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  • Writer's pictureLissa Cowan

How to Stop Curating Your Life and Start Living It

When I looked into the depths of the extinct geyser and saw steam rising off the top of the water, I knew I'd made the right decision to come to the desert and write. Sometimes life's unpredictable. Wait a second...most of the time it is. You think you've got it all worked out, there's a plan in place, a road up ahead that looks relatively free of bumps and turns. Then a life event blindsides you and you fall on your ass. WTF??? Life, how could you do that to me, you might say. Life grins, chuckles, and tells you something cliche like, but you need to live more. More deeply, more.... Just MORE. Life further instructs you to brush yourself off and dive in. But the water's too cold and you might catch your death. My fall-on-your-ass moment was almost eight years ago when my fiancé told me he had other plans. So we sold our beautiful home, gave away our cat, then lost our jobs that same year. Yata, yata. I don't think this story is unique, though of course it is to me, just as it is to every one of you who've had similar heart-wrenching experiences. Before the breakup I had a five- and 10-year plan and a notebook with all the stories I wanted to write before I died. Though I was living in a fantasy world because only about one third of my dreams had come true over several years. After the breakup and many months of therapy, I realized that I had a tight grip on my life plan, so tight in fact that I was squeezing the life out of, well, MY LIFE. As in, if it didn't work out exactly as I wanted--every last item on my list--then I'd be a miserable failure and people would judge me. But the truth is, as I'm sure some of you can relate--my partner freed me to live a different way. I realized that I didn't need to plan every little thing in my life and that I could actually try things out first. Fear of failure was still everpresent in my mind, yet the breakup and losing almost everything in terms of material stuff, gave me the pure gumption to just go for it and see what happened. Elizabeth Gilbert often quotes her mom's line, Done is better than good. And while we don't want to churn out crap, there's something to be said for just doing stuff. I'm not suggesting that you don't plan or set goals for yourself, because this is extremely helpful to making concrete what you wish your life to look. What I'm saying is that if your plans rest at the levels of plans, then they're not fulfilling to you and you'll end up feeling disappointed. Action is key to a fulfilling life. 10 Tips for Living Your Life, Not Curating It 1) If you keep having a recurring idea that won't go away, then take one step today to make it happen. 2) Don't put pressure on yourself to succeed right away at your passion project. I know it's hard when you're trying to make money doing something, but framing your 'thing' as something that MUST pay the bills is a surefire way to kill creativity in its tracks. Even if you'd like to make money from it eventually, take some of the pressure off yourself by treating it as a form of play. 3) When you find yourself thinking about how you're going to orchestrate an idea, to the extent that you do it for hours in a week, take one action step toward that thing. Gary V, a Belarusian American entrepreneur, author, speaker and internet personality told a group of business students recently that ideas were crap. Many people have ideas, he said, but it's acting on them that counts for something. 4) Meditate. I've found that spending a few minutes each day meditating, helps the mind be more present, and allows you to see just how many thoughts you have streaming in and out of your head. Eventually, meditation will help you to see the value in minimal thinking and maximum doing. 5) Every night I write out seven things I'm going to do the next day. Zig Zieglar taught me this one and it really works. I don't always get all seven done, but I mostly do. I make it a mix of small stuff like doing the laundry or grocery shopping or calling a friend with bigger stuff like finishing a proposal or a book chapter. After doing this for two years I look forward to making the list and look forward to crossing items off it. 6) This month, do one thing that is uncharacteristic of you. You'd be surprised at how we're often stuck in our routines and don't see outside them. Doing something different can change your perspective and make you see yourself and the world differently. A good friend had never danced and then took up bachata Latin dance and became an incredible dancer, meeting many people in that community. Now dance is a core part of her life and she wouldn't be without it. 7) Act on at least one thing a day. For instance, if you think about calling your friend who you haven't spoken to in a while, then call her. RIGHT NOW! Oftentimes we mistake thinking about a thing as acting on a thing, when it's not the same at all. I almost ruined a relationship this year because I was busy and thinking a lot about a friend, but I didn't reach out and call her. 8) When you have a repetitive idea to do something, stop for a few moments, breathe, and then decide what action you'd like to take toward that idea. 9) Worrying is a pasttime of my family's. My dad used to lay in bed worrying and so does my mum. I inherited this trait to a certain extent and that's one of the reasons why I began meditating. It's obvious to say this, but worrying doesn't help the situation. The energy of worry actually makes things worse! 10) In Malcolm Gladwell's book called Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, the author explains thin-slicing, which is our ability to use limited information to make a decision. He goes on to say that spontaneous decisions are often as good as—or even better than—carefully considered ones. And that sometimes having too much information can actually hamper our judgement. Just because we have access to a lot of information doesn't necessarily mean we're going to make the right decision. Although with experience, training, and knowledge we can follow our intuition and we'll likely be content with our choice in the end. My time in the Nevada desert is coming to a close. My decision to come here was based on the shaky premise that I would continue to get freelance work, my writing courses would continue to sell, and I could then work on my book remotely and finish the damn thing. I didn't have all the pieces figured out when I came here, but I figured it out along the way, and it was an experience that I'll never forget. Is there anything you're holding yourself back from doing because you feel it has to look a certain way? Are you waiting for everything to fall into place before you take that leap into the unknown? Try some of the steps above and see if you can't get a little closer to following that dream of yours. That dream is waiting for you to catch it by the tail and swing it over your head--laughing and glowing as you do. Photo by John Mark Arnold on Unsplash


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