Today’s story was contributed by Karen Spencer, a retired college professor, Certified Health Coach, and Brain Health Coach. I enjoyed reading this post and asking myself, “Am I living my utmost or almost life?” Karen even shares 8 steps to work through to ensure you’re living your most satisfying life. Enjoy, darlings!
Not long ago, I ran into a friend of mine in the grocery store parking lot. We chatted for a bit and then I asked her, “So, tell me, Jan, how is your life going these days?” … She shrugged, “Oh, It’s alright.”
“Just, alright?” I responded quizzically. “That doesn’t sound very good? “
Her gaze went to an old homeless man sitting out on the curbside. She slowly replied, as if apologizing. “Sorry … I shouldn’t complain … things could be worse. It’s just not the life I imagined for myself.”
“What do you mean,” I asked. “Is everything ok? “
“Oh yeah,” she said. “Everything is ok. It’s nothing for you to worry about. I’m actually getting by just fine. It’s just, well, frankly, my life is feeling a bit boring, and ordinary these days…. Sorry Karen,” she said, “I know I sound like a pathetic old lady … you just got me in one of my ‘woe is me’ moods.”
Jan’s phone rang and she apologized, waving goodbye to me as she walked into the store.
The Question Is … Are You Living Your Utmost or Almost Life?
After talking with Jan, I couldn’t seem to shake off the comments she made about her life. “It’s boring, ok, ordinary, fine, alright, not what I imagined.”
The memories of our short conversation followed me around; poking, pricking, probing … causing me to consider its relevance in my own life.
A few days later I was listening to a podcast interview, when I heard this question being asked by one of the guests, “Are you living your utmost life or an almost life? “
That was it, wasn’t it? That was the question that had wedged itself deep in my ribs.
I found myself paying more attention to the words people use to describe their life: I heard comments like; “I’m Getting by. It’s not too bad. I try and stay busy. Some days are better than others. It could be worse. I’m surviving. Maybe next month things will be better.”
Do you know someone like my friend who seems stuck living an almost life; just okay, nothing special, or not what they imagined? They often speak of their regrets; of their ‘should have’s, would haves, could haves in their life.
How Would You Answer?
I decided to do my own survey of the people in my community … those I felt brave enough to ask. I posed the following questions: “What would you say if asked about your life? Are you living your utmost life or your almost life?”
You know what I found so interesting about doing my survey; not one person when I asked the questions, said to me, “what do you mean by an utmost or almost life.”
And I was amazed at how quickly they responded.
It was such a reminder to me that we each know our answer. And we know that the question isn’t talking about a perfect life … but rather one that feels almost like a preordained expectation for us. We know it’s not the same for each of us, and not a specific model of what life should be like … it is what we know inherently to be true for our own individual life.
I thought about one of my favorite pieces written by Marianne Williamson.
‘Our Deepest Fear’ (often attributed to Nelson Mandela).
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.
We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small
Does not serve the world…
Why Do We Play Small?
Intuitively I think we know that God’s intentions for our precious lives is large, yet why do we so often play small?
Is it our fear that keeps us from living our utmost life?
After all, it requires courage, doesn’t it? Are we not bold enough? Living our utmost life requires intention, it requires a certain mindset, it requires us to take responsibility and sometimes to let go of our past.
Have you noticed how we create our own frames around expectations and standards for ourselves in each season of our lives? And we then mold and create an identity that is aligned with those expectations.
Sadly, many of us have very small frames and very low standards. “Oh, I couldn’t do that, we think. It’s too big to fit in my frame. I am not smart enough, pretty enough, young enough, rich enough, talented enough, educated enough, motivated enough to do that thing. And besides; I’m too busy, too poor, too old, and too tired. And did I mention it’s too late and I am too old?”
And what about you? Are you playing small or are you living large?
Are you just getting by or are you going big?
8 Steps to a More Satisfying Life
So, how do you want to define your life … almost or utmost?
You do know, don’t you, that it is not it too late to turn an almost life into an utmost one?
Several years ago, I created my own model for change. I find it helps me in multiple areas of my life. Let’s use it to refer to as I suggest these 8 steps toward a more satisfying life.
Step 1. Awareness
As in every new change we make we begin the process with awareness. So, pay more attention and notice the words you are currently using to describe your life?
I suggest you do your own self-analysis and break down these important areas of your life. Give yourself a star next to the categories that feel like your Utmost life.
- Relationships – Do your friendships satisfy you and fill you up? Do they give you opportunities to serve others?
- Environment – The physical environment you live in. Does it contribute or detract from living your utmost life.
- Spirituality and Service- Are you filled with gratitude, and a desire to serve? Are you confident you are doing the work you were called to do? I heard Tim Storey, author and speaker once say. “Do you think your Utmost God wants His child to live an almost life?”
- Education- Have you reached your highest level of education, or do you profess and practice being a life-long learner?
- Activities- Do you continue to play, travel, participate in new fun things?
- Resources (Time, Talent, Treasures)- Do you use these resources to support your utmost life, or do you use them as an excuse in your almost life? “I don’t have the money, I’m not talented enough and I have no time.”
- Creativity – Do you continue to create? Are you original, inspiring, curious and innovative? If not, why not?
- Career/Calling – Is your career satisfying and your call a meaningful mission?
- Health- Is your nutrition, exercise, self-care and sleep habits aligned with an utmost life? Let’s get real…people…healthier living leads to happier living.
Step 2. Look for Evidence
Ask others how they would describe their life? Look for people who have moved from an almost to an utmost life? Study their strategies, systems and processes.
Step 3. Make a decision and Commit to it
Put it in writing and ask a good friend to hold you accountable. ‘ I want to live a healthier, fuller, and more productive life.’
Step 4. Clarity of belief and a positive mindset that motivates
‘I believe I can live my utmost life.’
Step 5. Create a vision board of what your utmost life might look like
Using your self-analysis from above; visualize how your life will look in each category a year from now.
Step 6. Daily Action Step
Start a journal to help chart your journey. Today I will live larger, more fulfilling and a more intentional life by … (doing x, y, z)
Step 7. Review and Reflect
Three things I did yesterday that helped expand my life……. What worked, what didn’t?
Step 8. Remind yourself regularly of your decision
Repeat out loud this quote by Henry James: “It’s time to start living the life you’ve imagined”
The next time someone asks you how your life is going, how will you respond?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to use one of these phrases; “My life is fabulous. My life is better than I ever imagined. My life is Awesome, Fantastic, I’m totally blessed, I’m having a ball, I’m living the dream, and every day is another gift! I am living my utmost life! and thank you for asking!”
Karen Spencer is a retired college professor, a Certified Health Coach, and Brain Health Coach. She is a writer, speaker, and teacher.
Her mission is to educate, inspire and influence women 55 and older to step up, dream big and become healthier, happier, and more fulfilled.
You can learn more about what she does at her website, SMALL STEPS FOR HEALTHY LIVING, Designing a healthier, more intentional and more fulfilling life.