The Life You Want to Live

Here is a quote I read recently that really struck me: “It’s your place in the world; it’s your life.  Go on and do all you can with it and make it the life you want to live.”   Mae Jamison

In case you aren’t familiar with her, Mae Jamison is a physician and a NASA astronaut, and the first African-American woman to travel in space aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor in 1992, among many other notable accomplishments.    After graduating from medical school, she established her own practice and for a time was the area Peace Corps medical officer for Sierra Leone and Liberia, where she also taught and did research.   Having loved science and astronomy since she was a young girl, in 1985 she decided to apply to NASA’s astronaut training program.  In 1992, she flew into space aboard the space shuttle Endeavor.  Since leaving Nasa, she founded her company, the Jemison Group, dedicated to the research and development of advanced technologies. She is also a professor at Dartmouth College, where she started the Jemison Institute for Advancing Technology in Developing Countries, and is an admired public speaker.

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So why I am I telling you this?  It got me to thinking about how often as children and young adults, we don’t have a lot of guidance in crafting our own path – the life we want to live.  Yes, we’re encouraged in the traditional ways society emphasizes – get a good education, have good values, have an occupation or profession – but in how to truly plan for and create a life we want to live, I’m not so sure.  There’s also the numerous and inevitable phases we go through in life – what may have felt right to us in our 20’s and 30’s is no longer working for us as we enter a new stage of life.

This is often where a coach or mentor comes – what do we want to create for the next phase of our life.  I know this happened to me in my early 50’s.  I had gone through building a career, starting a family, and accomplishing many of the goals I had set for myself in my earlier years.  And I felt an internal restlessness, an urge for something more.   And it was right around this time that I started working with a coach and creating new plans and goals for myself that moved me in a new and different direction.

If you’re not necessarily thinking of making a life change, but are feeling that you would like to be more intentional about how you want your life to look, you might start by asking yourself some simple, yet powerful, questions:

  1. What do you want your life to look like 5 years from now? 10 years from now?
  2. Why do you want this? Why is your vision important to you?
  3. When you are ninety-five years old, what will you want to say about your life?
  4. What brings you joy?
  5. If circumstances and/or finances were not an object, what would you most want to do with your life?
  6. When are you at your best? What does that look like?
  7. When have you been happiest? Look back at the different times of your life – childhood, high school and college, different jobs, different places.  Think about the happiest times of your life – what were you doing, who were you with, where were you, what was going on?  Is there a pattern, a common thread?
  8. What do you value most? What we value in our lives may shift over time.  Thinking about and listing your values can provide useful clues to what you may want to focus on in the future.

These are just a few questions to ask yourself if you want to be more intentional about how you craft your future.   As you explore these ideas and come up with some answers, you may find that you come up with more questions. For example, is there some small step you can take now, today, to start moving  towards your vision.   This might be investigating your options, or talking to someone who has made the same type of shift in their own life.  What kind of support might you need – a mentor, a coach, a spouse?

However you go about it, creating a vision of the life you want to live, and taking steps to move toward it, can be one of the most rewarding and exciting adventures you ever take, wherever it takes you.

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