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What Kind of Life Are You Creating for Yourself?

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LIFE CHOICES

"I am seeking the fullest expression of myself as a human being on Earth."
--Oprah Winfrey

Can you even begin to imagine if each and every one of us lived our lives with deep commitment to such a lofty vision? Why don't we? What do we make more important than manifesting our fullest expression?

It is easy to dismiss Oprah's success based on her vast fortune and to say, "Well, I could do great things with all that money, too!" But remember, Oprah started out as a poor, black girl in rural Mississippi, born to unwed, teenaged parents. Her early years were spent at her grandmother's farm with no indoor plumbing or electricity. Then she lived with her mother in Milwaukee, where she was sexually abused by several male relatives and began to act out as a troubled young teen. Next, she lived with her father in Nashville, and his stern discipline gave her the guidance and stability she apparently needed to flourish. She began to excel in school and by 19 had a part-time job as a radio reporter in Nashville. The rest, as they say, is history.

Even if any of us could argue that we have faced bigger challenges than Oprah, the question remains, "What are you doing with your life?" What is your contribution? What kind of relationships do you have with yourself and others? How do you give of yourself?

Each of us is born, we breathe in and out for an unspecified period of time and then we die. That's life. Each of us has our very own set of challenges, preferences and capabilities. What are yours, and what are you doing with them? Do you use them as excuses for failure or do you leverage them into greater wisdom and success?

As each new year arrives, many of us take stock of where we are in our lives and what changes we want to make. I am always amused to see how packed the gym is for the first few days of January and then how it gets back to normal in a week or two. It seems that the mere fact that it is a new year fails to provide sufficient momentum in most people to make substantive changes in their lives.

Having been raised Catholic, I am familiar with the experience of coming out of the confessional and feeling like I have a clean slate and wanting to keep it that way. Each new year has always had a similar feeling for me of starting anew, having yet another chance to direct myself through the trials and triumphs of life and wanting to lift myself up higher.

I used to work in strategic planning and learned to view the assets of any individual or organization as people, money and time. I now apply this perspective to myself in managing my own life. As I stand on the threshold of a new year, I am me and all that that encompasses. I have the money I have, no more and no less, and I have another allotment of 8,760 hours to do with as I will. The name of the game, as I see it, is to stay conscious of who I am, what I have and where I am going, and to be open to the possibilities that present themselves. I don't make New Year's resolutions or go to big New Year's parties. Most years, I choose to spend New Year's Eve alone using the vantage point of ending one year and starting a new one to pause and take a good look at my life. My ritual involves the following:

  • Experience gratitude for the gifts and lessons of the past year. Be grateful for new and existing friends, personal and professional accomplishments, wisdom gained, lessons learned, new skills and abilities and storms weathered.
  • Acknowledge losses. As life marches on, we lose jobs, friends and family, lovers and partners. For each loss, I like to look at how that job or person enriched my life, how we parted ways -- whether by death or discord -- and how I am better for having had that experience or person in my life.
  • Review last year's intentions and compare them to what transpired over the past year. Notice whether or not the intentions were realistic based on the information known when they were made. What surprises showed up? What was being ignored?
  • Set clear intentions for what to create, promote or allow in the coming year. Knowing that life will be full of surprises, I like to set clear but flexible goals for the coming year. I frame them more as affirmations of what I choose to claim as my possibilities with a clear intention to do my best to manifest them rather than setting New Year's resolutions that carry an expectation of not coming true.

As captain of my own little ship on the sea of life, I get to choose my way through the opportunities and challenges that come my way. I do my best to keep on track or to revise my intentions as needed. It's a living, breathing process, not a rigid goal that must be achieved. I also have an overarching vision or purpose to which I am dedicating my life. This helps to guide my choices and to inform my life each and every day.

How did you celebrate and honor the coming of the new year? What are your rituals?

I wish each and every one of you a happy, healthy and fulfilling new year of 8,760 hours. I hope you will use your allotment well for the highest good of all concerned. And finally, my best wishes to Oprah as she leads OWN, her new television network, which launched yesterday, Jan. 1, 2011, at noon. Her mission is to help unleash the power of human potential by providing mindful, not mindless, television that helps people live their best lives. Thank you, Oprah!

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