Some friends and I were having a conversation about a month ago regarding making changes in our lives. One friend brought up how we all know someone who has had a near death experience which has changed their priorities and caused them to step out and take risks they would not have previously.
The details are different in each case – one may have been in a near fatal car accident and now has decided to take up ballroom dancing finally. Another may have recently battled cancer and be in remission and has decided to quit their job and travel the world. The near death experience is different in each case and the lifestyle changes that result are varied. However, in the end these are people who have almost lost it all and as a result have decided to stop putting off their dreams until tomorrow (which by the way, NEVER comes!) and to pursue them today!
We as a society applaud these individuals. We see them as an inspiration and our eyes fill with tears of happiness as we hear their stories. So why does it take a near death experience for us to have a wake up call and to finally decide to pursue our dreams?
When my friend asked this, we all agreed that this seems a bit crazy and this is not how things should work in our lives. However, this is not really a new question and is not what really stuck with me over these past weeks since we all sat around that table enjoying the sun and our coffee. What has stuck with me is when my friend pointed out that someone who decides to make these changes without first having a near death experience is treated so differently by society. Think about it. If a normal Joe (or Jane) going about their normal life suddenly decides to drop everything and take some risks to pursue their dreams, society tends to see them as being insane or having a mid-life crisis. Our reaction is to view the person with pity, disbelief or an eye roll and shake of our heads. We see them as being irresponsible.
Our reaction is on opposite sides of the spectrum (inspiration versus irresponsible), yet the situation is not really different. Why is almost dying a requirement for following our dreams and finding more purpose in our lives?
I know this is not how everyone reacts, but there is a large majority who do. I recently had a mini mid-life crisis (my description) and as part of this I began to question my life decisions, what I’ve accomplished thus far over my lifetime and what I have set aside and not pursued and the reasons why. I started considering some major changes in my life, including possibly taking time off from my career or even making a major career change and going back to school. Considering I am the main source of income and the only source of benefits for my family and have three children (one getting ready to start college soon), this was a HUGE change that would affect not only me, but my entire family.
In the end I did not quit my job or make a major career change, however I have made some major changes in how I view things in my life, how I react to things, boundaries I set and steps I am taking to pursue dreams that I’ve put aside until now.
What I found interesting though is the reaction I received from some people who I chose to share my thoughts with during this time. I was surprised by some of the people who encouraged me and I was surprised at who tried to talk me out of making changes in my life – both the changes I was considering and decided not to pursue as well as those changes I am actively making now.
This journey has been eye opening in so many ways. Even though I did not have a near death experience, in some ways I feel as if I have been reborn and given a new outlook on life.
My question to you is – if you had a near death experience what changes would you make in your life? And more importantly, why are you waiting for that near death experience? Why not go for it now?