If my life is one story, I’ve lived a lot of chapters in the 24 years I’ve been alive. I’ve made good decisions and I’ve made bad decisions. I’ve had my heart broken and I’ve broken hearts. I’ve traveled all over the world, I’ve gotten the opportunity to meet a lot of amazing people, and I’ve worked my dream job. But I’ve also ruined friendships, been appalled at some of the thoughts that run through my mind, and had some jobs I absolutely hated. Some of my chapters have been full of my choices, and others have been full of choices made for me.
I know the kind of person I want to be, and I know where I want to be, so how do I get there starting now? I’m the type of person who does a lot better with specific thoughts than with abstract ideas, so here are, in my opinion, the most important steps to take in order to start living the story you (and I) want today.
Be Honest With Yourself. Who are you? Who do you want to be? Where do you want to be? Don’t answer this for your spouse or your friends, your co-workers or your parents… answer it for yourself. What do you want to start doing? What do you want to stop doing? When I’m honest with myself, my answer is that I want to be more loving. I want my first response to be love, and I want that to happen automatically, I don’t want to have to constantly remind myself of what I should be doing. This is where it all starts.
Give Yourself a Chance. A chance to fail, but also a chance to succeed. There’s a reason you’re not who you want to be right now… it’s TOUGH. If you want to live a story that really means something, it’s not going to be easy. Of course you have to give yourself a chance to fail, but you also have to give yourself a chance to succeed. Applaud your small successes and be proud of yourself for the steps forward. A goal of loving people better isn’t something I’ll ever “reach,” but I can applaud myself for not saying the mean thing that came to my head when my husband woke me up at 4:30am. It’s small, but it’s a step.
No Regrets. I know it’s cliche, but it’s that way because it’s true. If you keep living in the past, you’ll forget to live in the present. What happened happened, and there’s nothing you can do to change that. Make amends if you need to, but then move on and push forward. There have been so many times I’ve said terrible things or failed to say important things, but those moments don’t define who I am or what my story is. What matters is how I react to those situations and how I move forward. How can I learn from what happened and make sure that doesn’t happen again?
Come Up With Manageable Goals. The key word here is manageable. Every year, millions of people make New Year resolutions in January, and by February most of those people have already given up. New Year resolutions? More like New Month. I’m willing to bet most of those failures happen because the goals weren’t manageable. Sometimes, to get the ball rolling, you need a couple of starter goals that you know you’re going to reach. How many of you have written a daily task down that you’ve already completed, just so you can have something crossed off your list? Or something that you do every day without thinking… like brush your teeth or eat breakfast? And then come up with the harder, but still manageable goals. Want to lose 75 pounds? Make it a goal to lose 7 pounds this month. Want to love better? Make it a goal to encourage 2 people a week for one month.
Pray. Last and most important, pray. If God isn’t a part of starting your story today, you’re not going to live the story you want to live. I can say I want to love people better all I want, but if I’m not praying and asking God to help me do that, it’s going to fizzle out pretty quickly. We’re like phones. We can do things on our own for a certain amount of time, but eventually our batteries are going to drain and we’ll need plugged in again. Why not stay plugged in forever and never be drained?
Every small, God-guided step you take in the journey of living your story is going to be a step forward. Be proud of those steps, and never give up. You’ve got this!