A Life Unlived

When my father got sick we almost lost the house. I was just getting out of high school and I had never seen my parents to stressed. They’d never fought, now they were fighting all the time. I was too young to understand the tension of a mortgage back then, but with my brothers and sisters already moved out and living in different cities, it was up to me to help.

Unfortunately the only thing I knew that could make me money fast was to work with my brother’s friends. They dealt drugs and wasted it all on fancy cars and stupid stuff. I paid my Dad’s medical bills and my parents kept their house. Still, the money solved my problem but that’s not who my parents raised me to be and I always worried about the people buying the stuff, so to get away from that stress I took night school and eventually I got an engineering degree.

My eventual engineering job replaced the money I was making and we got my parent’s house paid off. Now I was free, but I didn’t know what to do. I’d been trained to be afraid that there’d never be enough money, or there’d always be too much work and that was was bad training for what would come next. That’s when I started talking to Scot and he pointed out that I’d always been responsible–in a whatever way that made sense at the time. That made me feel a bit better.

I had this invention. No big thing, but it was a good idea that could easily replace a good wage. I’d been laid off, so I had the time to develop it, but being laid off had a weird effect. My parent’s situation had taught me to be paranoid about money, so despite having a lot of savings I still worried about money all the time because no more was coming in. It wasn’t a healthy mental situation. And it was ironically keeping me from developing the idea.

Scott had been explaining to me how I’d been accidentally taught to process the world. I saw it as a place that was lacking, that was short, that my life needed work to come from others before it could be secure. I learned to over-process my fears and under-process my dreams. I spent far more time thinking about what could go wrong than what could go right.

Keep in mind during all of this that Scott kept pointing out that I’d done very well in school, and that even my ability to save for meaningful things was businesslike, and that the idea I’d developed was not only good, but the tons of research I’d done on it was not only excellent and thorough, but it represented more proof than most good ideas had to support them when they proceeded. He kept asking me what it was that was holding me back.

For a long time I listed what I thought was holding me back. What if it didn’t work? What if I made some fatal judgment error and ruined a good idea? What if there was a hidden pitfall I couldn’t predict? And what about all of the mistakes in life I’d already made? I had a huge list of fears but Scott just kept reminding me that they were all made of my own thinking. I thought he got what I meant until one day I had a huge revelation.

I was out walking. Okay, I was out procrastinating. If I wasn’t walking then I’d have to work on my idea, and if I did that then I was getting closer to a thing that scared me, so it did make a kind of sense that I was avoiding it. But avoiding it to do what? And that’s when it hit me.

It was so subtle I hope it even comes across now but, I realised that I was avoiding the pursuit of the idea so that I could instead think the fears that might possibly relate to the idea. For the first time I saw my thinking as an action–as what I was doing with my life. I wasn’t going anywhere. I was using my fears about being responsible to keep me from my responsibility to live.

My idea was good. The world would benefit from it. So who was I to keep it from the world because I was busy thinking thoughts that were irrelevant to everyone else? And why would I use the energy from my life to think those destructive thoughts when I could be using the same life energy to build that business?

The fact is, all of this worrying has been me failing. Even if I built the business and it bombed, I would have been done by now and I would have had the advantage of the experience and I would have felt like I accomplished more. Suddenly thinking appeared to me as the opposite of living.

Don’t be like me. Don’t avoid life. Because now that I can see through my thinking, I realise that like the walk, it’s a form of procrastination too. And it requires me to see myself as weak and ineffectual, as though I can’t pull this off. There’s no evidence I can’t do it. Just my fears. And those are no where but my consciousness. So now I hear myself think them and I get why they’re there, but they don’t stop me anymore.

I’ve come alive. I’ve stopped thinking about a timid life and I’ve started living a bold one and it turns out that boldness feels a lot calmer and more peaceful than all that worrying ever did. Listen to Scott. Trade your thinking for living. It makes all the difference in the world.

Sincerely, C

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

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