12/11/2014 01:13 pm ET Updated Feb 10, 2015

Zen and the Art of Writing an Obituary

Like so many other people I know, the holiday season is by far he most difficult time of the year for me. Seeing the stores and promenades decked and hollied, a shopping frenzy all around, and mountains of candy and baked goods doesn't fill me with Bing Crosby-esque joy, but instead taps into all my insecurities, inferiority and stirs up memories of troubled childhood Christmases.

I intuitively know that these feelings are not really "rational" in that it's been many years since I've left that dysfunctional birth family behind and since then have crafted a beautiful family with my loving and supportive wife. But every year, I can feel myself tumbling back into that dark place in my heart yet again.

I decided to try something different this year. Instead of obsessing over the holidays that lay ahead, I would look back on all the growth that's come to me this past year. Just like Mick Jagger intones: "You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, well you might find, you get what you need."

I'm no Zen master sitting on remote mountaintop emptying his mind so that there is nothing there, but the present moment. But, I do aspire to live a simpler life -- one in which my motto is to "get out of my own way, and let what falls in front of me be the way." This is much easier to profess than to procure, but it's a path that always welcomes me back. As with every change you want to see in your life, you must first start with a change in your mind. Simply "wanting" the change is not enough -- you birth the change in your life by consciously rewiring your mindset, and by believing that just because it's always been, doesn't mean it always has to be.

I came across a really helpful exercise that I invite you to try by Roz Savage, the inspirational writer and speaker, who just happens to be the first woman to ever row solo across three oceans! While in her early 30s, and to all outward appearance having everything going for her, Roz was living a life of internal disquiet -- feeling claustrophobic and somewhat rudderless. She knew she needed a change, but she was uncertain what that change should look like. Sound familiar? I think we can all relate to having that empty hole in our core at some point of our life.

So, in the words of Roz Savage, here's what she did. "Everything changed on the day that I wrote two versions of my own obituary. I imagined that I was at the end of my life, looking back and thinking about what I did with my time here on Earth. I wrote two versions -- the one I wanted, and the one I was heading for if I carried on as I was."

The second I read that, something in me shifted. For one, I was terrified because I could see myself lying on my deathbed surrounded by those dearest to me, but all the while secretly knowing that there was an ache in me that I would take to the grave unfulfilled. But more importantly, I was shaken awake by a sense of hope that I, alone, still have the chance to write that life that I want. The only thing in my way is fear -- and when it comes to living in fear, I consider myself an expert.

The thing about fear is that once you voice it -- let it out of you -- it immediately loosens its control of you. Does it go away? No, but that knot in your stomach begins to recede. Something else that I've come to realize is that I can start to unpack, and eventually overcome, any fear that I have when there is something out there I'm even more afraid of. Now ask yourself, is there anything more terrifying than lying on your deathbed having lived a life of unfulfilled dreams and expression?

So now that I sit here and survey the year that was, I know that I haven't necessarily received the life I wanted, but I have faith that I have received the life I needed. I have confidence in what lies ahead because I trust that screaming feeling inside me that I can no longer silence or ignore. When you discover that passion inside of you, the reason you were put on this earth, you feel as though you've uncovered something that's always been your faithful companion. It's like the cloud you don't notice until suddenly it blocks the sun. Find that cloud inside of you, and allow yourself to shine. You're worth it.