“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some humour and some style.”
I was in my 20s when I developed my first “crush” on a most extraordinary human being. Terry Waite (not an obvious poster boy), was an envoy for the Church of England, when he travelled to Lebanon to try and secure the release of four hostages, including the journalist John McCarthy. Instead of succeeding in his mission he was himself kidnapped and held captive from 1987 to 1991.
I was a young journalist at the time and completely obsessed with the story. How could anybody, even with the obvious qualities of this physical and emotional giant of a man, survive such a trauma. I was hugely inspired by him and remain so to this day.
After his release he wrote a book about his experiences and became involved in humanitarian causes and charitable work. In “Taken on Trust “he advises “Someone once said to me, if you come out of a traumatic experience, don’t try to rush everything. Come up as if you are coming up from diving on the seabed. If you come up too quickly, you get the bends. Do it gently and you’ll be alright.”
He’s gone on to live an amazing life full of courage, compassion and not a hint of bitterness. He realised early that he had to come to terms with his own sense of betrayal and anger and learn to let go. He also recognised the pressing need for self care and time to heal. He forgave his captors and by doing so freed himself from the torment of his past.
I’m taking time to listen hard to people these days. I want to write so much and I don’t believe that anybody can write anything worth reading without going deep down into the human psyche. Reading is another must for writers – everything and anything all of the time.
I’ve noticed time and again how people stop themselves from living their most glorious life because of something that happened, or was said to them, decades ago. A teacher/parent/care giver/another person told them they couldn’t dance, sing, do maths, speak French…. the list goes on and on.
As I spend time designing and crafting the next stage of my life, I realise that through a combination of years of therapy, of deep internal reflection and reading as much research as is humanly possible on finding meaning I’ve shed so much of the “can’t do” attitude. I’ve spent literally years challenging some of my internal dialogue and will carry on doing this for the rest of my life. This living well takes hard focussed work.
So here’s my manual for living your best possible life, on your terms… I hope it’s helpful
- It’s an inside job first and foremost. Forensically analyse that voice in your head that says what you can and can’t do. Get it down on paper and challenge each one from every possible angle. My language teacher told me I’d never speak a foreign language as I didn’t have “an ear” Wrong! Her classes were dead boring and I day dreamed my way through them. Surprising how easy it was to master a language when faced with the hottest boy in the Italian town you’ve chosen to live in. I speak pretty fluent Italian now – I just needed the right incentive.
- Let go of bitterness, regret, anybody who has done you harm. Take care on this one – I’m not advising you let anybody back into your life; most especially anybody who is dangerous to you either physically or emotionally. Definitely not. But get rid of them from your head. We all have these ghosts of people who linger in our minds – forgive them, realise that anybody who is mean is unhappy (or a psychopath) – they couldn’t help it and it’s their problem not yours. Don’t let them take a moment more of your precious headspace
- Get meditating and calm that unruly mind. This is honestly the best investment of time I have ever made. It’s free and there is no downside. Get into the habit of doing every single day – even if that means just sitting for five minutes and letting the mind settle on an object. Overthinking – playing that problem over and over in your head – is linked to unhappiness and depression. Meditating stops overthinking in its tracks. Empty the mind and problems start to solve themselves
- Stay open and stay vulnerable. This is the only way to grow and learn. Don’t put up barriers between yourself and others – let people in and give them a chance. A key cause of the growing epidemic of loneliness is the fear of the “other”. Why would we feel threatened because somebody thinks differently/acts differently – isn’t it all just really fascinating.
- Money, status and title will not make you happy. Read all the research on this. Love, connections and being part of something meaningful is what we all need as human beings. Before you take another step find your meaning, your voice – the beating heart that will drive everything you do.
- Life is full of ups and downs, traumas and sorrows – alongside gentler moments of contentment and a few glorious wow moments. Bad things will get better and good things will get worse – it’s the rules of the universe. Learn to live with realistic expectations and take care of your emotional and physical wellbeing so you have reserves to deal with the tougher times. And when they come, fall down, get up, fall down … and so it goes.
Have a lovely evening and speak soon