What would you do if you had 24 hours to live?
Would you cry, drink wine, eat chocolate, do a bungee jump, walk the dog, blow lots of money, have passionate sex, spend it saying good-bye to friends or by taking selfies for posterity? Would you forgive your enemies and hug your friends really tight? Would everything that held you back and worried you now seem so trivial?
It’s interesting to reflect on how we might spend those last few hours in this world because it makes us think about how we spend our lives now, day by day, week by week. Do you live your life waiting for the time you will feel good? Do you worry about an unknown future or dwell on past regrets? Would you be braver if you only had 24 hours to live?
The best things that have ever happened to me have come from the times I have said yes to scary challenges and taken the chance to make them work. Job interviews that on paper I shouldn’t have stood a chance of securing, speaking at conferences way out of my comfort zone, climbing mountains I thought were impossible, writing books that seemed ridiculous for someone like me to write.
Everybody wants a happy, rich and fulfilled life, so what holds us back from true contentment? I have noticed that this doesn’t always depend on the traditional pursuits of wealth, beauty or intellect. Many rich, clever, beautiful people who live in fabulous places are very unhappy. It certainly feeds our ego to have the external evidence of our success. But somehow that ego still notices that other people may have a better job, bigger house, flatter stomach or even just more Facebook or Twitter ‘likes.’ This feeds our insecure thinking and makes us more risk-averse, which is often the source of our discontent. Even when we get a taste of success, there is the fear of losing it if we have insecure thinking. Are we still as good as we were? Are other people overtaking us?
It is this type of judgmental thinking that can make us unhappy. Social media feeds our ego and feeds our insecurities. No wonder that people who spend lots of time with it eventually get depressed. I believe that that the happiest people are those who don’t feel threatened by other’s success but are inspired by it. Happy people don’t judge themselves or others but are curious to understand the success of others and are willing to do things that scare them, because they know that failure is part of learning.
Living every day as if it was our last, being brave and fearless sound tempting because we suddenly have courage without thinking of negative consequences. No one (including ourselves) will be there to judge whether we did the right thing. Maybe what holds us back is our fear of consequences. We may indeed fail at that new business start-up, have a yucky date, collapse halfway up the mountain – even default on that mortgage.
So rather than do it, we think about it, imagine the worst, feel scared and opt to stand back and not put our head above the parapet. How many amazing things could you have missed by feeling afraid of uncertainty? But nothing is certain, fool-proof or guaranteed – especially in the present state of the world. The trouble with feeling scared, and thinking negatively those feelings are telling us something about future possibilities is that this can lead to habitual anxiety and insecurity. The more we think our thoughts are warning signs about future impending doom, the safer we feel doing nothing, staying home, keeping quiet, doing what we have always done. And maybe feeling quietly discontented. The less we do, the less we can do.
Getting more comfortable with uncertainty and going for it, despite our doubts, gives us a philosophical approach that underpins self-confidence and builds resilience. Once we see our thoughts are just a relentless commentary of random judgmental rants, we can stand back from them, question them and become more courageous, contented and fulfilled.
Sometimes we need to take off the goggles that make us see the world through a filter of negative thinking habits and realise that underneath we are as brave, resilient and loving as we would ever need to be. We need to rediscover our inner child who in the past had endless curiosity, played recklessly and lovingly with a passion for learning everything about this world. Toddlers have so much courage because they experience joy and frustration with no thought of consequences or judgement. They haven’t learnt to think like that… yet. They have an open curious mind, laugh a lot, love unquestioningly and take crazy risks.
We learn to assess the risks and take precautions as we get older and wiser but our instinctive focus on threats and dangers can sometimes be overwhelming and create spirals of anxiety. If this is you, reminding yourself to live more in the present and take a bold step into the unknown occasionally may be a good mantra for 2020. Toddlers can teach all of us a bit about how to spend every day as if it were our last!
My top tips for living a life with more fearless thinking include:
- Laugh more – especially at yourself
- Be as brave as you can every day
- Get comfortable with uncertainty – whatever happens, you will cope with it
- Realise that high and low moods come and go, and that this is ok
- Understand your thoughts as just a pair of removable goggles through which you frame your experiences
- See judgement of yourself and others as your ego at work. Don’t let it dominate your life
- Keep learning and growing by expanding your comfort zone, step by step
- Listen more, get other peoples’ take on the world. Realise that they are all doing the best they can with the thinking habits they have.
- Stay truly connected to your family, friends, partner, children and the beautiful planet we live on – because having a real connection feels like pure love
- Be grateful for everything you are and everything you have. This is who you really are
Jackie Beere OBE , Mindset Coach, Leadership and educational consultant, trainer, author