
Life is just too damn long to put up with crap you don’t enjoy. You can lie to yourself and pretend that the suffering will stop soon, but honestly, nothing will get better unless you’re willing to make a change NOW. Sacrificing an entire year or two (“Just a couple of years of this and then things will get better…”) means millions of moments filled with suffering instead of joy. Millions of moments. That’s a lot of moments. That’s a lot of time. That’s a lot of life.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating running around and trying to fill your world with as much stuff as possible, in a desperate attempt to honor the sanctity of life. I’m actually saying the opposite. When we look at life as long, we lose that desperation, which allows us to relax more, be in the moment more. We stop running. We actually have an easier time being in the NOW and getting more out of life than when we’re under time pressure. We’re much more apt to smell the roses when we don’t have an urgent meeting to run to, and we’re much less likely to schedule an urgent meeting when we have plenty of time.
It may seem counterintuitive, but a long life is both a deterrent to staying in a painful situation, and a great motivator to focus on what really matters – love, adventure, joy. Stop seeing life as something short, fleeting and therefore, less meaningful (and often, more disposable). Start living your life as though you were eternal (you actually are, even if you won’t keep your human body forever), as though each moment was infinitely valuable to you and All That Is (it is), as though you had more than enough time to do everything you want to do (because you do). After all, if you were to go to an amusement park, and you were only given twenty minutes, would you enjoy those twenty minutes more or less than if you had an entire day to explore? Would the time pressure not take away from the awesomeness? Wouldn’t you even be resentful that you didn’t have more time? Lucky for you, you have a whole day. You have an entire lifetime. And it’s decidedly not short. Isn’t that awesome?