People are constantly pointing out the fact that I’ve had an extremely interesting life, and it’s true. I’ve been to cool places, I’ve done fun and exciting things, and I’ve known some remarkable people. But this isn’t because I’m luckier or smarter than anyone else—it’s because I don’t spend much time creating fear.
What stops you from doing the things you want to do? Why won’t you go on an adventurous trip? Because you use your thoughts to discuss all of the things that could go wrong, or you speculate about the opportunities you might miss if you’re away, whereas I wonder what adventures I might have.
Why don’t you do some bold and exciting thing, like ask out a stranger in a strange situation, or date someone when it makes no obvious sense? Because you tell yourself stories about why the relationship potentially couldn’t work, whereas I moved to Europe after only two dates to actually find out. And it didn’t work as a long term relationship, but life still worked out. I threw her a very special birthday party, went on some beautiful trips, we both made fantastic friends, and of course I dated a remarkable woman, in a remarkable city. Win win win.
Why haven’t you met your heroes? Well, you’ve probably never really tried to meet them. When I wanted to be a screenwriter, I just started contacting famous, successful screenwriters and I ended up meeting and even becoming friends with lots of them. But I didn’t sit around listing all of the reasons that those meetings and friendships couldn’t happen—I focused on all of the ways that it might happen and some of those worked out just fine. Who cares about the ones that didn’t? Do I plant a garden and focus all of my attention on the seeds that didn’t sprout, or the ones that did?
Life is there for the taking, but people can choose the treadmill. They can go do the same thing every day and not enjoy much of life at all. Most people live that way; with jobs they find uninspiring, time with people based on obligation rather than joy, and duties rather than pursuits.
It’s like a straight jacket. Everyone’s performing for each other, trying to be a good citizen. Conforming, prepared, safe. Everyone’s so loaded with fears of what they’ll lose that they don’t even try to get anything anymore. They just collect stuff, but they’ve given up on collecting life. They’re buying things but you’re not saying yes to experiences.
Why would you be shy if an actor pulled you up on stage at a show? What would you have to lose? Do you see the two worlds? One person gets pulled up and they tell themselves a story about what they have to lose. They’ll think about their dignity, their reputation, their appearance. But those things only exist in your head. The exciting life happens when you just dive in and say yes to the experience.
When you see an opportunity to help out, or make people laugh, or to meaningfully connect, then take it. What difference would it make if it went “bad” or if everyone laughed? How would that hurt? Why would that be something to avoid?
Stop being halted by precipices in your mind. Stop thinking you can fall off heights that only exist in your head. You’re not supposed to mannequin your way through life in a way that looks good to the rest of us. You’re supposed to take this stage and perform something that excites you. There is no audience. There is just your stage, amidst all of the other stages. No one’s really watching you, they’re too busy doing what they’re doing to have the time to really watch what you’re doing.
This is a show by you and for you. Your life is not being graded. You can’t “win” at life by avoiding “failures.” Because there are no successes or failures, there are only experiences. So by trying to avoid failures, you steal experiences from yourself. You are forgoing your life out of concern that you may not spend it wisely; or, put another way, you’re so worried you’ll misspend it that you’re going to die with all of your life-money still in the bank.
Is life going perfectly? Do you love every minute of it? Then forget doing what’s safe or smart. Start doing what’s tempting or exciting. Because I’m constantly doing things that other people say are crazy or unwise or dangerous or pointless, and yet I’m also the person who’s constantly doing fascinating things with fascinating people, and I love my own life. And I don’t love it because you think it’s impressive that I’ve done all of these interesting things. I love it because I was fascinated while I did all of those interesting things.
Go grab life. You feel its pull all the time, but you use words to talk yourself out of living it. Go quiet inside instead, and just follow the pull. Because that sensation is the feeling of your life asking you to live it.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.