“I don’t want to reach the end of my life in a perfectly preserved body. I want to come flying in sideways, covered in scars, beaten up and screaming: “Yahoo! What a ride!” Bear Grylls
Sitting next to the altar at St James Church (I was an Altar Boy) I had tuned out of the Vicar’s sermon – sadly a common habit – and I was looking through the opposite window of the church at the small shopping arcade. There was a man in his pyjamas and dressing gown heading towards the newsagents for, what I guess, was his Sunday newspaper. The vicar then said something that brought me round “life goes by in the blink of an eye, it is important that you live your life well” In 2013 my father died and at the funeral my uncle, who at the time had just reached his eighties, said to me that life goes by in the blink of an eye. I can still vividly recall being a page boy at his wedding in 1961! Now I am 60, I can confirm that time really does go quickly. I remember that Sunday church service in 1970 as if it was yesterday and I regularly think about how I should live my life well.
I think living your life well is a personal matter; it can mean so many different things to so many people. Although I do think you should reflect on what it means as often as possible. I believe that life is a precious gift. So what does living your life well mean to me?
- Adventure. Looking for exciting opportunities – some of which scare me but I do them anyway. Standing on the edge of a quarry in 1982, about to take my Hang Glider Pilot qualification and ascend to 400 feet, I asked myself “why am I doing this?” I actively seek excitement as it makes me feel alive.
- Accomplishment. It took me a long time to find a sport at which I could be reasonably competent. Before finding running, I even tried 10 Pin Bowling (at which I was both hopeless and dangerous). Running has given me a level of fitness to do more and be more and, more importantly, it gives me a sense of accomplishment.
- Altruism. “Unselfish concern for the welfare of others”. Doing something for others without any material gain for yourself. It is enough of a reward that you have made a difference in another person’s life.
- Enjoy the love that comes from being with your family. Last Saturday I spent the morning on the beach with Bettina; at midday I had coffee and cake with Joyce, and spent the evening with Jennifer watching a musical. It was a good day – I am still thinking about it.
- Time Management. Not to waste a single minute of your day. Do stuff that matters and has a purpose. If it is not making a difference I stop doing it.
- Work Ethic. I have had wonderful role models who have displayed this ethic, the harder I work the luckier I become. You would be surprised at how many people tell me how lucky I am!
I have recently been part of my organisation’s (Thera www.thera.co.uk) ‘Safe and Secure’ book launch about supporting families caring for a son or daughter with learning disabilities. During the book launch a colleague, Andrea, talks about having life plans for people, which are often called person centred plans. I have always had a life plan (do you have one?) and I recommend this as:
- It helps you get to where you want to go (Vision)
- Writing down your objectives stops them from just being wishes
- It helps you to decide what is important in your life
- It helps you to consider who could support you with your goals
- It makes you think what success would look like for each of your objectives
I regularly monitor, review and evaluate my plan.
5 things I must NOT do (if I am going to live my life well):
- To use a theatre analogy, don’t compare your ‘backstage’ with others ‘frontstage’. Your backstage is your reality and other people’s frontstage is an illusion. “Comparison is the thief of joy”
- Don’t think “what’s in it for me”
- Don’t think that you cannot do something simply because someone else thinks you are not good enough
- Don’t be put off by failures and set backs.
- Don’t look for obstacles and reasons for not fulfilling your dreams
Some good news – life is not just for the young! I truly believe that my best years are ahead of me. I have been told by lots of people that 60 is the new 40. Only 40! I am constantly thinking of new challenges to beat, objectives to meet and on the lookout for the next opportunity.
“Yahoo! What a ride!”