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I was watching a movie where a woman was trying on formal attire she needed to attend a gala affair. She was most definitely stepping out of her comfort zone and was certain that the dress she was trying on would have no place once she stepped back into her “real” life. The man she was with, who happened to be a man of great wealth and means, and also the one purchasing the dress, said, “Dress for the life you want, not for the life you have.”

I personally found that tidbit of wisdom to be quite illuminating and inspiring. It occurred to me that there’s a major life lesson here. Every day, most of us live as if the life we have is the only one available to us. In truth, we make choices each day that frame our perspective and determine the quality of our life experiences. I agree that we should “dress for the life we want, not for the life we have,” but more importantly, I think we should “live for the life we want, not for the life we have.” Of course, this begs the question – how in the world do we live for the life we want when the one in front of us seems so cumbersome, overwhelming, steeped in ritual, and difficult to escape?

The answer to this question is certainly complex and not easily accomplished. Let’s face it; it’s much more comfortable to go with the path of least resistance, to just stay with what’s familiar and convenient. I know firsthand the constant pull there is to go back to the place we’ve left simply because we know what it feels like. It’s kind of like when we wear out a comfortable pair of shoes. It’s obvious we need a new pair because the ones we have no longer provide the support they once did. Nonetheless, we hang on to that old pair as long as we can because we just can’t imagine another pair of shoes that could ever measure up. So, we vacillate between the old and the new, going back and forth until, finally, the new pair of shoes is comfortable enough for us to let go of the old. Once we let go of the old, we can’t imagine ever going back. It’s winning this battle that will put you on the path to the life you want.

In its simplest form, living for the life you want is a three-step process. First, envision where you want to be. This sounds like an easy step but, in truth, it’s really not so clear cut. In fact, this step can be the show stopper from the outset. Many people don’t have the life they want because they don’t know what that is. Some things to do to figure this out include discovering what motivates you, determining what you value, and deciding on the place(s) you can do what you care about while maintaining your principles. The second step in the process is to establish and execute a plan of action to get you where you want to be. This can only be done successfully if you know the goal you’re trying to achieve; that is, the life you want. Once your goal is clear, list and prioritize the actions necessary to get there and set timeframes in which to do so. Finally, living for the life you want requires that you eliminate all activities that don’t contribute to your journey. Obviously, there will be things that have to be done simply because our lives dictate it (e.g., childcare, meal plans, etc.). Any other freely chosen activities; however, must contribute to the end result – living for the life you want.

Famous author, Og Mandino, sums it up well — You are not the momentary whim of a careless creator experimenting in the laboratory of life. . . You were made with a purpose. Live for the life you want, not for the life you have!