I’m on vacation with my family in the Napa Valley, and my Mom is telling a story about a man who suddenly asked himself this question (he was a stressed-out ad executive): “If I could do any one thing before I die, what would I most want it to be?” For him, the answer was wine-growing, and he set out to become a vintner – and succeeded. That question has stuck in my head ever since.
We may go through our whole lives without even asking the question, and if we do ask it, it’s kind of a “what if” game, not anything real. Not anything we intend to follow through on, as this man did. OK, I can hear you with all the objections – “but he had money” “but his wife supported him” etc. All too easy to come up with those “buts,” isn’t it. “But” I say, “we have only one life.” Or so I believe, anyway.
Sometime after reading this, stop and ask yourself this question. Don’t overthink it. If you’re intellectually going through the pros and cons of different options, you’re not really doing it. Listen to the first thing that comes into your head. See the first vision that appears in your mind’s eye. What is it? Share it, if you feel like it.
Next, don’t judge it. Don’t immediately come up with all the reasons you can’t do it. (why do we do that to ourselves?) This is possibly the most important question you could ask yourself for the rest of your life, so give it time to percolate. Months, years, if necessary. Turn your vision over and over. Does it surprise you? Explore various facets of it and see what details are revealed.
Now, take little steps toward your vision. Little steps don’t have to change anything, they can just be research, or learning, or imagining. These little actions may make you feel more in tune with your mind’s eye. Little steps may turn into bigger steps over time, and bigger steps into making it a reality. You have nothing to lose by giving your idea full consideration. Even if all you do is dream about it, your dreams will be pleasant.
When I asked myself this question, I had a visual image, no words or thoughts, just an image. The image was of myself, relaxing outdoors in a house in a peaceful place, working quietly. I just know in that vision I am healthy, relaxed, and calm, living in a place that nurtures me, doing work that is balanced with the rest of my life, somewhere where nature is nearby. A slower, more rational pace of life that is sustainable for me.
What my vision has none of: commuting, cell phones, e-mail insanity, constant meetings and conference calls, massive mortgages, endless work to make ends meet to the point of stress, lack of exercise, poor health, consumerism, SUVs, the politics of war and greed. My whole spirit says no to all this. Someday I will make it happen.