In August of 2018, I was sitting on the couch and complaining to my wife. The Oregon fires had caused a summer of smoke which meant we weren’t spending much time outside due to our one-year old daughter and my wife’s asthma. My waistline was slowly expanding and I was growing tired of living in the same place for over 25 years (my wife and I had settled down in the town where we grew up; a southern Oregon city of about 40,000 people). To make it worse, we had visited Cairns, Australia in May of 2018, which made our antsy desire to do something else with our lives even more unbearable. We couldn’t stop day-dreaming about travelling the world!
That’s when my wife says, “Well, we have our vacation to Rome scheduled for one month from now. What if we just didn’t come back?” What? Crazy. Don’t come back? Where would we go? Despite immediate objections, that one question is now responsible for making us sell our home, travel the world for an entire year (we’ve visited 11 different countries, from AirBnB to AirBnB), and ultimately, create a life that excited us.
Pain Will Push You Forward
Tony Robbins wrote that, “The secret of success is learning how to use pain and pleasure instead of having pain and pleasure use you. If you do that, you’re in control of your life. If you don’t, life controls you.” And he’s right.
You and I — all human beings — are primarily motivated by two things: pain and pleasure. When I made the decision to sell my house and travel the world with my wife and a one-year old daughter, I was motivated by the pain of my current situation.
What I didn’t mention earlier was that my wife had actually made that suggestion several times before. In the four months between when we visited Australia (the original trigger for this decision) and when we finally bit the bullet, she must have brought up the idea of “not coming back from Rome” at least 5 or 6 times. Each time, I said “No way. We need a plan. We can’t just up-‘and-leave like that.” But eventually — finally — the pain of my current situation was great enough to drive me toward a life I would be excited to live.
In fact, if you haven’t changed something that you want to change — lost that weight, built that business, travelled more, or improved your relationships — it’s probably just because you don’t associate enough pain with your current situation to drive real change. The truth is, you’re still okay with the way things are. And until you can’t stand it anymore, until the pain is unbearable (or at least, you perceive it as unbearable), you’re not going to change — plain and simple.
I know that seems to leave life-changing decisions up to fate, but it doesn’t, because it empowers you to make life-changing decisions whenever you want.
According to research, your brain can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what you imagine. If you spend time imagining the painful result of your current actions (in as visceral of detail as you can muster), you can increase the amount of pain you associate with your current situation, which will encourage you to make real, life-changing decisions, without actually experiencing the ultimate repercussions of your bad habits. I find that journaling about those pain associations helps me internalize them.
You see, there are only a few reasons you haven’t changed yet and you’re not living the life of your dreams. Either your perceived pain of your current situation is less than your perceived pain of change or you don’t know what you want.
Once the pain of your current situation becomes greater than the pain of changing, you’re ready to make massive decisions and take massive action. But in which direction should you run?
“I am always doing things I can’t do; that’s how I get to do them.” – Pablo Picasso
You Must Get Clear About What You Want
If you don’t know what you want, then you’ll never be happy with whatever you get. I believe that the number one reason people don’t live the life of their dreams is simply because they don’t know what their dream-life is. They’ve never sat down and considered with immense specificity, “What do I want out of life?”
If they did, they’d find that the things they want out of life, whatever they are, are relatively easy to get. Sure, making a million dollars, building a 7-figure business, or becoming the CEO of a Fortune 500 company will take some time, but it’s not hard. It’s just a matter of taking the right steps over a long period of time and never losing sight of your end-goal.
But that’s the problem, isn’t it? We’re constantly losing sight of what we want. We’re human beings so we often forget what we decided at the beginning of the year (heck — at the beginning of the week!). Which is why, once you decide what you want out of life, you should write it down and review it every single week. Make a dream board if you’re into that sort of thing. Get as specific as you possibly can. What do you want? Why do you want it? How are you going to get it? The more specific, the better.
Once you’ve done this — I call mine my “Manifesto” — you’ll find that accomplishing what you want is easier than you ever thought possible. You’ll realize that you are capable of building the life you want, and you’ll have immense clarity about what to do next.
When you know what you want, the “how to” is easy. You just have to make a committed and real decision.
“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Real Reason You’re Not Living The Life Of Your Dreams
You’re not living the life of your dreams because the pain of your current situation isn’t great enough to drive you forward — you’re still content and you haven’t decided what your dream life looks like.
Change those two things, visualize the pain of your current situation and make a real decision about what you want out of life. This way, you might just find yourself on a one-way flight to the life of your dreams. I know I did.