photo by rubymontalvo published on rubymontalvo.com

The uncertainty of life and preparing for the inevitable

I’m trying something new and including an audio version of the post here:


Life is so uncertain. I know this, but don’t always remember.

When I heard the shocking news of the sudden passing of a healthy, well-loved man in the prime of his life, I immediately thought of his family and friends and the shock and grief they must be feeling at losing him so unexpectedly.

And it reminded me of an important truth:

There’s no guarantee of another day, of another year.

I, too, will die one day. Hopefully later than sooner, but who knows?

Preparing for the inevitable.

Years ago my dad was diagnosed with bone cancer. At the time, I was a single mom doing my best to manage a household and raise two young children while working full-time. Those days were physically and emotionally taxing.

I lived next door to The Murray’s, a retired couple and would chat with Mr. Murray about the weather, the kids, and the goings-on in the neighborhood.

One day I was in the front yard talking to Mr. Murray and somehow and for some reason I told him that my dad had just been diagnosed with bone cancer.

Mr. Murray listened and said, “Well, prepare yourself.”

His response surprised me and got my attention. My dad and I had issues (I’ve written about some of them here), but I always thought my dad was one of those people who would always survive. He’d survived seizures and comas and I thought he’d survive this too. I wasn’t ready.

I’d lost my 27 year-old sister two years before. Though she was ill, her death was sudden and unexpected. I had not been prepared to lose her, to live with the fact that when I said good-bye to her on a cold, clear Christmas night in 1994 that that would be the last time I saw her alive.

But this was different. My dad had bone cancer. This would inevitably kill him. And I was not prepared.

I took Mr. Murray’s advice to heart and mentally and emotionally prepared myself for my dad’s death. It made a big difference in our relationship.

Life and death.

None of this is meant to be morbid or depressing. Really!

I don’t obsess about death, but I am cognizant of the one thing I know for sure: I will die. Some day.

Hopefully not for a long time. If I live to life expectancy, I figure I have about 25 years left.

I consider that ample time to prepare myself. (As it gets closer I may change my mind about how prepared I can be for my own death.)

But for me all this talk about death is not really about death. It’s about life. Time in this life is a finite resource.

It makes me think of my life and what I’ve done and what I still want to do.

I don’t want to obsess about the ticking clock, but I do want to keep it in mind so I remember I’m on a deadline.

We all are, even if we don’t want to think about it.

“Someday” never comes

Read Waiting for “someday” puts dreams out of reach

So if there’s some idea burned in your soul or some passion you hope to pursue someday, there’s no time like the present to get on it.

Right now is all any of us have. Life is uncertain and nothing is guaranteed.

Get over yourself, your fear, your insecurities, your excuses. It can be scary to venture out and do something you’ve never done. But don’t wait for the perfect time when you’re 100% ready.

There’s no time like now to move in the direction of your dreams.


photo courtesy of pixabay published on rubymontalvo.com

How to ignore naysayers and other well-meaning people

Are you up to the challenge of ignoring naysayers and other well-meaning people?

Here’s the scenario. You’re finally ready to face your fears and move in the direction of your dreams. It’s time. No more screwing around. You have a plan and a goal and you know there’ll be challenges, but you’re ready.

You’re so excited that you tell a friend (or relative or teacher) about your goals and dreams. And with just one discouraging word or look or question from them, you walk away full of doubt.

When you decide to follow your dreams there will be challenges, maybe the most difficult is ignoring people who mean well but who really just seem like they’re trying to keep you with all the other crabs in the bucket. (The story goes that several crabs in a bucket keep them all in because if one of them tries to get out, the others will pull him back in.)

But crabs will be crabs.

Be ready for people to be honest without any sugarcoating when they tell you what they don’t understand or see in your vision. “How much will that cost? How can you do that? Is that going to work?” they might say.

And the truth is you don’t really know how it’s going to work. You don’t have all the answers, but you’re determined to figure it out. They may say, “I’m just being honest,” when they tell you they don’t think you should do it without realizing it’s not just what they say but how they say it that can be the most discouraging.

When you’re not 100% sure of yourself and your abilities it’s hard to ignore even the slightest opposition.

But that person who bashed your dreams may be oblivious to his or her power and may not have meant to discourage you. It may not be personal. It’s not that they dislike you and they might even feel like they’re giving you “tough love.”

They mean well and are just trying to give it to you straight. (I know I’ve been that well-meaning parent and I cringe thinking about how “honest” I was.)

So how do you get past it? What can you do to make sure you don’t give up on your dreams because someone says you can’t do it?

Here are a few things to consider to get you past the naysayers and other well-meaning people (Including yourself!).

Have courage. You may know the story of the young Joan of Arc who was ready to lead a revolution and said, “I am not afraid. I was born to do this.” You may not feel that level of courage and commitment, but you have to be able to have courage to press on when others say you can’t or shouldn’t. 

Take heart. You’re not alone. Every successful person who’s done what you want to do has faced the same type of challenges and doubt. Seek out people who have overcome the kinds of challenges you’re facing. Their insights may help you.

Remember the seed was planted in you. I truly believe that the thing you want to do, your goal or aspiration, is not “of you.” It’s a spiritual thing that calls you to take action toward it. You may end up someplace totally unexpected that would have never happened if you hadn’t taken that first step. You may not even be able to explain why you want to do it. Somehow that makes it easier to ignore people who say you can’t do it. 

Show up and work. One of the things about following your dream is that it takes a lot of work. It’s easy to say what you’re going to do and a whole different thing to do it. Track your progress so when it seems like you’re getting nowhere and the naysayers were right, you can look at how far you’ve come even if you still have a long way to go.

Don’t expect people to be as excited as you are. There may be nothing worse than sharing the thrill of a victory (even a small one) and getting no response. Not even crickets. Or worse, instead of no response they say something negative. Don’t let it get you down. You know what you’ve done and what you’ve learned from it. Sometimes that has to be enough.

Don’t overthink it. Your work won’t be for everyone. Don’t waste your energy trying to bring people around to believing in your dream. They may not understand what you’re trying to do. It’s okay. Stay focused, set your goals, and work one day at a time.

Stay strong while you’re moving in the direction of your dreams. Be prepared to ignore people who say you can’t or shouldn’t. They may love you and mean well, but that doesn’t mean you have to let them decide your path.

Read more about overcoming obstacles, read What are you waiting for?

photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on rubymontalvo.com

Start strong, finish stronger

I’ve often thought about the idea of “starting” and whether it’s easier to start or finish. (I think I must’ve been a deep thinking philosopher in another life.)

It’s a little like the chicken and egg question and doesn’t seem answer-able because you can’t finish if you don’t start, but that doesn’t make it any easier to start.

And for the sake of discussion here, I’m talking about starting and finishing things you want to do for your own personal fulfillment.

Possibly to improve your life, possibly just for the joy of doing it, possibly for the satisfaction of checking off your bucket list, anything that requires you to get out of your regular routine, kind of get away from “Auto-Pilot” mode to disrupt your regular routine.

You’ll have to commit time, energy, and maybe even money.

The challenge of starting

For the purpose of simplifying the discussion, let’s pick a project. Let’s say we want to run a marathon.

A marathon is 26.2 miles. Let’s say the furthest you’ve ever run in your life is a 5k, 3.1 miles.

Here are some things people might say when you tell them you’re thinking about running a marathon:

Why would you want to do that?

Do you know anything about it?

You’re crazy.

Why the hell would you do that?

You’re not a runner.

That’ll be cool. You can cross the finish line like “Rocky”!

That’s awesome!

The only good reason to run is if something’s chasing you.

Why?

You start to doubt whether you can really do it. You consider the investment of time and money and think, “Why do I want to do this?”

You list your reasons to go ahead with it:

for the physical challenge

I’ve always wanted to

for the satisfaction of starting and finishing.

Then you think,“Wow, all this figuring and mental ping-pong is exhausting!” And you haven’t even done anything yet! But, in a way, you have.

When you undertake a marathon-like project you have to know that there’ll be obstacles. And you’re sure to encounter some you hadn’t considered.

photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on rubymontalvo.com

It won’t be easy. The road will be long. Some people will doubt you can do it.

If you’ve considered all those things and gone back and forth about whether you should or not before commiting 100% and you want to do it anyway, and you decide you’re going to do it, that’s what will get you to the start. And you can’t get to the finish unless you get to the start.

It’s impossible to finish unless you start.

In our scenario, our enthusiastic but inexperienced runner goes out on her first training run and struggles to do 3 miles. In her mind she thinks, “How in the world am I going to run 26 when I feel like I’m dying after 3?”

Doubt creeps in, but she’s ready for it. She shakes it off and tells herself, “It’s okay. At least I got out there and did it. I have to start somewhere so I might as well start at the beginning.” (For more on this, see Believe in yourself when doubt creeps in)

That’s the spirit!

You have to start somewhere. Don’t shut yourself down before you’ve even started.

You have to trust the process (See Be patient and trust the process) and believe you can do it.

It’s okay if it’s a rough start. You knew there’d be obstacles.

Have a beginner’s mindset and be open to learning all you can. You may be surprised to learn of ways to make the experience more pleasant and maybe even fun. (See Embrace the Beginner’s Mindset)

Keep moving in the direction of your goal and you’ll gain momentum toward it.

Remember why you started. You may have had more reasons not to do it than to do it, but none of that matters because you’re committed. You knew it wouldn’t be easy going in.

I don’t know if it’s harder to start or finish. But logic tells us it’s impossible to finish what you never start.

When you start, knowing there’ll be challenges ahead and that it won’t be easy, but you’re ready to do it anyway, you’re more likely to finish what you’ve started. 

So how about you?

What marathon-like goal do you have? How close are you to starting?

When you’re ready to commit, remember, you have to start somewhere. Forget about wanting to be perfect and always keep in mind why you started. That’s your why and your why will move you forward when you feel you can’t go another step.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

What are you waiting for?

Have you ever wanted to do something, but haven’t done it because it’s just never been the right time?

So that “something” becomes one of those gnawing passions that doesn’t go away, that thing you feel like you should be doing, but for some reason, you’re not; something you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t.

Maybe it’s running a marathon, getting your degree, starting a charity or foundation, starting a blog, writing poetry, painting, doing yoga, learning to juggle, performing as a clown, or traveling the world.

If someone were to ask you, “Why do you want to do that?” you may have a hard time answering.

There may not be a clear or straightforward explanation for wanting to do this thing you want to do. All you know is that somewhere along the way a seed was planted in your soul that made you think, “I want to do that.”

But “Life got in the way,” as they say.

When we say “Life got in the way,” it makes it seem as if there’s a straight path to something ahead and along the way you live life, maybe get married, have kids, buy a house, etc.

We wait to:

  • have kids grow up
  • have more money
  • pay off the car
  • lose weight
  • get a better job
  • get a promotion
  • have more time
  • get more training
  • be more mentally prepared
  • have better conditions

But “Life” goes on. And all those moving parts and people in your life sometimes move and act in ways you don’t expect, further delaying your chance to do that thing you’ve always wanted to do.

Even in the unlikely scenario that “Life” goes exactly as you’d expected and the day finally comes when you can finally do what you’ve always wanted to do, will you be ready? Will you be okay with starting at the beginning? Or will you feel like it’s too late for you now?

What are you waiting for?

Don’t wait for condiitons to be perfect and don’t expect it all to go smoothly. When you take on your dream you will encounter struggles, some external, many internal.

As I’ve been out promoting my book I’ve met people who say, “I’ve always wanted to write a book.”

My response to them: Do it. Now. You absolutely can. Start writing.

Obstacles in your path

I used to get cranky because something always came up that stopped me from what I wanted to do, but I hadn’t realized that my biggest obstacles were the ones that came from me: fear, Resistance, lack of confidence (to name a few).

There will always be obstacles in your path.

The question is: will you step over them, go around them, ask for help in getting past them, or will you let them block your way? Will you continue to use those “reasons” for keeping you from doing that thing you’ve always wanted to do?

Stop waiting. You can figure it out. It’s okay if it’s not perfect (in fact, it almost certainly won’t be!) but you have to start somewhere. (Read my blogpost Strive for progress not perfection for more on this point.)

Some tips to get you started:

  • Set small, incremental goals. Little by little adds up to a lot.
  • Have a cheerleader. You’ll need someone who can give you a pep talk when you’re doubting you can or should be doing what you’re doing. Even online groups or social media groups can help you through the rough patches.
  • Ignore the people who say you can’t. Or that you’re crazy or stupid or irresponsible for doing what you’re doing. You may actually agree with them on some level, but don’t let that stop you.
  • Life is a composite of what you do and how you spend your time. Keep your priorties in order even when you’re working toward fulfilling your dreams.
  • Fill as many “time leaks” as possible. It’s like when you’re trying to reduce your water or electricity usage, some sound advice is to repair all leaks. What are your “time leaks”? A little occasional mindless down-time isn’t a big deal, but pay attention and don’t let yourself get sucked into a “time waister vortex” so what you intended to last 10 minutes turns out to be two hours you’ll never get back. No bueno.
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. 

~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Stop waiting to do whatever it is you’ve “always wanted to do”. Get started now to make your dreams a reality. The world is waiting.

Think it’s too late for you? Check out this awesome woman who got around the obstacles in her way to finally do what she’s always wanted to do:

Why One Woman Decided To Become A Doctor At Age 59