As I sat meditating on top of a hill in a North Scottsdale preserve surrounded by cacti and watching the hummingbirds, I thought about how far I had come from the south side of Chicago. I had always hated the cold so I moved to someplace that is 90 degrees at six am. I feel at home in this desert. And yet, I hadn’t started hiking weekly until last year. There were so many other things that I thought I “should” do with my time, mainly involving working. It was the same thing with the type of work I “should” do. I have been a veterinarian in a small animal clinic for 27 years. While the work has been rewarding in many ways, it was also very stressful and exhausting. In spite of that, I didn’t consider the options of what I could do with my knowledge and skill set or if I even wanted to keep using that knowledge and skill set. I basically kept my head down and put one foot in front of the other, doing all the things in life that “had” to get done.
And then my fiftieth birthday loomed in the near future. Hopefully age has no meaning to you, but for me fifty was a shock. And an awakening. It was time to let go of the “shoulds” in my life. I explored possible career change and found coaching. With that came an exploration of my daily life and what I did with my time. It is hard, but I am trying to include more nature in my life, meditation and slowing down, and spending more time with friends and colleagues (mainly on zoom right now but that is better than nothing).
What do you need to let go of in your life to truly enjoy life and find meaning in it? What are the “should”s and “have to”s that consume all of your time and energy? Take five to ten minutes and write down all the things on your to do list this week. Then take a few minutes to ponder how they got onto your list. Do they really need to be done? Will they add something important to your life? Did they get onto the list intentionally or was it the creep of it “should” be done and I “have” to do it?
Then pan out to the larger picture. Are you doing work that you really want to do or do you feel you “have” to stay in this job? Are you living how you really want to or in a way that you “should”? Are you spending your money intentionally and on things that truly improve your life? Do you want to downsize your house and possessions and spend less time working? Or would you rather switch to work that you enjoy more but is less lucrative? Do you have dreams that you can’t imagine being able to afford while you spend money on small splurges you think you need, but don’t really enrich your life?
“Should”s are imposed on us by many sources: society, culture, family, friends, ourselves. Living with intention means examining the various aspects of our lives and deciding what we want and need to do to really be happy. What can we let go of and replace with something that really adds meaning or leads to improvement of our lives?