I find that in life, people tend to sag in the middle. When young, you are empowered by vision and dreams to be anything and conquer the yet to be tested unknown world. Naive yes, but don’t you miss those times of limitless aspiration and wide open vistas of opportunity? In the latter stages of life, people seem to reclaim that exuberance. Dreams and passions long delayed return. The vigor of better-late-than-never serves to make buoyant once more those pursuits previously deferred.
But what about the middle? Why do we sag? Why in the middle of all the things life is supposed to be about- marriage, kids, career, etc.- that time in life that is supposed to be our “prime” do we seem most likely to be waiting to live rather than living? Why does the trajectory of life seem to take a dive when you most expect it to be on the rise? Obligations get in the way, and rather than pursuing the objects of our talents and passions, we instead are caught in the mundane reality of day to day necessities.
I agree that our families and careers are rewarding, but I have the feeling that I am not alone in often thinking that there must be more excitement to life than surviving my over stuffed calendar. More to life than checking off each item (or pushing them to next week) in order to arrive exhausted for momentary respite that is the weekend. There must be a way to not feel like my kids are growing up way too fast and I am missing too much. To not look around at work or home and have the nagging suspicion that my life is more about potential unfulfilled than talents maximized.
Simply, I want my life to be a story worth telling, to be compelling, and not merely endured. The word compel is an odd way to describe life when you think about it. Compel is a verb defined as “to force or oblige (someone) to do something,” and I must admit seems to me rather rude and negative. But it doesn’t have to be.
In the end we all want our lives to matter, to have meant something. To be spent in endeavors that have significance. We want a legacy that compels people to admit, there was a life that made a difference, a story worth telling. Despite what most people would describe as a life that “matters,” I argue that this is not about grand ideas of fame and ego. It is really about finding purpose by impacting the lives of those around us in meaningful ways. It is how you influence your family, neighbors, co-workers, teachers, or whoever is in your day to day sphere that really has the most profound impact. The pursuit of a life that compels does not have to include coercion, as the definition might indicate, but to live in such a way that the testimony of your life has impact. The question, therefore, is— is the story of your life so far worth telling?
If you are like me, sagging in the middle, perhaps it is time to start thinking about how to turn the trajectory around, to consider how to live a life that is compelling. This article is the first in a series concerned with how to do just that. Through the coming weeks, I will be exploring ideas worth embracing- purpose, love, relationships- and barriers that ensnare our best efforts- self-doubt, past regret, failure. I will also explore what a meaningful life is, and I warn in advance, for me a life of meaning is not measured by notoriety or financial success. In many ways, the first step to living a compelling life is making the choice. Meaningful lives rarely happen by accident. For me, the Avett brothers say it best:
“Decide what to be, and go be it.”