“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”  Soren Kierkegaard

Will you wake up one day and suddenly be old, wondering where your life had dribbled away to, and what the meaning of life was?  Or will you look back across the journey of your years and think, “Dang, that was awesome!!!”   I’ve been doing a lot of family tree research lately, and come across some pretty interesting characters in my family tree.  Reading some of their notes and stories, I’ve come to one conclusion that I am convinced describes them all.   No one is destined for greatness; destiny is simply a rudder that is turned by the hand and the will of the individual.  Your life simply will be what you make it, and whether or not it happens on purpose depends on your choices.  So how do you guide this ship that’s called your life?  Ask yourself these simple questions.

Where did you actually give a flying flip?  The easiest ways to determine in your own life what mattered are to ask yourself these questions:

  1. Where did I spend my time, my money, my efforts?
  2. What people or events touched or wounded my heart?

Identify those events that really mattered in this past year, and then follow the advice on the shampoo bottle.  Lather, rinse and repeat.  Chase after those kinds of opportunities and people, and make it happen again and again and again, but even better or more often.

Put a boot up the butt of the downers in your life.  Life seems so long when we’re young.  But anyone over 30 realizes that time seems to pick up speed exponentially as we age.  You have zero control regarding whether negative people will come into your life.  You have absolute control over whether or not you allow them to stay there.  Isolate and remove from your life any negative influences or consistently negative people.  Change jobs, move away or simply confront the negativity and serve notice that it’s unacceptable.  But don’t waste those precious, irretrievable moments of your existence on people and places that serve no purpose but to bring you down.

Gut check and fess up to the best and worst choices of your year.  Only you can truly know this.  In this past year, you’ve probably done some really cool stuff, and maybe impacted the lives of others for the better.  If you’re like the rest of us, you’ve also probably screwed up pretty bad once or twice.  We get better when we learn from both our great and not-so-great choices, and we can learn a ton from the fall out from each.  If you’re still making the same mistakes this year that you did last year, well then, that’s on you and no one else.  If you fall short or blow way past the amount of positive impact you created in life last year it’s because you chose to do so. 

Where do you shine?   You.  Yes you.  Do you know why you’re here?  If you do, that’s awesome!  Then go do it, be it, give it away!  If you don’t know, then you’re just wasting space on your section of dirt until you figure it out.  You’re good at something, and underneath it all, you’re really passionate about it.  Heck, that’s why you’re good at it.  Take that first step towards being an even better you.  Go and shine, this world desperately needs what you’ve got to offer.

Seriously… Is THIS is where I wanted to be by now?  Goals are great… working the plan you’ve set is too.  But even if you never got around to “making the life plan” or “setting goals and milestones” in your life, nothing is stopping you from stepping off of the train for a minute and just looking around the landscape and asking yourself, “I see where I am, but is it where I want to be?”  Most people immediately jump to their financial condition when they think of this exercise.  It’s way more than that.  What about these questions:

  1. Am I the kind of person that would have made my Dad proud?
  2. Would I be pleased if my kids turned out like me?
  3. If I looked back on my life, would I be able to feel like I mattered, like I made a difference?
  4. Then if you must, ask yourself those questions about career, finances, education and other tangibles.

Meditate on this point in your journey.  Reflect.  Then choose to move forward intentionally in the direction of a life that matters.

Someone’s life depends on YOU.  That might seem a little melodramatic to you, but I don’t care.  It’s true.  In the day and age we live in, you have an astounding amount of knowledge about where suffering exists in your community, country and planet.  If you life in the United States and you’re reading this article, then you’re more wealthy than 95% of the world’s population.  Don’t be a selfish loser.  Go choose where you will change the world, and then go change it.  One dollar, one afternoon or one person at a time.  Just go make a stinkin’ difference.  NO EXCUSES.

Take 10 minutes.  Right now.  Seriously, right now.  Shut your door, turn off your phone, and get quiet.  Remember the advice at the top of the blog… “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”  Whether you understand where you’ve been or what you live forward matters is up to you.

What advice would you give to a twenty-something entering the work force and “real life” for the first time?