Are you living your life exactly as you had always planned? Let's review: Recognized the world over as tops in your field by your 40th birthday. Extremely successful in balancing home, work, social and alone time by age 45. Financially secure enough to retire by age 50. Okay, so maybe things haven't all worked out as planned.
You may have thought your future was all in your own hands. But, actually, it's not.
According to Zen philosophy, control is an illusion. No matter how logical our thinking and no matter how entitled we may feel, some of our future plans are going to work and some of them aren't. To demand otherwise is to live in anger and frustration at our own helplessness.
So if we aren't fully in control of our own destiny, should we sit back and watch life pass us by? Not at all! Planning adds order and discipline to our lives, and action propels us forward.
To use a Zen word, the point is to avoid being so "attached" to what our future must look like that we struggle against the unexpected opportunities -- as well as delays -- that life presents. By letting go of the idea that we have complete control, we actually allow ourselves more freedom, not less.
Want to get Zen about your own future. Here's how to get started:
1. Let go of expectations. Make a list of the have-tos in your future. Then, go back through the list and write "Don't" in front of each one. Create space in your life for new experiences.
2. Don't push so hard or you'll throw out your back. The future is going to unfold in its own time. Jumping into decisions and demanding results won't force things to happen the way you want them to. Remind yourself that the universe doesn't respond to temper tantrums.
3. Stop beating yourself over the head. Do you find yourself saying, "If only I could be this or do that, then I'd have what I want?" These if onlys only affirm the illusion that you have all the control. Go easy on yourself!
4. Don't be afraid to be afraid. Being uncertain about the future can be scary. But fear is just a feeling. Acknowledge fear and you take away its power to control you.
5. Think globally. Midlife is a time for exploring one's greater purpose in life and contemplating your contribution to the planet can open up a whole new realm of future possibilities.
6. Get busy and sit still. Whatever you're doing -- washing the dishes, raking the leaves -- let your imagination run wild. Relax and let the ideas find their way out. And take notes.
7. Give the people around you a rest. Remember how you aren't in charge of your own life? Well, there's more news. You aren't in charge of anyone else's life either. By giving your partner and your kids some space to be themselves, you also take pressure off of yourself.
8. Decide to live with integrity, compassion and a sense of humor. Life happens, and it's not always in line with our plans. Just as you can choose to feel anxious and powerless, you can also choose to embrace all that life has to offer. Resistance only meets with more resistance. A positive attitude is a boomerang!
9. The key to nirvana is right here. Is your head so far in the future that the rest of you has slipped into automatic? Life isn't a dream from which you will someday awake. Use all five senses and make yourself aware of the joy in your life right now!
10. Imagine your life as a boat. Sure, pay attention to your direction. Row away from the rocks. But let the wind and the waves do some of the work. Enjoy the movement and the perpetual change!
Think of the future as a compromise between "life's way" and "your way." Be a partner, and not a demanding adversary, of the world around you. Leave room for surprises.
Gary R. McClain, Ph.D. is a coach and author with a practice in New York City, where he works with clients on life/career transitions and self-defeating behavior. His books include The Complete Idiot's Guide to Breaking Bad Habits (Pearson, 2000), written with Suzanne LeVert. To learn more, visit www.garymcclain.com.
Source: Money & Work