Think about what you did yesterday. Think about the whole day, from start to finish, or think about today as you live it. That’s always a good thing to do, and remember that you’re actually living you’re not just sitting on a shelf, you’re not freeze-dried, your life doesn’t need to be microwaved to get it going. You remember the old joke “This can’t be my real life, because if it were, there would be a user’s manual”? Well, we’re making up that user’s manual as we go along.
So think about your day, yesterday or even today. Write down the things that happened that you didn’t like. It could be something you did, or somewhere you went, or even just something you felt. Maybe you didn’t call that friend you said you’d call back. Maybe you got mad at your neighbor because she lets her cats use your yard as their litter box. Maybe you were bored at your job. Maybe you didn’t spend time with your kids because you were tired. Maybe you ate too much or drank too much. Maybe you didn’t write down the things you didn’t like.
Which one, or which ones, of them have bugged you for a long time? Are there any of them that you can change? Can you go over and talk to that neighbor? Can you eat one less Twinkie or have one less drink? Can you take your lunch hour and get out of your office to do something fun and different? Maybe just for one day. When I say change, I just mean change–I don’t mean transform or erase or obliterate. Just give it a little twist, open up a window, crank it up or down a notch. See what happens.
What I’m saying is that I want you to look for ways you can take control of your life. I want you to begin to see and feel and taste that you can be in control of your life. You can start with small things and see how it goes, because you’re going to get there – you’re going to get to a place where you can control your destiny. You can change the places, spaces, and faces that are in your life. And if they’re in your way, if they are keeping you from living a full life, then you need to.
Now we’ll do something that may be even more important. For the things in your life that you can’t change, write down why you can’t. The reasons may be outside you, or they may be inside you. Or maybe you can’t tell exactly why you can’t change something; you just think or know or fear that you can’t. We’ll get back to those. In fact, nothing you do for this book, which is really for yourself, is wasted.
Now, I’ve tried this, and I know that it can get a little depressing just to think about all the things you don’t like about your life, even when they’re not your fault. More important, saying what you don’t want with your life doesn’t get you any further along the road to what you do want. So while you were writing down the things you didn’t like about your day, you might have thought of some things you really did like. That’s great. Write those down as well, and put a box around them and add a little star or two. As you write down the things you don’t want, the things you do want will become ever more clear to you. Try reversing the previous list to see if your core desires are now more obvious to you. Your list may now read:
I want to look good.
I want to work at a job that satisfies me.
I want to have time to see friends and learn new things.
I want to be financially secure so that I can provide what my family and I need and like.
I want to exercise more.
I want to buy a boat.
I want to be able to tell my wife what I think.
Now pick one of those wants-maybe not the most important one-to begin with. Ask yourself if you’re willing to change your life in order to make it come true. When you answer yes to one of them, circle it. We’ll come back to that too.
The more you think about your life, about what makes you content or satisfied or gratified, the more you will think about the larger purpose and meaning of your life. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about these things and helping other people to think about them. I’ve found that I want to live by design to my God-given purpose; I want to fulfill my purpose for being on earth.