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8 Ways to Create the Life You Want

8 Ways to Create the Life You Want
By Phil Keoghan
Family Circle March 8, 2005 issue

So what's on your list? I'm not talking about a grocery list. Or a to-do-around-the-house list. I want to know what's on your List for Life. Show me the list where you've written down all the meaningful, memorable, or just-plain-crazy things you want to do in your lifetime.

You mean you don't have a list like that? You're not alone. Most people never take the time to even think about such things-let alone write them down. We're all too busy dealing with the everyday realities of life. There are children to raise, jobs to do, bills to pay, houses that require tending. Who needs a list of even more stuff to do?

You do. I do. We all do. Human beings crave new challenges and experiences. We always want a little more out of life, even if we're not sure what that more is, exactly. Scientists have found the desire to experience-to explore, try new things, learn, be stimulated and test ourselves-is hard-wired in our genes. Even if you think your hectic daily routine is demanding enough, something inside you (specifically, the D4DR gene, which I call Gene Wild) yearns to break out of that routine occasionally to try something different.

If you ignore Gene Wild, you will always have a little itch in your soul that remains unscratched. Later in life you may regret that you didn't try more interesting things while you had the chance. You may look back and discover that even though you have lived for millions of minutes, only a few of them really stand out.

This dawned on me about 15 years ago, during an underwater mishap. I became trapped while scuba diving in a sunken ship, and I believed I was going to die. But at the time, it wasn't fear that rushed over me so much as regret for all the things I hadn't yet done. After I was rescued, I was determined to make a list of everything I wanted to accomplish in my life. And through the years I kept adding onto that list, and checking off experiences as I completed them.

I developed a philosophy around this way of life, called No Opportunity Wasted (NOW). The idea behind it is simple: All of us should get out there and start doing the things we've always dreamed of before it's too late. Now, wherever I go around the world-whether as host of The Amazing Race or as a guest on Oprah-I urge others to pursue their dreams. And I always tell them to start by writing them down.

Putting your goals in writing forces you to stop and think about what you'd really like to do, which most of us rarely take the time to do. The list can become a contract with yourself, stipulating: "Here are five or seven things I would really like to achieve in my life. I hereby promise myself that I'm going to try to accomplish them." When you write down your thoughts like this, you have taken the first important step toward changing your life and making it more rewarding and memorable.

Getting started will require some thought, and moving forward will require some action. The following tips can help you get started.

  1. Open your mind (and shut the door). You may have no clue what types of things to include, but that's only because you haven't devoted enough thought to it. All of us have dreams and notions of things we'd like to try-your list probably exists in the recesses of your imagination, waiting to be coaxed out. Close yourself off from the daily grind for an hour with a pen and pad (lock yourself in the bathroom if you must) and you'll start to develop ideas.
  2. Make it uniquely yours. I don't believe in generic lists taken from books of "things everyone should do." Your list should be different from mine. I always wanted to renew my wedding vows underwater, sleep in a treehouse and eat a gourmet meal atop an erupting volcano. Why I craved doing these particular things I cannot precisely say, but I did them and loved every moment. You, on the other hand, may yearn to get up on a stage and sing, or reconnect with a childhood friend and act like kids again. Maybe you want to go back and earn your college degree, retrace a journey your grandparents once made or build something with your own two hands. The possibilities are endless (which is part of the challenge of making such a list; you have to make choices). Overall, it's important to create a list based on experiences that have special meaning to you.
  3. Themes can help. If you need to spark ideas, divide your list into these themes: Face Your Fears, Get Lost, Test Your Limits, Rediscover Your Childhood, Express Yourself and Aim for the Heart. Most are self-explanatory, except maybe the last one, which is about seeking an experience that helps others or makes someone else's dream come true. Think of an interesting idea that ties in with each of these six themes and you'll have a great list.
  4. Go public. Stashed away in a desk drawer, a list is easy to forget about or ignore. Once you've written it, keep it in plain sight. Keep copies all over-on the fridge, near your desk-so you constantly see it and are reminded of your dreams. Show it to your spouse, your kids and your friends. Soon they will start encouraging you to take action.
  5. Lose the guilt. I know, I know. You're a "responsible adult." People depend on you. If you're off having fun, how will everyone survive? Answer: They will manage. And maybe everyone will be better off. By leading a fuller life, you'll make yourself a happier, healthier person and a better spouse and parent. Your loved ones will probably be thrilled and supportive (and willing to fend for themselves for a day as you go chase a rainbow). Don't be surprised if they begin to follow your inspiring example and make their own dream lists. I've found the NOW lifestyle to be very contagious.
  6. Make time for dreams. Your life is big, and there's room in it for work and dreams. It's simply a matter of how you prioritize. If you consider fulfilling your dreams unimportant, you'll never find time. You must choose to rank them above, say, cleaning out the shed. Remember, having an adventure is not a waste of time; rather, it's one of the best ways to maximize our limited time on earth.
  7. Failure is not an option. Fear of failure often stops us from trying something that challenging. But when you set out on any type of personal adventure, you really can't fail. Just by going out and trying it, you guarantee yourself a memorable experience regardless of outcome.
  8. Begin NOW. When you make a list, it's critical to get started on fulfilling it. Just one small action is enough. Is there a quick phone call you can make to book a reservation or order a brochure? How about asking a friend to help you get started by brainstorming over a cup of coffee? Do one small thing immediately to set the wheels in motion.

My List For Life By Hannah Storm

While in college, I started thinking about the things I would want to accomplish during life, and decided to write them down. I've alw
Family Circle Magazine - March 8, 2005 issue
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